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Needs must when in opposition – Jury Trials

June 1, 2011

Well, dear readers, I am sure we all wonder why our glorious leaders have so many good ideas when in opposition and yet when in power seem to be totally devoid of them.

Is being in power so time consuming that the ability to have good ideas is just prevented from going from brain to mouth and ultimately to action?

There have been many international examples of politicians stating, for example, the war on drugs is being lost, is ineffective and is too costly. Of course if the international community really wanted to stop the illicit trade in drugs, all 195 nations with their armies, police and intelligence services could quite easily take out all major drug production, drug supply chains and drug gangs buy sheer weight of the combined numbers they can throw at it if sovereignty was waved and some serious banging of heads by enormous multinational forces were to step in.

Equally, the entire international community could just decriminalise all currently banned drugs.

Neither of course are politically acceptable if you are in power, but easy to say if in opposition.

As Jean Claus Junker once said, “We know what to do, but we don’t know how to get re-elected once we have done it.”

We know what happens when the electorate are allowed to get involved. You have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland and they vote No. That is quite obviously the wrong decision for the politicians, so there is another so that they can vote Yes as they should have done to make things run smoothly. Other nations, despite the promise of a referendum (UK) just signed up to the Lisbon Treaty and broke their promise of a referendum.

What has this got to do with Ukraine?

Well the country is going through long needed reforms. Some are, whilst unpopular, well grounded and well thought through reforms. Others however, would appear to have been written on the back of a cigarette packet during a break for lunch and submitted as though enough to run a nation by.

The underlying problem to reform in Ukraine is that so much is needed as previous governments have not done much, if anything, to reform Ukraine. Why? – Because as the above Jean Claus Junker quote ably displays, remaining in power is more important than what needs to be done for far too many politicians.

Much is said about the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Ukraine. They are, after all, hired and fired by the politicians which is never a good thing. That is especially so in such a partisan and feudal environment as Ukrainian politics.

It is not something that has simply just happened under the current government. In 2007, PACE wrote an exceptionally strong letter to then President Yushenko (a supposed democratic practitioner) for his interference with the constitutional court to get his way. His way happened to be unconstitutional but happened nevertheless after his interference in the highest court of the land.

Now we have the situation where all of a sudden, the opposition party of the ex-Prime Minister is tabling laws for the introduction of a jury system in Ukrainian courts. After five years in power, they never once thought to table such a law when they could pass it. That said, when you are in power it helps to have the judiciary subservient to your thoughts, and that they were during her time in power.

Now the ex-Prime Minister is very likely to at least get to court on several charges it has become a good idea to have juries, as of course, the judiciary are as open to “direction” under the current government as they were under that of the currently accused when she was in office.

It defies belief that what is an obviously good idea of jury trials, did not enter their heads when in power as they had the power to get it through parliament with their majority. Now a good idea is already besmirched with self-serving duplicity because of desperation rather than the merits of the proposed system. Incredibly sad!

Whether it will get through parliament remains to be seen. The safeguards from jury tampering in such high-profile cases no doubt will be as weak as the safeguards for interfering directly with the judiciary. Maybe more so given the money and nasty connections available to politicians of all parties and the average wealth of the average Ukrainian citizen.

You can buy a voters vote in the national elections for the price of a half eaten sharama, so buying a jurist vote will not be a difficult thing to do either. How it would be possible to find a jury made up of truly independent people in Ukraine who would not find Yulia Tymoshenko guilty (or not) regardless of the evidence is yet another difficult matter. Such is her violently polarising effect on the electorate, she is saint or sinner regardless of evidence.

Much like the PACE recommended State TV station she refused to start as Prime Minister, and that may now have turned out to be beneficial for her, not bothering to reform anything, let alone introduce jury trials, now seems to be yet another bad decision that will come back and haunt her.

One has to suspect that when jury trials eventually get the go ahead in Ukraine, it will come at a time far too late for her. She may well rue the fact she did not even try to implement them when she was in power. One can only assume that the ECHR will be her next best bet if found guilty, but that assumes she is innocent which may not be the case. If she is guilty, the last thing she will want is the ECHR confirming the ruling.

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