AMBASSADOR'S BLOG - RULE OF LAW IN UKRAINE: WHEN MORE AND MORE MEANS LESS AND LESS

13.12.11




‘Surely,’ my Ukrainian interlocutor says, ‘you must accept that Tymoshenko is guilty of something, even if it’s impossible to prove.  Everybody knows it.  Look how many things she is being charged with.’

‘But without a credible legal process,’ I say, ‘the charges are meaningless.  Adding more and more charges simply makes the legal process look less and less credible, and more and more politically motivated.  A second issue is the selectivity of the charges.  Do you think people on one side of the political divide are more likely to be guilty of offences than people on the other?’

‘Well…’ (grins) ‘obviously not.’

I have no opinion on the guilt or otherwise of any of the opposition leaders accused in the current flawed trials.  But I record this exchange in the wake of the recent troubling court session against former Prime Minister Tymoshenko held in her prison cell – itself an act harmful to the reputation of Ukraine and the rule of law in this country.  There is a risk that, if someone repeats something often enough, people will start to believe it – for example, they might get the impression that if someone is charged with 100 offences, the chance that they are guilty of one of them must rise.  In fact the contrary is true: when more and more charges are brought against a single individual, some stretching back over decades and on which experts judge the statute of limitations to have expired, the impression of a politically motivated trial is reinforced.  So too is the impression of what EU Commissioner Stefan Fule referred to in Kyiv on 13 December as “selective justice”.

Leigh Turner



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