A few weeks ago, the Prosecutor General submitted a proposal to the Verkhovna Rada to lift the parliamentary immunity from six MPs: Yevhen Deidei, Andriy Lozovyi, Oles Dovhyi, Maksym Poliakov, Boryslav Rozenblat, and Mykhailo Dobkin, who are suspected of involvement in various kinds of corruption and other crimes. According to the Constitution, MPs cannot be brought to criminal responsibility, detained or arrested without a consent of the Verkhovna Rada. However, most of the parliamentary parties participated in the elections with a promise to abolish parliamentary immunity, and the pertinent draft law was not only endorsed in the first reading, but also received a positive opinion of the Constitutional Court. Nevertheless, parliamentary immunity still allows MPs to evade investigation, and, thus, potential responsibility for the involvement in criminal offenses, in particular, corruption.
Over the past week, the Rules Committee of the parliament considered the proposals of the Prosecutor General’s Office. However, the committee endorsed only one proposal out of five – the one concerning Boryslav Rozenblat – having called all the others groundless. At the same time, committee meetings have often turned into quasi-judicial proceedings where MPs tried to play unusual roles of judges or investigators, voicing their subjective opinions about the actions of public prosecutors, although they do not have such powers according to the law.
The committee decision, based on the subjective judgments of the committee members, is to be introduced for the parliamentary consideration, though there is every reason to believe that not all the proposals will be discussed at the session hall next week, since some of the accused MPs represent the parliamentary majority. There is an even greater risk that the MPs might endorse the committee’s subjective assessment and fail to support the proposal of the prosecutor’s office. This will significantly limit the investigators’ ability to gather sufficient evidence to prove the guilt (wiretapping or house checks at the buildings owned by the MPs are prohibited, as are other relevant investigative actions). Thus, if they have indeed been involved in corrupt practices, the rule of law will not be established.
It is worth noting that lifting immunity does not mean that one’s guilt will be proven by default. It is up to the court to decide whether a person is guilty or innocent on the basis of a thorough investigation and a competitive process between the prosecution and the defense.
Experts of the Reanimation Package of Reforms call on:
• the leaders of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to put on the agenda the proposal to abolish parliamentary immunity of MPs suspected of committing crimes;
• MPs to endorse the abolition of parliamentary immunity of their colleagues and to re-consider the issue of abolition of parliamentary immunity in its current version as a mechanism of evading responsibility for criminal offenses.
We would like to stress that a failure to lift the parliamentary immunity from the MPs suspected of committing crimes will be regarded by the public as blocking of the activities of the investigative agencies or as the parliament’s attempts to cover up corrupt MPs