Nobody can be above the law: On the immunity of people’s deputies in questions and answers

What is parliamentary immunity?

Immunity is the protection of people’s deputies from prosecution, detention or arrest for any crimes without prior permission from the Verkhovna Rada.

What are the types of parliamentary immunity?

There are two types of immunity in the world: 1) indemnity – protection of freedom of expression and voting of a deputy in the parliament, 2) full immunity – protection from criminal responsibility, arrest, or detention without the prior consent of parliament.

What does immunity look like in Ukraine?

Ukrainian people’s deputies, according to Article 80 of the Constitution of Ukraine, have both the first and the second kinds of inviolability – that is, they have absolute immunity. They cannot be held accountable either for political activities or for any crimes without the parliament’s prior consent to this.

Why hasn’t the parliament abolished the immunity of deputies yet?

It is true that the abolition of parliamentary immunity has been among the promises of Ukrainian politicians for many years and this promise is included into the electoral programs of various parties at each election.

Back in 2000, during a referendum on changes to the Constitution, the majority of citizens (89%) supported the restriction of parliamentary immunity by abolishing immunity against prosecution, detention and arrest.

Following the last parliamentary elections in 2014, this item was even spelled out in the coalition agreement. However, the Constitution is still unchanged.

On January 16, 2015 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine registered the President’s “Draft Law on Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine (concerning the immunity of people’s deputies of Ukraine and judges)”. The same very day the decision was included in the agenda of the Verkhovna Rada, but the deputies did not consider it. Instead, the document was sent to the Constitutional Court for verification. On June 16, 2015, the court recognized the draft law as consistent with the Constitution of Ukraine. However, after that, the issue of abolishing the immunity was never considered in the parliament again.

What is the position of Samopomich regarding the removal of parliamentary immunity?

Everything is written in the program with which Samopomich went to the polls. Samopomich believes that deputies should not have immunity against criminal liability, while they should be protected from political persecution for their statements and voting in the parliament. This will ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, will launch the process of clearing the parliament of those who use the mandate for personal purposes, will ensure quality of the parliamentarians of the next convocations and, of course, will simplify the investigation of corruption and other crimes committed by deputies.

What does Samopomich bill on limiting the immunity of deputies offer?

Given the parliament’s hesitation regarding changes to the Constitution, at the end of last year Samopomich MPs registered a bill that significantly restricts the immunity of deputies by changing the laws regulating immunity rather than constitutional norms.

Draft law #5487 simplifies the procedure for the removal of immunity and allows deputies to be stripped off it voluntarily. In addition, according to MP Yehor Soboliev, the document allows taking away the passport from a deputy accused or suspected by the investigators of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and prosecutors of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, and sets strict deadlines for the parliament to issue a permission for bringing a deputy to criminal responsibility. The MP believes this would have allowed to avoid the shameful flees from the territory of Ukraine and evasion of responsibility.

Even if deputies will be stripped off their immunity – individually or all together – where is the guarantee that they will receive a fair punishment given the enormous corruption in the courts?

Today all the people’s deputies whose immunity was removed by the parliament’s voting show their eagerness to defend their rights in court. That is why Samopomich consistently and clearly insists on the formation of a specialized anti-corruption court with independent judges. Once this decision is made, the top corrupt officials will not feel so calm.

According to Yehor Soboliev, international partners are ready to assist Ukraine in the creation of this independent anti-corruption body; but first the parliament has to pass the corresponding law. After all, now we see effective work and investigations of the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office; yet, not a single top corruptionist has been brought to liability in the three years after Maidan.

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