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Ukrainian MPs refuse to decriminalize charges incriminated to Timoshenko

March 15, 2012, 6:00 UTC+3

PACE is concerned about Ukraine's commitment to democratic values

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KIEV, March 15 (Itar-Tass) — The Ukrainian parliament refused to decriminalize the articles of the Criminal Code that were incriminated to former Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Timoshenko.

The Verkhovna Rada, or parliament, had decided against including this issue in the agenda as was proposed by Timoshenko’s colleagues from her Batkivshhina party. As before, the ruling Party of Regions opposed the proposal.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich promisd to the international community that two articles incriminated to Timoshenko “should be brought in line with European standards and they will be shortly.”

Yulia Timoshenko Bloc, guided by the relevant resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), insists that the list of officials who can be prosecuted under Article 364 and Article 365 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code be amended to exclude the president, the prime minister and ministers. They suggest that Article 364 be renamed from “abuse office” to “abuse of power” and that Article 365 deal with “actions in excess of authority” rather than with “actions in excess of official powers” as now. But the main novelty concerns the persons who cannot be prosecuted for such crimes, such as president, prime minister and other members of the government, the explanatory note to the bloc’s legislative initiative said.

On January 17, 2012, the law humanising liability for economic crimes entered into force in Ukraine. It replaced imprisonment for such crimes with fines.

After the previous refusal of the Ukrainian parliament to decriminalise these articles, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called for charges against former government members in Ukraine, including Timoshenko, to be dropped. It asked Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to consider releasing them and to allow them to compete in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

In a resolution approved on January 26, the Assembly also expressed its concern about the deteriorating health of Timoshenko and said the articles of Ukraine's criminal code used to bring these cases were “overly broad and effectively allow for post-facto criminalisation of normal political decision-making. This runs counter to the rule of law and is unacceptable.”

Failing to implement these recommendations within a reasonable timeframe, especially those relating to the criminal prosecution of former government members, would “raise serious questions” about Ukraine's commitment to the principles of democracy and the rule of law, the Assembly said. 

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