Human rights concerns over prosecutions of former government officials

The Prosecutor General, Viktor Pshonka has reported that eight former ministers and deputy ministers from Tymoshenko’s government have been arrested on charges of misuse of billions of dollars. These include former Minister of Internal Affairs, Yury Lutsenko, former Minister of Transport Viktor Bondar, former Acting Minister of Defence Valery Ivashchenko, former First Deputy Head of Natohaz – Ukraine Igor Didenko and ex-Head of the Customs Service, Anatoly Makarenko. Former Minister for the Environment, Georgy Filipchuk and ex-Deputy Minister of Justice Yevhen Kornichuk have also been detained and are under criminal investigation. The former Head of the State Treasury Tetyana Slyuz has been placed on the wanted list, while former Minister of the Economy, Bohdan Danylyshyn has been detained in Prague.

According to Pshonka, in all, 18 criminal cases have been initiated, with the investigation into eight of them completed. At the same time President Yanukovych stated last Thursday that up to 30 criminal cases had been initiated against ministers of Tymoshenko’s government.

Opposition politicians and most independent experts view this as political reprisals against opponents. Human rights activists draw attention to flagrant violations of the rights of those arrested. “In the majority of those cases the people gained no benefit from the decisions they passed. There is therefore a problem with observance of the right to a fair trial”, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Volodymyr Yavorsky, explains.

He adds that the wording in many cases “misuse of official position” is not at all specific, while in half the cases there are signs of a selective approach where criminal prosecutions are being brought against members of the former government for actions which the present ministers are carrying out with impunity.

As an example, Yavorsky cites violation by the present government of tender procedures for choosing participants in the audit of the activities of the Tymoshenko government. The selection was made without any tender although tens of millions of public funding were spent.

The appeals against these violations should be examined by the High Court for Civil and Criminal Cases, however the Deputy Head of the Court is the brother of the present Prosecutor General. This, Yavorsky points out, “creates a problem with the court system in Ukraine in general”.

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