"From May 2012 to November 2014, a period of 18 months, we served together on a high-level monitoring mission, appointed by the European Parliament, regarding disputed criminal convictions of political figures in Ukraine.
We witnessed and reported on a politicised judiciary and prosecution system; a court system that privileged the prosecution over defendants and one where a presumption of guilt rather than of innocence seemed to be the norm. We commented on the selective nature of politically motivated justice for some, coexisting with a climate of impunity for others. This was bad for Ukraine’s international standing and a threat to the liberty and freedom of her citizens at home
A relentless battle is being fought for the hearts and minds of the Ukrainian people. There is unrelenting Russian propaganda from outside, often amplified by powerful media interests inside Ukraine. Public opinion has been aroused to expect the imprisonment of high profile alleged wrongdoers. This has been underwritten on occasion by injudicious political comments. The manipulation of the court of public opinion is no substitute for the rule of law.
Information we have to hand suggests a worrying slippage in standards is beginning to emerge, a step backwards to what risks evolving into a concerning post-Maidan revisionism. Politics everywhere is contested but through elections and, in parliament, through debate. These are the arenas, not the courts, where political opponents clash. The imminence of local elections adds fuel to the fire of our anxieties when we witness the targeting of political opponents through the justice system and not the ballot box.
Ultimately, if this course of action prevails, Ukraine’s democracy and rule of law will be the first victims. These both are core elements in the common values that underpin Ukraine’s EU and NATO aspirations.
Ukraine’s anti-corruption agencies need to be reinforced not undermined.
Selective justice through politically inspired prosecutions must be a thing of the past not a tool of the future.
State security and law enforcement agencies and the prosecution and the judicial systems need independence not instrumentalisation.
Ukraine’s European destiny will not be served by a revisionist step backwards.
We speak out of friendship, concern and respect. Silence in such circumstances risks to be perceived as assent. We cannot remain silent."
Pat Cox & Aleksander Kwasniewski
1 July 2020