Deputies can vote for the removal of parliamentary immunity this spring. This was stated by the Speaker of the Supreme Council Andrei Parubiy. He promised that he would take this decision to the parliament immediately after the positive conclusion of the Constitutional Court. And already in the fall it will be possible to amend the Constitution.
In 2017, the Ukrainian parliament sent two draft laws to the CCU on the abolition of parliamentary immunity. The author of the first bill (№6773) was Yuri Levchenko and 157 deputies. The second bill was proposed by the President of Ukraine (No. 7203).
Both drafts provide for the exclusion from the Constitution of the rule that “deputies can not be brought to criminal responsibility, detained or arrested without the consent of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.” The rule that “the deputies will not answer according to the results of voting or saying, with the exception of responsibility for insult or slander”, remains.
to bills No. 7203 and No. 6773 on the removal of parliamentary immunity
|Current edition||Bills No.7203 and No.6773|
|Article 80. Deputies of Ukraine are guaranteed parliamentary immunity.||Excluded|
|Deputies of Ukraine do not bear legal responsibility for the results of voting or statements in the parliament and its bodies, with the exception of responsibility for insult or libel.||Article 80. Deputies of Ukraine do not bear legal responsibility for the results of voting or statements in the parliament and its bodies, with the exception of responsibility for insult or libel.|
|Deputies of Ukraine can not be brought to criminal account without the consent of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, detained or arrested.||Excluded|
The difference between the bills is that in the presidential version the law is gaining power from January 1, 2020, and in the deputy version – the day after its publication.
History of initiatives and statements on the removal of parliamentary immunity
Statements on the need to remove the immunity of deputies sounded repeatedly. Leonid Kuchma was the first to start talking about this during the pre-election race of 1999. After winning the election, he initiated an all-Ukrainian referendum on April 16, 2000. In one of the issues of this referendum there was talk about the removal of parliamentary immunity. And, in spite of the fact that a significant part of Ukrainians supported the idea of removing the immunity of the deputies, the parliament did not implement the results of this referendum.
Viktor Yushchenko also repeatedly raised the issue of the removal of parliamentary immunity. But he could not realize his words in practice. The only thing he could achieve was the abolition of immunity of the deputies of local councils in 2006.
The greatest success in this business was achieved by the team that came after the Revolution of Dignity. In 2015, for consideration by the Supreme Council, Bill No. 1776 was introduced, which provided for the immunity of deputies and judges. After the positive conclusion of the Constitutional Court, this bill was considered in the first reading. But, in the course of judicial reform, the parliament abolished the immunity of judges, and bill No. 1776 lost its relevance. Therefore, there was a need to create bills No.7203 and No.6773.
The removal of parliamentary immunity from individual deputies
During the years of Ukraine’s independence, there were no more than two dozen cases of lifting immunity from individual deputies. And only four such cases occurred before the Revolution of Dignity.
The first case of the removal of deputy immunity occurred in 1994, when immunity was removed from Yefim Zvyagilsky and he was accused of misappropriating $ 300 million. Fearing persecution, he fled to Israel and returned to Ukraine only in 1997, when all criminal charges were dropped. Today Yefim Zvyagilsky is the deputy of Ukraine.
The second such case occurred in 1999, when Pavel Lazarenko was accused of embezzlement of budget funds. The parliament gave permission for his detention, but he managed to escape to the United States, where he was arrested and held in jail until November 1, 2012. In addition to imprisonment, Pavel Lazarenko was forced to pay a fine of $ 10 million.
In 2000, immunity was removed from Viktor Zherditsky, who was the owner of Gradobank. The German government accused him of misappropriating funds for Ukrainian “Ostarbeiters”. He was arrested and spent 4 years in a German prison. But in 2006 he was acquitted, and Germany paid him about 100 thousand euros of compensation for unjustified imprisonment.
In 2000, the parliament gave permission for the arrest of Nikolai Agafonov, who was an associate of Pavel Lazarenka. He was accused of stealing $ 24 million of state money. But the case did not reach the court. The investigation was terminated due to aggravation of Agafonov’s health and released him on bail. In 2002, he died because of a stroke.
In 2009, immunity was removed from Viktor Lozinsky, who in his hunting grounds shot and killed a local resident Valery Oliynyk. Lozinsky was sentenced to 15 years in prison. But in 2016, according to the “law of Savchenko”, he was released. In prison, he was only five years old.
In 2014, the parliament gave permission for the arrest of Oleg Tsarev from the Party of Regions. But he managed to escape and subsequently he became one of the leaders of “Novorossia”. Now Tsarev is on the international wanted list and lives in Moscow.
In 2015, the Verkhovna Rada authorized the arrest of two members of the Radical Party, Igor Mosiychuk (on suspicion of taking bribes) and Sergei Melnichuk (former commander of the Aidar battalion on suspicion of organizing a criminal group). But later they were released and they again returned to the deputy’s activity.
In the same year, MPs removed immunity from Sergei Klyuev, who was accused of fraud and misappropriation of the “Semiconductor Plant”, as well as using budget funds to pay off the credit debts of this enterprise. At the moment, Klyuyev is on the international wanted list and is hiding in Moscow.
In 2016, the Rada granted permission to detain Vadim Novinsky from the “Opposition bloc”, who was accused of illegally incarcerating Alexander Drabinko (assistant to Metropolitan Volodymyr). But after the immunity was revoked, the Prosecutor General’s Office dropped all charges against him. In this case, Novinsky passed as a witness, and not as an accused. Subsequently, he returned to the parliamentary activities.
In 2016, the Verkhovna Rada also deprived the deputy immunity of Alexander Onishchenko, who was accused of misappropriating UAH 3 billion from PJSC UkrGasVydobuvannya. When the decision was made to remove the immunity of the deputies, Onishchenko was abroad. Therefore, he managed to escape from justice. Now he is hiding and periodically threatens to make public the so-called “Onishchenko films”, which contain compromising records on Poroshenko, Yatsenyuk and other officials.
In 2017, the parliament authorized the prosecution of Borislav Rosenblatt and Maxim Polyakov, who were accused of organizing amber schemes. In the same year, deputy immunity was removed from Olesya Dovgo and Mikhail Dobkin. The first was accused of illegal transfer of land “Zhukova Island” for construction in 2007. And the second – in the illegal possession of land in Kharkov. Unfortunately, none of these cases reached the court.
On March 15, 2018, the parliament agreed to arrest and arrest Evgeni Bakulin from the “Opposition Bloc”. He was accused of appropriating and laundering funds on a particularly large scale. As it turned out, Bakulin, having a deputy mandate, has not been attending the Verkhovna Rada meeting for almost 2 years (since June 2016).
The last deputy, who was deprived of immunity, was Nadezhda Savchenko. On March 22, 2018, she was accused of preparing for the terrorist attack and taken under arrest.
So, the above statistics confirm that the immunity of the deputies has become a guarantee of impunity. Having immunity, each deputy can escape punishment for his crimes. The procedure for considering the issue of the removal of parliamentary immunity in parliament has been going on for almost a month. And during this time the deputy has the opportunity to freely leave the country or hide the traces of his crime.
In addition, it is likely that the people’s deputies will not vote for the removal of parliamentary immunity from their colleague, despite the presence of strong evidence of his guilt.
Proceeding from this, we believe that the need to remove the immunity of the deputies is urgent and necessary.