Old challenges for new Prosecutor General
Following the appointment of a new Prosecutor General of Ukraine, some wondered whether Yuriy Lutsenko will contribute to updating the Interpol wanted list with former officials of the Yanukovych regime that have been excluded from that list. Since putting someone on the wanted list is not a goal but merely a tool that greatly facilitates the search for suspects who are under investigation or proceedings for conviction in absentia, I would rather somewhat change the emphasis. A key task of the prosecution is to bring to court the cases against the officials of the ousted regime which they have been investigating. First of all, it’s about ex-President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych. Indictments (even those issued in absentia) against these individuals can already be regarded a substantial basis for re-submitting warrants to put them on the Interpol wanted list. And it’s very pleasing to hear that Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s newly appointed prosecutor general, has announced this as his task No.1. We hope this is not an unfounded statement.
As for the international activities of the PGO, as well as of the new anti-corruption agencies (the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption, and the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office) in general, I believe it would be much more effective now to seek the creation of a joint investigative mission comprised of representatives of Ukrainian law enforcement / anti-corruption bodies and their colleagues from the partner states (U.S., EU) to investigate those assets allegedly acquired through corruption and siphoned from Ukraine. That’s because this problem is not only of Ukraine, but also of the countries where the funds were withdrawn. Therefore, it is of the interest of the prosecution and the Ukrainian society to bring as quickly as possible the indictments against the Yanukovych entourage to the court. On the one hand, this would return these names to the Interpol wanted lists, on the other - it will intensify the search and return of their assets from abroad.
Therefore, it is of the interest of the prosecution and the Ukrainian society to bring as quickly as possible the indictments against the Yanukovych entourage to the court
But there is a lot more challenges facing the prosecutorial bodies in a wider sense, namely the transformation of a post-Soviet system locked up in punishment and coercion into the body representing the interests of the State in courts of the European model. First of all, it’s strengthening of transparency and accountability. And it's not only about publishing all regulations of the prosecutor general (which is what should have long been done anyway, according to the law) and the restoration of staffing competitions for positions at all levels of the prosecutor's office. It’s also about the introduction of upgraded management systems based on modern IT solutions.
Secondly, it is vital to attract new personnel to the prosecutors’ offices from among lawyers and legal experts
Secondly, it is vital to attract new personnel to the prosecutors’ offices from among lawyers and legal experts. Indeed, there is an issue of an adequate pay, but provided active work for the return of corrupt assets, the matter can also be resolved over time. Initially, this may be the money saved as due to optimization of the prosecutorial structure. Only under these circumstances will the staffing competitions not be a profanation but a true mechanism to heal the Ukrainian prosecution system and a prerequisite for the introduction of professional self-governance. Besides, there are several utterly banal things that need to be gotten over – like abolishing such atavisms as uniform and class ranks.
In general, the new head of the PGO and his team (Ukraine’s civil society really hopes that it will be renewed and the most odious figures of Shokin’s era will not only be pushed down from top positions, but thrown out of the system in general) face a very difficult task to complete the proceedings against the Yanukovych entourage and into the crimes during the Maidan uprising. They are also expected to reboot the system and put it into a civilized framework. And they will surely see resistance of the conservative and concealed prosecution system, which has long become a system of collective responsibility, a state within a state. Therefore, the new head of the PGO really needs both international support which is already being implemented through cooperation with the U.S. partners on the creation of the General Inspectorate with functions of control over the activity of the prosecutors, and cooperation with the civil society activists.
Yaroslav Yurchyshyn is a director of advocacy department of the Reanimation Package of Reforms, a member of the board of Transparency International Ukraine.