The Civil Society Calls for Acceleration of the Public Prosecutor’s Office Reform

Representatives of public organizations and experts of the Reanimation Reforms Package call the Ukrainian government to accelerate the public prosecutor’s office reform. A corresponding draft law number 3541 was already adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine at the first reading last year, and a positive opinion thereon was obtained from the Venice Commission, however the core committee of the Verkhovna Rada has not prepared the draft law for the second reading, yet.

This has been communicated by Roman Kuibida, the Deputy Chairman of the Board of the Centre for Political and Legal Reforms, the expert of the Reanimation Reforms Package Public Initiative, on Tuesday, May 13, at a press conference in Kyiv City.

In its opinion, the Venice Commission has stated that the draft law “is developed on a sufficiently strong basis, in correspondence with the European standards and with the needs of the contemporary criminal justice system… The draft Law is a good basis for completion of the public prosecutor’s office reform” (items 193, 196 of the Venice Commission opinion letter of October 11-12, 2013).

As Arkady Bushchenko, the Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union has stated, the Ukrainian public prosecution is an authority which has undergone nearly no changes since the Soviet times. “As far back as in 1995, Ukraine assumed the obligation towards the Council of Europe to reform this authority, but has not fulfilled this obligation until now. The last attempt was made in 2013 for the sake of the Association Agreement with the EU. A draft law was developed, supported by domestic experts and the Venice Commission, and adopted at the first reading. Nonetheless, the affair has not moved any further”, – the human rights defendant has told.

In his opinion, currently the public prosecutor’s office still remains a structure which actually controls the criminal process, puts pressure on courts, and turns a blind eye to tortures (the latter has been repeatedly noted by the European Court of Human Rights). And 12 thousand prosecutors maintained at the expense of taxpayers represent a numerical index which is three times higher than the average European statistics.

The experts are convinced that in order to change the situation, the lawmakers should adopt the draft Law “On the Public Prosecutor’s Office” at the second reading (with inclusion of relevant adjustments). This will deprive the public prosecutor’s office of almost all inherent functions, except the public prosecution support in courts.

Besides, it is proposed to make adjustments in the draft law by inclusion of a requirement of complete lustration of prosecutors within a year, and of decrease of the number of prosecutors three times (from 15 to 5 thousand). The draft law also envisages a transparent competitive selection of prosecutors, and an efficient procedure of appealing against deeds of these officials. In particular, every appeal against a prosecutor’s deed may be considered by the disciplinary committee.

“What will such reform change for ordinary citizens? First of all, the public prosecutor’s office will be deprived of opportunities to inspect business entities, for it is generally known that as a practical matter this authority is often used for putting pressure on business competitors. Furthermore, prosecutors’ outrages as to arresting detained activists will be relegated to oblivion”, – Roman Kuibida has added.

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