International Development Law Organization

Fighting corruption in Ukraine: Perspectives from the bench

22 Aug 2019

When asked if corruption is one of the major challenges facing Ukraine today, the answer is unanimous among the three judges interviewed against the backdrop of the newly established High Anti-Corruption Court (HACC), which is set to be operational in early September. In the following excerpts of their interviews, judges Lesya Fedorak, Oleksiy Kravchuk and Yevgen Kruk tell us why and how they think the HACC can deliver justice more efficiently.

These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Do you think corruption is one of the major challenges that Ukraine faces today? Why?

Lesya Fedorak: Indicators of Ukraine have improved over the recent years in the international Corruption Perceptions Index. Corruption is among top three problems causing concerns among Ukrainians. However, at the same time only the receipt of a bribe is [considered] corruption and a crime in the consciousness of an ordinary citizen, while giving a [bribe] is not. Such one-sided understanding of corruption shows how deeply this phenomenon has penetrated Ukrainians’ consciousness. Thus, every citizen of Ukraine realizes that it is necessary to fight corruption in our country but does not want to start with oneself. And citizens fail to realize that such a phenomenon deprives them of multiple opportunities on a daily basis: investments do not enter Ukraine and, respectively, new jobs are not created (…). Therefore, the fight against corruption is a key challenge faced by Ukraine. 

Oleksiy Kravchuk: The fight against corruption is a priority task for Ukraine due to the high prevalence of this phenomenon at various levels, low trust of the population in public bodies of all branches of power, and sometimes a rather high tolerance of certain communities for corruption. Hence, it is important for Ukraine to not only to create law enforcement bodies and a high specialized court for top-corruption criminal cases, but also to implement a comprehensive anti-corruption nurturing - in educational institutions, mass media, other bodies - and comply with and demonstrate high standards of integrity from representatives and authorities.

Yevgen Kruk: It is undeniable that the elimination of corruption is among the most important tasks faced by modern Ukraine. Firstly, society is tired of top-ranking officials robbing the country without being punished, while common citizens are suffering. Secondly, it is impossible to build a strong economy, which is the driving force of progress and foundation of real improvements, without a really effective judiciary system. Thirdly, the international community has been expecting real action against corruption from Ukraine for a long time. However, nowadays the task of the country is not to fight this despicable phenomenon, but to eliminate it. The High Anti-Corruption Court is one of the significant links in this process and we will do everything possible to ensure that Ukraine has a decent place in the international anti-corruption community. 

How do you evaluate the role of international partners in establishing the High Anti-Corruption Court?

Fedorak: The engagement of international experts has incorporated international experience into the competition for the position of HACC judges. A high professional level and diligent approach to the evaluation of candidates has ensured a transparent and quality selection of judges (...). As a result, there is a high level of trust from society in the competition and a significant vote of confidence in the Court. This has put the Court into a more beneficial position compared to other courts in the country and has showed real and effective measures in fight against corruption. Personally, I would not have applied to participate in the competition if the international experts had not been involved. 

Kravchuk: International partners play a highly significant role in the establishment of the court. Thanks to their joint support the Law on the High Anti-Corruption Court was developed and adopted, and there was a selection process for candidates to be court members. 

Kruk: The participation of the Public Council of International Experts (PCIE) has been key to the competition. Six persons are members of the PCIE. All of them are foreign, recognized specialists with impeccable reputations and extensive experience on cases related to the fight against corruption. They have been recommended by international organizations with which Ukraine has been cooperating in prevention and action against corruption. It should be noted that this is an extraordinary approach when the country has allowed foreigners to directly influence the formation of the judicial staff. 

What do you think may enable the High Anti-Corruption Court to deliver justice more efficiently and professionally than non-specialized courts do?

Fedorak: Limited jurisdiction and determined specialization would allow the Court to focus on these cases specifically and dedicate sufficient time to study materials and make considerations within a reasonable timeframe. Limited specialization and guaranteed independence shall become a “pillar” on which the HACC may confidently be based while delivering justice on extremely complex corruption cases.  

Kravchuk: The objectives and specific features of the specialized anti-corruption court include effectiveness, professionalism, and integrity. Effectiveness means that, taking into account limited jurisdiction (top-corruption cases only), the court shall consider cases in a timely manner, which would demonstrate the readiness and capability of the public authorities. Professionalism means specialization and ensuring of high standards of the rule of law. While considering corruption cases, judges will become specialists on these particular cases, which increases effectiveness. The procedure of selecting judges with the participation of international experts means the Court comprises professionals with strong reputational qualities who deliver justice professionally and independently, without external influence. 

Kruk: Specialized courts may promote increased effectiveness of justice delivery often thanks to well-established procedures, as well as higher quality and more consistent decisions in complex areas of law. 

Photo ©: President of Ukraine official website