Askold S. Lozynskyj.
Iryna Valentynivna Venediktova was appointed Ukraine’s current General Procurator on March 17, 2020. Previous to that she served as the acting Director of the State Bureau of Investigations, a position to which she had been appointed by the President of Ukraine on December 27, 2019. Among the low points of her brief tenure at the SBI was the appointment of Oleksandr Babikov, as her deputy, a former attorney for former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych on issues including but not limited to his role in the Maidan. In an interview with “Ukrainska Pravda”, Babikov provided some insight into his understanding of his duties:
“Organs of pre-judicial investigation are to analyze and investigate all circumstances, which are brought to their attention by one side or the other. In this way it will be possible to secure an objective analysis and give society an answer as to what transpired in 2014”.
Given Babikov’s egregious conflict of interests about which he also lied, Venediktova assured society that Babikov would not be handling issues surrounding Maidan events. And then she was gone as acting Director of SBI to become the General Prosecutor, having completely corrupted the SBI since her appointments at the SBI could never be independent of her as the General Prosecutor.
In simple terms the function of the GP is to prosecute. The function of the SBI is to investigate the events of the Maidan, the Revolution of Dignity and officials of the Anti-Corruption Bureau. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued on April 15 2014 a Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine. Among its recommendation the OHCHR emphasized:
“Ensure the institutional independence of the State Bureau of Investigation, under Article 216 of the new CCP, which provides for its creation within five years (as of 2012) to enable it to investigate allegations of human rights violations committed by judges, law enforcement officers and high-ranking officials. It will be very important to ensure that this office is independent from the Prosecutor’s Office. Public accountability and sufficient resourcing is essential to enable it to function effectively, promptly, independently and impartially.”
But independence was now not possible.
As to the pertinent Article of the CCP (216), it states whom the SBI is to investigate:
“Investigators from the units of the State Bureau of Investigations of Ukraine, except cases provided by Paragraph 5 of this Article, shall engage in pre-trial investigation of the crimes committed by officials holding a particularly responsible status pursuant to Part One of Article 9 of the Law of Ukraine ‘On Civil Service’ and the persons whose positions refer to categories 1-3, judges and law enforcement personnel. Investigators from units of the State Bureau of Investigations of Ukraine shall also engage in pre-trial investigation of the crimes provided for by the first sentence of Paragraph 5 of this Article if those were committed by officials of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine.”
Venediktova’s successor at the SBI Oleksandr Sokolov recently commented on the recommendations of the OHCHR:
“For the State Bureau of Investigation as a law enforcement organ the main function is to establish the guilt of all persons connected to crimes which took place during the mass actions of protests of the Revolution of Dignity. For that reason the Bureau may not ignore the recommendations of an international organization of such a level and will take into account its recommendations in its work.”
One of the first objects of SBI’s investigation was Tetiana Chornovol, an activist of the Maidan, certainly not a judge, not a law enforcement officer or a high ranking official nor an official of the National Ant-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine.
Neither the recommendations of the OHCHR nor the Criminal Code of Ukraine provided the authority or jurisdiction for the SBI to investigate Chornoval, or the General Procurator to indict her, or the Pecherskyj District Judge Sergei Wowk to place her under house arrest, but all of that happened. Ukrainian society is appalled at her plight, but the process continues.
This is not about Tetiana Chornovol. Ms. Chornovol in a television interview stressed that the case against her is not aimed at her personally, but is an attempt by Russia to rewrite history, casting the Maidan not as the Revolution of Dignity but as an illegal seizure of power. She is probably correct. The evidence is not direct, but it is overwhelming even if circumstantial. These so called jurists, Venediktova, Babikov and Solokov are marginal legal minds at best perhaps, but perhaps significant politically and with a purpose. It would be difficult to believe that they are unwitting players. The president and the parliament need to intervene immediately, the president, in particular, since these nefarious characters essentially are his political appointments. This certainly mandates an investigation. Egregious lawlessness, disregard for the opinion of the global community and contempt for international structures is very much Russia-like.