Ombudsperson Office reform and extra penalties for Ukrainians under sanctions: new bills in Verkhovna Rada

12 February 2021
Ombudsperson Office reform and extra penalties for Ukrainians under sanctions: new bills in Verkhovna Rada
Home > Monitoring > Ombudsperson Office reform and extra penalties for Ukrainians under sanctions: new bills in Verkhovna Rada

While Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal attends the EU-Ukraine Association Council and President Volodymyr Zelensky went for his working visit to Donbas, MPs continue to work and submit draft bills that can become laws in the nearest future. Today in our digest: changes to the appointment procedure of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights and extra penalties from the Ukrainian state for Ukrainians under sanctions.

Bill enhancing the work of Commissioner for Human Rights (5019)

Cosponsors: a group of MPs from For the Future group and Servant of the People faction with Tarasenko Taras as the first signatory.

Who is affected: Ukrainian citizens, the President, MPs, judges, judges of the Constitutional Court, government bodies, local governments, and employees of the Secretariat of the Commissioner for Human Rights.

What does it change:

  • requirements for candidates for the position of the Ombudsperson will be different: minimum age of 35 (current requirement is 40), 5 years of human rights advocacy experience, and not been a part of prosecution, internal affairs authority, or any other law enforcement agency for the last 5 years
  • the right to propose candidatures will be granted to the Speaker of the Parliament, MPs (no less than a quarter of the constitutional composition of the Verkhovna Rada, i.e. 113 MPs), and human rights associations via petitions supported by at least 25 thousand votes each
  • the Ombudsperson will be appointed by secret ballot
  • the Ombudsman will oversee the observance of human rights in the combat zone and prepare annual reports on the situation there
  • the Ombudsperson will have no authority to consider complaints against the President, the Parliament, the Cabinet, judges, and judges of the Constitutional Court.

Why this is important:

  • the Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights has to oversee the observance of human rights, respond to violations and abuse of power by law enforcement agencies
  • current Ombudsperson Ludmyla Denisova allegedly has close ties with the Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov. Under such circumstances, it is doubtful that she is able to ensure parliamentary control over the National Police and other bodies under the Minister.

What is right:

  • the reintroduction of the secret ballot procedure for appointing the Ombudsperson will make it possible for MPs to vote for the candidature they deem the most suitable and disregard their political affiliation, orders from their parties or the President
  • human rights organizations have enough experience and motivation to be able to propose suitable candidates for the Ombudsperson so it is right to give them such a right.

What is wrong: the Constitution does not define the minimum number of MPs required to submit a proposal concerning the candidature of the Commissioner for Human Rights. Since all the MPs have the right to initiate legislation, each MP is entitled to propose his or her candidate.

Bill introducing additional penalties for Ukrainians under personal sanctions (5030)

Cosponsors: a group of MPs from Servant of the People faction with Anastasiia Radina as the first signatory and Yaroslav Yurchyshyn from Holos faction.

Who is affectedUkrainian citizens, the National Agency on Corruption Prevention, civil servants, the President, MPs, candidates for the presidency, and candidates for the Parliament and local councils.

What does the bill change:

  • if a Ukrainian citizen is under sanctions, the following penalties also apply:
  • the NACP will constantly monitor his or her lifestyle and make the check of his or her asset declaration a priority
  • a person under sanctions will not be eligible to apply for civil service positions and will be fired if he or she is a civil servant
  • banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions will consider such clients and persons affiliated with them as high-risk clients and therefore will refuse to work with them
  • the abovementioned extra penalties will be applied if sanctions were imposed by the Ukrainian President and also the United Kingdom, the EU, the United Nations Security Council, or the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U. S. Treasury Department.

What is wrong:

  • the whole concept of the bill contradicts the status of Ukraine as an independent state since it makes decisions made by foreign states mandatory for Ukraine
  • Ukraine will be obliged to punish its own citizens for sanctions imposed by foreign states while its first priority should be to defend its citizens
  • the bill rejects the presumption of innocence and cripples the judiciary. If a person commits a crime, he or she should be punished by a court and not via political mechanisms
  • the goal of the NACP is to fight corruption while sanctions are a tool to counter threats to national security. Thus, not the NACP but the Security Service should be a body responsible for responding to sanctions.

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