Photo from UNIAN, Anastasia Sirotkina

The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, is considering the possibility of convicting in absentia the criminals who have fled Ukraine.

Today the draft law "On amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine regarding the improvement of certain provisions in connection with the implementation of a special preliminary investigation" (registration No. 2164) was passed in the first reading, an UNIAN correspondent reported.

Some 299 MPs voted to support the draft law.

The memo says the bill was developed to ensure inevitability of prosecution for criminal offenders evading justice abroad or in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

Read alsoSBU reform passes first reading in RadaLawmaker Oleksandra Ustinova (the Holos parliamentary faction) said that, in order to convict in absentia those who have been hiding out in Russia or in the occupied territories, including the Berkut riot police operatives, a suspect is supposed to be put on the interstate or international wanted list.

The interstate wanted list, she added, refers to the CIS countries only, while Russia refuses to extradite suspects since this is against Moscow's interests. This refers to the case of former Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka and former Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko who are "complicit in the Maidan killings."

"We cannot put these people on the international wanted list because they were in top government positions, and Interpol won't do this either. Therefore, we need a tool so that those people who are now in Russia and in the occupied territories are put on wanted list and convicted in absentia," Ustinova said.

Other provisions

The bill proposes to amend the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine, in particular, to lay down in Part 1 of Article 281 the two grounds for putting a suspect on the wanted list: when the whereabouts of the suspect is unknown; when the suspect avoids reporting when summoned, and when there are reasonable grounds to believe that they have fled abroad or to the temporarily occupied territories.

Amendments to Article 193 of the Criminal Procedure Code provide for the possibility of considering a motion for arresting in absentia a suspect or an indicted person pending investigation if there is a warrant in place to locate them.

The bill provides that if a suspect or an indicted person faces custody remand and if there is a warrant to locate them on the grounds provided for in Paragraph 2 of Part 1 of Article 281 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine, the term of the warrant is not specified and the bail amount is not determined.

According to the bill, once the suspect fails to report after being summoned, preliminary investigation in absentia can lawfully proceed, as well as if the court warrants putting the suspect/indicted person on wanted list.

Read alsoRada finds Yanukovych regime responsible for deadly shootings during Revolution of DignityAt the same time, the Main Scientific and Expert Department of the Verkhovna Rada's Office in its conclusion says the bill requires enhancements since the amendments contain corruption risks, which could allow for a pretrial investigation in absentia in any type of case, even without the suspect being aware of it, with no actual grounds to pursue with such probe.

Maidan cases: Investigation

On February 16, Ukraine's Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said 20 permits were received in the Maidan cases in the past year to carry out an investigation in absentia.

At the same time, she said the legislation regulating the procedure for conviction in absentia remains imperfect. The top prosecutor believes Bill No. 2164 could resolve the issue.