On February 26, 2019, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine ruled that the law (Article 368-2 of the country’s Criminal Code), which prosecutes civil servants who supposedly earn only a few hundred thousand hryvnias annually but live like millionaires, is now invalid due to it being unconstitutional.
This comes after a request in December 2017 of 57 MPs to review the said law because it violates Article 9 of the Constitution. A year later, 14 out of 18 judges of the court agreed that it indeed violated the country’s constitution.
They claim that the law’s unclear formulation which allows it to be interpreted ambiguously was inconsistent with the concept of presumed innocence until proven otherwise.
A dissenting judge, Serhiy Holovatiy, published a statement which details why he voted against the abolishment of the law. He claims that contrary to what the others believe, Article 368-2 was clear in its interpretation of criminal liability and that it does not violate the concept of presumed innocence as the burden of proof of guilt lies with the prosecution, not the defense.
Another judge, Viktor Kolisnyk, on the other hand, agrees with the majority yet still voted against it because he believes that the court could have postponed the termination to allow legislators to clarify its wording.
Stanislav Shevchuk, head of the constitutional court, also commented on the situation, saying that this decision was unconstitutional and contrary to its aim. Furthermore, he also said that the court is only fulfilling its primary function and doesn’t align with any political situation or carry out orders. He further stressed that only the constitution is above them.
Artem Sytnyk, the chief of Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), claims that the court’s decision to decriminalize illegal enrichment is a backward step in the country’s efforts to eliminate corruption. He states that because of this, all investigations and pending cases of illegal enrichment, some of which have already reached the court, will be closed. Currently, there are 65 pending cases of illegal enrichment in Ukraine which has a combined worth of $19 Billion.
Politicians were quick to react to the court’s decision. Yulia Tymoshenko, the Batkivshchyna party leader and a presidential candidate in the upcoming elections, was the first to draft and register a bill regarding illegal enrichment on February 28, 2019.
President Poroshenko, Ukraine’s incumbent president, announced as well during a speech at the Kirovohrad Regional Development Council on the same day that he was registering his own draft bill as a matter of urgency.
However, this might prove to be an impossible goal to achieve before the presidential elections on March 31, 2019, for there are only two more sessions left before then. Furthermore, Ukraine’s parliament is set to review the language law; something that has already undergone more than 2,000 amendments.
Nevertheless, both Tymoshenko and Poroshenko will probably do everything they could to prove to the public that they are against corruption and that this decision will not change that.