The Ukrainian parliament has approved the first draft a bill to introduce an anti-corruption court, a development which is long-awaited by the country’s foreign creditors and anti-graft campaigners. The bill passed with the support of 282 deputies in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s lower house of parliament.
In the latest Transparency International report on perceptions of corruption Ukraine ranked in 130th position out of a possible 188. The anti-corruption court is seen by Ukraine’s Western backers as a cornerstone of Kiev’s efforts to firmly establish the rule of law in the country four years after a revolution overthrew the highly corrupt, pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych.
According to Unian, the High Anti-Corruption Court, as it it’s called, will be a permanent specialised court tasked with considering criminal proceedings related to “crimes containing a corruption component.” This will include the laundering of money from the proceeds of crime, the creation of a criminal organisation, assistance to members of criminal organisations and the concealment of their criminal activities where they relate to corruption, among other crimes.
The bill states that only crimes in which the damages exceed the living minimum wage by 500 times or more will be handled by the court.
When the details of the draft bill were first published in December they were heavily criticised for ignoring recommendations from the Venice Commission, a Council of Europe body that advises member states on how to bring their legal structures into line with European standards.
Among the criticisms directed at the first draft in December was the fact nominees of international donors were only given an advisory role, whereas the Venice Commission had insisted that foreign experts play a crucial role to ensure that independent and honest judges are selected.
It was also criticised for being too broad in its jurisdiction, covering cases which are not related to high-profile corruption like drug dealing and arms trafficking and for having unreasonably high eligibility requirements to become an anti-corruption judge.
Makysym Burbak, who heads the People’s Front faction in parliament assured observers that the Venice Commissions recommendations will be incorporated into the bill between the first and second readings.
The IMF has called the establishment of an anti-corruption court a “benchmark” of Ukraine’s progress toward Western legal standards, and has said it would help ease the release of loans in the future.