29. Jan. 2012

Kommersant of Kiev

The Ukrainian juridical system is not independent and this should be addressed as a great priority

Interview by Sergiy Sydorenko, from the daily newspaper Kommersant of Kiev, Ukraine.

Tonight PACE will adopt a resolution about situation in Ukraine. First of all, can you say in brief: does Ukraine moves in a right direction?

There are some issues where you certainly see a move in a right direction – today you have a certain pluralism in the public sphere, freedom of speech. These are sustainable results of the orange revolution. In the other hand, I'm not so sure whether we can say the same concerning the quality of democracy in a parliament or the independency of judges and how much power the citizens really think they have.

You've mentioned changes after Orange revolution. What about changes after Yanukovych election?

Is it very positive , that now there is not so much controversy any more concerning the strategic development of Ukraine. Everybody wants to join EU. And it's not true when someone still thinks, that the president wants to be with Russia. He also wants to be in and with Europe. On the other hand, being part of the EU and also being part of the Council of Europe requires A specific comprehension of politics, of sharing power, of respect of those who do not share your point of view. And how much of those values are really enshrined in the Ukrainian reality? I'm not sure. For instance, the fact that juridical system is not independent, is not good and should be addressed as a great priority.

How does your position corresponds with a fact that some members of Party of Regions in PACE, including head of Ukrainian delegation Ivan Popescu, are also members of your political group?

But Social-democratic group is not a Stalinist organization, we can have different points of view. especially when it comes to your own state you live in. Yes, mister Popescu is since many years a part of our group but today we will not all follow his view concerning Ukraine. By the way, sometimes in the past he had a more critical view of actions of Ukrainian authorities, than today.

There is a proposal in a draft resolution to ask Ukrainian president Yanukovych for an immediate release of Yulia Tymoshenko and other former government members, charged in criminal offences. Will you support this demand?

I want to stress that for me the Tymoshenko case is only the tip of the iceberg. People here are very convinced that the destiny of Ms Tymoshenko is to be criticized. This is understandable. But she is just a symbol of a principle problem in Ukraine. In her case a criminal code has been instrumentalized by the political power and for political interests. Political errors of a former minister have to be punished by political means. When you did make political mistakes, your opponents have to convince the people that you have to lose the power in the next elections because of this mistakes and someone other comes to power. This punishment is enough.

In order to have a criminal punishment for former politicians they need to have made really criminal acts, that means they have to have cheated, have to have stolen, have to have raped OR similar atrocities! If Tymoshenko made high gas prices to take some of profits in her pocket, you have to prove it very precisely and specifically! And it had to be done by a correct independent judiciary with several appeal steps. But in her case I have the impression that president Yanukovyh himself acted like a judge. The courts did not live up to the standards of a independent judiciary following the level of a decent European court.

And why is it a tip o the iceberg?

Because it is one of the biggest difficulties of post-totalitarian societies - to respect the unique individual value of a human being in a juridical system and in politics. Because in totalitarism a human being had no value, while in democracy it's the essential value. Its dignity has to be preserved also before the courts and you might do the best in fair proceedings how they are defined in the European convention of human rights.

Will other social-democrats in PACE support points of the report, mentioned above?

Yes, I'm sure that more than 90% of us will vote in favor of that.

There are those people -- Tymoshenko, Lutsenko and others, mentioned in the report -- are they political prisoners?

Well, I'm sure they made political mistakes, that's why they should not have been elected, and they have not been elected. And, on the other hand, a criminal code was misused to punish them more. And it's possible that they've also made criminal mistakes being in the government, but the proofs at the moment are not sufficient. That's why today I have to say: yes, they are political prisoners.

However, there is no this definition is a draft resolution to be adopted today.

This is always possible that reporters prefer to use another term. The CoE has since ten years a definition of political prisoners, although some countries, like Azerbaijan, do not accept it. And once there will be common a report on the political prisoners in Europe, Ukraine will be a part of it as a country that unfortunately today also have such prisoners.

When do you expect to have that report? Will it be adopted this year?

I'm not sure. Now firstly we have to finish our report of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, and in the next months somebody will start a report on these poor people in all CoE-countries.

Could you specify criteria that define whether any person is a political prisoner or not.

The definition of a political prisoner is based on the quality of the proceedings on the courts, about how they have been treated by the court, how their rights have been respected or not. The Definition of political prisoner assumes non-independence of a court, when a court decides more on political taste, based on the public mood or presidential administration telephone-calls than on a juridical base enshrined in the European convention for human rights. Again, the point is not what you have done, the point is how you have been sentenced and how the judiciary has treaded you.

In April-2010, during Mr. Yanukovych's address to PACE, you asked him to unite a country. You said that it is not a simple task but he ought to deal with it. Have he managed to perform that mission?

Unfortunately, I still have an impression of a very divided country. In order to unite a country you have to open yourself towards the other and offer your hands to others. And the way he handles for instance a Tymoshenko case was not such a open hand or a contribution to unify the country. And this is exactly the problem. I also saw that Yushchenko did not unify really the country after the orange revolution; for instance I would have been much more open to accept a second state language. Also in the way you design the electoral law you can contribute to the unification of the country – another opportunity missed by this administration in my view.

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