Monday, April 02, 2012

Hryshchenko's complaint unjustified

Ukraine's foreign minister, Konstantyn Hrshchenko, complains that his country faces double standards in Europe on the question of recent trials of highly placed opposition politicans : "The former Prime Minister of Iceland [Geir Haarde] is now on trial for charges of inefficient management of the country during the financial crisis, and nobody in the EU complains about this. Yulia Tymoshenko is convicted of abuse of authority by signing gas contracts with Russia which caused unnecessary losses of billions for Ukraine, and European politicians are outraged".
But then he admits Ukraine's judicial and criminal-procedural system, in large measure, does not meet European standards and is now undergoing a reform process. [He does add that existing laws and court decisions should be respect and fulfiled.]

Here lies the dilemma.
Geir Haarde is being tried by a special court consisting of 15 members – five supreme court justices, a district court president, a constitutional law professor and eight people chosen by parliament. He will have every opportunity to defend himself and there is a strong possibility he will be found innocent of the charges he is facing. For these reasons, whatever the verdict, it is most unlikely other countries will question the fairness and validity of the trial.

The trials of Ukrainian opposition members are considered flawed by almost all western observers. E.g. Tymoshenko was tried before a lone rookie judge with only 2 years experience in a shoe-box of a courtroom in conditions described as 'inhuman' by an EU observer. The many other shortcomings in the trials of the former Ukrainian PM and others have been well documented. In Ukraine the accused has little opportunity to present a defence, e.g. by calling expert witnesses. 'Not guilty' verdicts are almost unheard of - once trials get under way the end result is seldom in doubt.

If Hryshchenko wants the verdicts handed down to Tymoshenko, former interior minister Lutsenko and others to be accepted by the EU, their trials should have satisfied European standards. He himself accepts Ukraine's legal system does not meet European standards so why should the EU accept these verdicts? They can only conclude the trials are politically motivated..

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