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Ukraine’s highest court rules key anti-corruption laws are unconstitutional

By Dan Byrne for AMLi

UKRAINE’S HIGHEST COURT has struck down key powers that authorities use to combat corruption in the country.

The Constitutional Court of Ukraine ruled Wednesday that it was unconstitutional to hold officials criminally liable for intentionally providing false information.

At the same time, it reduced the capacity of the National Agency for Preventing Corruption (NAZK) to investigate by deeming some important powers unconstitutional.

As a decision of the top-court, these rulings are final and cannot be appealed.

They have essentially deprived NAZK of the ability to monitor the assets and lifestyles of Ukrainian officials, as well as the right to access registers containing reports on violations and anti-corruption inspections.

The ruling also strips the public of the right to freely access information on officials’ legal and financial declarations.

Transparency International (TI) has denounced the decision, calling it the result of a “whim” from certain Ukrainian MPs and claiming that it was “effectively terminating the majority of the anti-corruption reform,” in the country.

“These legislative provisions were the cornerstones of the anti-corruption system, while corruption has been recognised as one of the threats to the national security,” TI Ukraine Executive Director Andrii Borovyk said in a statement.

“In addition to the loss of accountability, thousands of officials will remain unpunished for lying in declarations.”

The move puts Ukraine at odds with many of the key principles developing across Europe, and the EU in particular – as the bloc ups its efforts to combat corruption and other financial crime.

EU lawmakers and reformists have, in recent years, made calls for more responsibility to be shouldered by those connected to criminal activity – even if they were unaware of it due to lax due diligence on the information available.

They have also called for more investigative powers to be given to anti-corruption bodies like NAZK.

Both of these movements conflict directly with the rulings this week in Ukraine – a country ranked as one of the worst in Europe for corruptions perception in 2019, but one which has also clearly favoured closer integration with the EU since the Euromaidan revolution in 2014.

Despite the rulings, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has vowed to continue the fight against corruption in the country.

“Ukrainian officials and deputies will continue to declare their property and income, and anti-corruption bodies will have the necessary powers to inspect them and bring violators to justice,” he said in a statement. 

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