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14 Dec, 2014 11:34

EU says Ukraine 'government cleansing' law not in line with bloc’s principles

EU says Ukraine 'government cleansing' law not in line with bloc’s principles

Ukraine’s recently passed law on lustration – the cleansing of government from past regimes’ officials – “does not live up to” European principles, according to the Venice Commission, the EU’s advisory body on constitutional matters.

The law, according to the president, is aimed at bringing the county's political system “in line with European standards,” but it has “several serious shortcomings,” the European Commission for Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission) has concluded.

The so-called “lustration law” adopted in October could see a million Ukrainian officials, including members of government, investigated, Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk estimates. Introducing the legislation was one of the most vigorous demands of the Maidan protesters, who took part in overthrowing President Yanukovich a year ago.

The political cleansing spree has spilt into the streets in a wave of mob “trash lustrations,” with angry crowds attacking officials, beating them up and dumping them in trashcans.

READ MORE: ‘Almost lynching’: Radicals attack Ukrainian officials, throw into trash bins

The Venice commission says the problem with the Ukrainian “lustration law” is the time frame – from the Soviet Communist period up to the Maidan events of February 2014. A political purge in Ukraine risks turning into a “never-ending” story, it warns.

Still from youtube video (Cossacks Rada)

The European democracy watchdog has also questioned the inclusion of the recent Yanukovich period into the law.

Applying lustration measures in respect of the recent period during which Mr Yanukovych [Yanukovich] was president of Ukraine would ultimately amount to questioning the actual functioning of the constitutional and legal framework of Ukraine as a democratic state governed by the rule of law,” the Commission’s verdict reads.

The number of officials subject to scrutiny has also raised doubts, with the European constitution experts believing “lustration must concern only positions that may genuinely pose a significant danger to human rights or democracy.”

The EU body has also urged the Ukrainian lawmakers to reconsider the criteria for picking officials to be investigated.

Guilt must be proven in each individual case, and cannot be presumed on the basis of merely belonging to a category of public offices,” the Commission warns.

In general, it calls on the Ukrainian political purge advocates to curb their appetite for persecution, as the watchdog does not believe “that lustration measures are the most appropriate means to combat corruption.”

The Venice Commission says Kiev has agreed to amend the law.

Some in the Ukrainian capital, like the architect of the purge - Egor Sobolev, the head of the Lustration Committee, are unhappy with the EU assessment.

Our friends in the Venice Commission say that they could, without even consulting the Ukrainian people, judge our lustration to be inhumane and un-European,” he said.

Sobolev is against an individual approach in Ukraine’s lustration bid.

Former KGB – out! Can’t explain family wealth – out! Otherwise it won’t work. Proving individual guilt of each official, policeman or judge in our own courts is a road to hell,” he added.

MP Yury Derevyanko, a co-author of the lustration law, believes the bill got a negative review because those who presented it to the Commission - Party of Regions members, Serhiy Kivalov and Volodymyr Pylypenko – are themselves subject to lustration.

They are doing their best to completely destroy the lustration law,” Derevyanko told The Kyiv Post.

Opposition block MP, Yury Miroshnichenko, meanwhile, says the law was indeed too hastily adopted under pressure from the raging Maidan mob.

The bill is rough and needs amendments,” he told Kommersant.

The Venice Commission experts have promised to come to Ukraine early next year to help the lawmakers there amend the law so it will “meet the applicable international standards.”