Civil-society activists placed a two-meter toilet outside the Verkhovna Rada today.
The participants in this protest, who wore masks to represent President Petro Poroshenko and the General Prosecutors Vitaliy Yarema, Viktor Shokin, and Oleh Makhnitskyi, “flushed” the criminal cases against high-level officials who are suspected of corruption down the toilet.
In this way, the civil-society activists wanted to demonstrate to the Verkhovna Rada MPs how the criminal investigations into corrupt public officials who will lead the Anti-Corruption Bureau are not being pursued, or in other words, are being metaphorically flushed.
They urged the Verkhovna Rada MPs not to support the bill №2667 as redacted by Yuriy Lutsenko, which would make the new Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, who will be responsible for leading cases pursued by the Anti-Corruption Bureau, open to the President’s influence.
The Office of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor is a new specialized unit of the Office of the Prosecutor General which has been created exclusively for supporting and pursuing cases investigated by the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
“We specifically prescribed in the law regarding the Anti-Corruption Bureau that there should be the creation of a new separate prosecutor, understanding that if the cases of the Bureau were conducted by the General Prosecutor, he could immediately conceal some criminal cases,” explains Vitaliy Shabunin from the Anti-Corruption Action Center. “For this very reason, this department must be completely independent from not only the politicians but also from the General Prosecutor, as in the past year and a half, he has not imprisoned a single, high-level, corrupt public official,” he adds.
It should be noted that it is impossible to create the Office of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor separate from the Office of the Prosecutor General, as this action is prohibited by the Constitution of Ukraine. Therefore, it was proposed that a specific mechanism should be implemented to make the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor independent from the influence of the General Prosecutor, despite the fact that the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor will work in the same vertical power structure. Nevertheless, the leaders of the presidential faction in the Parliament decided to change this proposal and to instead make the Office of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor completely dependent upon the General Prosecutor as well as the President.
As the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor will be responsible for all the investigations of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, which will deal exclusively with corruption committed by high-level officials, he will play a key role in battling corruption in the highest echelons of power in the country.
“The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor alone, and not the General Prosecutor, will be responsible for the results of the investigations into the most corrupt political elites, including the judges, members of parliament, ministers, and prosecutors themselves. It would be absolutely unacceptable for the President, or for the General Prosecutor appointed by the President, to be able to influence the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor. We need an independent individual in this position who will take down corrupt officials and not be controlled by them,” warns Yehor Sobolyev, a member of parliament who is the head of the Anti-Corruption Committee.
The authors of the bill №2667 propose that the Selection Committee responsible for appointing the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor should be formed in such a way that most of the members are controlled by the president’s group, namely that 5 members should be appointed by the General Prosecutor (who was appointed by, and therefore influenced by, the President) and that 5 members should be selected by the Parliament, where the President has the largest faction and it seems likely that at least one of the five members selected by the Parliament will be favorable to the President.
Additionally, the president’s party proposes that the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor should not appoint his own deputies and staff and that instead, the General Prosecutor should have this responsibility.
Instead, representatives of other factions and civil-society activists propose a more independent model for appointing the Selection Committee. They insist on reducing the number of committee members appointed by the General Prosecutor from 5 to 3 and increasing the number of committee members appointed by the Verkhovna Rada to 7. In this way, the President’s ability to influence the selection process will be weakened. Experts also emphasize the need for the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor to personally appoint his deputies after being vetted through an open competition.
It should be noted that Ukraine’s Western creditors, namely the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, have called for the creation of an independent Office of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor.