Posts Tagged ‘Council of Europe’


Setting the pace? PACE sets a (Crimean) precedent?

October 13, 2016

Much has been written in cyberspace with regard to how the international community should react to the recent Duma elections which included the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula (and its assimilation into the Southern District administrative and military machinery).


13th October witnessed the adoption of a robust text by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in which this issue is officially raised.

Among the prose, of particular note is the following paragraph:

“4.1. condemns the illegal Duma elections held on 18 September in occupied Crimea and considers their results null and void. The incorporation of Ukrainian sovereign territory into Russian federal constituencies and the creation of four single-member constituencies are blunt violations of international law and effectively compromise the legitimacy of the Russian Parliament;”

It appears to be the first official document from an internationally recognised body that bluntly questions the legitimacy of the current Duma as it now contains illegitimate parliamentarians from an illegally annexed part of Ukraine.

As such, PACE Resolution 2132 (2016) appears to set a precedent officially questioning the legitimacy of the newly installed Russian Duma.

It therefore has ramifications.

There are now questions for each State and every international institution as to whether they will unquestionably recognise the legitimacy of the current Russian Duma – or not?  Now that PACE has officially questioned the legitimacy of the Russian Duma, should they too formally do so?

Are PACE Member  States and international institutions to continue to entertain interaction with the Russian Duma if its legitimacy is questionable?  There are other Russian channels if disqualifying the Duma after all.

Should they end any or all inter-parliamentary cooperation with a questionably legitimate Duma?

How to wiggle?  Does their entry into the Duma not simply de-legitimise that entire rubber-stamping circus – and if not why not?  If not, is cooperation be withdrawn only from committees and delegations that contain those Duma MPs who entered the legislature from Crimea to otherwise justify interaction without having to address a broader issue of Duma legitimacy?

What of the expansion of sanctions upon those now representing Crimea in the Duma?  Should any individual sanctions also include those that organised the elections too?  It seems unlikely that this can be avoided.

Regularly this blog raises policy questions regarding Ukraine.  For the past 2 years the absence of an overt Crimea policy had been duly noted – it is only fairly recently that something approaching policy has become clear.

Clearly PACE Resolution 2132 is something of a diplomatic win for Ukraine and the Ukrainian delegation to PACE.  It has not occurred without their significant effort to include such text, and hard lobbying to get it passed by PACE parliamentary vote.

The blog is aware of the energy spent by those (such as Alexie Goncharenko, a Ukrainian PACE delegation representative and head of the Verkhovna Rada cross party committee on Crimea), to accomplish such a result.   Thus although recognition of a good job well done are something of a rarity, the Ukrainian delegation to PACE have achieved all that could be expected of them on this occasion and their efforts deserve recognition.

It now remains to be seen whether the precedent now set in this PACE Resolution will further resonate within PACE Member States and other international institutions – or not.

(Full disclosure, the blog is well acquainted with Alexie Goncharenko – albeit there are healthy areas of (friendly) disagreement on occasion.)


The Kremlin merges Crimea with its Southern Federal District

July 28, 2016

August is a month that in recent years brings with it increased difficulties born of The Kremlin for Ukraine.  This combined with a major sporting event, which has also coincided with Kremlin shenanigans fairly frequently over the years would perhaps prompt a reader to expect a difficult few weeks ahead for Ukraine.  The entrails of the Rio Olympics in August perhaps do not read particularly well for Ukraine.


The 28th July witnessed its first “August surprise” a few days early – albeit perhaps not the surprise it should/could have been.  President Putin signed a decree ending the Federal District of Crimea and merging it into the Southern Federal District.

Southern District in Blue (less Crimea)

Southern District in Blue (less Crimea)

The more astute observers may have predicted such a move based upon a previous decree placing the Southern Military District and Crimea under the command of Colonel General Alexander Dvornikov following his recall from leading the Kremlin’s Syrian campaign.

A matter of consolidating military command and control, and also public administration, by moving it away from the peninsula itself and placing its power centers within internationally recognised Russian territory.  The result being occupied Crimea now squarely falls within both military and administrative control of the respective civil and military Southern Districts of the Russian Federation based in Rostov-on-Don.

The reasoning behind the move has been cited as being necessary to “improve governance” – which is entirely plausible (although perhaps not the real reason for canceling the separate Crimean status when assimilating Crimea into the Southern District control apparatus) considering the exceptionally poor governance and administrative abilities displayed by the current “authorities” since 2014.

As yet the repercussions of the Crimean assimilation into the command structures of the Southern District, both military and civilian remain to be seen – perhaps the forthcoming Duma elections will provide some indication.

For sure whatever grubby political deals had been previously arranged within the peninsula may have to be renegotiated with those now in control from Rostov-On-Don.  Alternatively, perhaps those in Rostov-On-Don have an entirely different plan for the elites within its newly acquired administrative territory.

Either which way, and at the very least, there will now have to be accommodation for the “rent seeking” expected by those within the Rostov-On-Don machinery.  Money flows from “rent seeking” will have to be, at least in part, redirected.  Organised crime structures too may need to seek new accommodations within the power centers of the Southern District.

For Ukraine and the West, the question is now what to do about Crimean sanctions – a far simpler matter when it remained a distinct stand-alone administrative centre post the illegal annexation.  There are now questions to be asked  and answered as to whether they will extend to those within the Southern District’s that will undoubtedly violate the sanctions imposed regarding Crimea specifically.

For those “western” capitols already wavering regarding sanctions, this additional complication may prove to be too much – albeit it already seems unlikely 2017 will conclude witnessing a continued unity within the EU Member States.  That said, the issue of sanctions specifically applied to Crimea have never been subject to wobbles – the issue of wobbles has always related to the sanctions that were imposed that are not Crimea specific but caused by the on-going Kremlin actions within the occupied Donbas.

This change of Crimean circumstance will perhaps muddy the waters somewhat.

A reader may ponder what August will yet further bring – for the month of August rarely heralds anything good, but rather a deliberate concentration of ill-deeds from The Kremlin in recent years.


Council of Europe (PACE) issues – Ukraine

June 20, 2016

There seems to be a tempest brewing between PACE and the Ukrainian delegation therein.

Thus far, since the annexation of Crimea and war in eastern Ukraine, PACE has taken a (perhaps surprisingly) fairly robust line against Russia – the Russian delegation being stripped of its voting rights.

As a result the Russian delegation therefore sees no reason to attend PACE sessions until their voting rights are restored (not that The Kremlin thinks particularly highly of PACE anyway), and their current voting rights ban is set to continue until the year end.

Theoretically the voting rights ban is up for renewal once again in the later part of the year and albeit despite no change in the situation that brought about the current ban in the first place, there is a perceived weakening of resolve.

Further the very recently released annual 104 page report upon Ukraine seems to have absolutely no mention of human rights abuses within either the occupied territories under Kremlin control in the Donbas, nor any mention regarding human rights abuses within the illegally annexed Crimea.

How so when such human rights abuses feature in so many reports by other entities?

If the Ukrainians are to be believed when confronting this omission, the reasons for the absence of any mention is due to the PACE leadership stating that because they were denied entry to the occupied Donbas and illegally annexed Crimea during the reporting period PACE could not and/or would not make any official comment due to lack of official access and monitoring.


“In our opinion, (Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn) Jagland made a terrible and cynical response, he said that the alleged information on the state of human rights in the occupied Crimea and Donbas is not included in the annual report on human rights because no mission was allowed to enter Crimea and Donbas last year, so no information is entered in the report ” – I.Geraschenko (Permanent Member of PACE Delegation Ukraine)

Ho humm!

Should there be any mention in an official report upon human rights if such abuses have not been witnessed and/or monitored by the reporting entity’s observers?

What of witnesses and witness statements?  Could they not be included even if access is denied?  Are there no witnesses during the past year/reporting period?  If there are, is such testimony excluded due to lack of corroboration and thus no official mention made?

There is a distinction between monitoring and witnessing – monitoring does not necessarily require being a witness, but methodological collection, collation and analysis.

If making no mention of human rights abuses whatsoever in the occupied Donbas and Crimea during the last reporting period as the Ukrainians claim, does that also imply that any territory that is subjected to human rights abuses by State or non-State actors that simply refuses to allow access to PACE (or any other institutional monitors reporting to their associated entities) will also garner no human rights abuse ,mention within the text of official reports because observers have not witnessed and assessed the situation on the ground for themselves?

Should there be citation of official reports by other recognised international institutions in the absence of PACE monitoring to at least make mention of the issues – or not?  How easy now for PACE members to condemn human rights abuses within the occupied Donbas or illegally annexed Crimea with no mention of such in the institution’s latest official report?


A matter of public (dis)service – Viktor Shokin Prosecutor General

January 12, 2016

Veritable tomes have been written, and never ending statements have been publicly made, over the obstructionism perceived within the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office when it comes to stymieing, delaying and undermining reform within the institution – and more generally across the entire national reform process.  (Indeed only a few days ago was comment made upon what appears to be a very retarded idea within the PGO in tackling such opinion.)

For those that are occasionally granted one to one “chats” (albeit off the record) with the diplomatic community (from Ambassadorial level, to the newly arrived attaché wanting to get a “feel”) in Ukraine – and your author is fortunate enough to be among that number when “straight talk” is sought, given, and often received, whenever they are passing through Odessa – it is fair to state that whatever is orated in public is……well diplomatic, compared to what is said in private – as you would expect.

Suffice to say that if what appears in public may appear “pointed” or “prickly” in tone – the off the record “chats” can contain extremely “blunt and barbed” statements.  The best of conversations, and a no nonsense exchange of views/thoughts/information.

For more than a year, the institution of the Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office has featured quite prominently in those chats – regardless of the nationality or position of the diplomat in question that happened to be on the other side of the restaurant table.

Rarely are specific personalities discussed at any length – unless it is a question of providing background about who is doing what to whom, why, when, what, and how – as well as the history behind it.  More often than not, bigger picture issues are discussed, for many of Ukraine’s problems are institutional regardless of the personalities currently involved.

Ergo, the personalities in situ are most often less of a problem than the institutional culture, and therefore simply changing those personalities would accomplish little more than changing the face at the top rather than addressing the of the root problem.  The matter of institutional public service ethos – or the lack of it – is recurring subject of conversation.

This situation is slowly changing however – albeit it will take a long time to fully manifest (if it can actually withstand the headwinds).  As that institutional ethos slowly changes, then the “difficult” personalities take on a different light.  Those public servants at the top have to serve the public just as earnestly their institutions are beginning to attempt to do.

Mr Shokin

Mr Shokin

One such public servant is of course the Prosecutor General, of whom as stated at the beginning, there is an enormous amount of recent prose written, both within the domestic and international media – the vast majority of which is far from supportive.  Thus with a few notable exceptions within, the PGO’s office, and the Prosecutor General himself, are widely perceived to be generally providing a public disservice, rather than a public service.  Ultimately of course, the buck stops with the Prosecutor General, for he is in charge of his institution.

That perception is not helped by yet further revelations that Mr Shokin has actively prevented Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaliy Kasko, who is charged with international cooperation, asset forfeiture and asset recovery – among other things – from fulfilling his role.

Letter to Shokin

As the above letter from the US makes clear, Mr Kasko has been actively hindered in his professional role by Mr Shokin.  Yet this is not the first instance where the Prosecutor General has prevented his Deputy from actively fulfilling the role he has been given.

The same obstructionism for Mr Kasko has presented itself with proposed meetings with the Council of Europe (and others).  Indeed MP Svitlana Zalischuk cites 5 occasions when the Prosecutor General has prevented his Deputy, charged with international cooperation, from attending international gatherings and cooperating with the international community.

It is simply unfathomable that on 5 occasions, a public servant has been prevented from fulfilling the duties of which he is charged, by the only public servant with the authority to prevent him from doing so – to the detriment of the Ukrainian public they both are supposed to serve.

Undoubtedly the ever-growing public disquiet with Mr Shokin’s retention will continue to grow, as will the political calls for his resignation within the Verkhovna Rada – and yet it seems unlikely that President Poroshenko, who appointed him, will remove him in the immediate future (even when Mr Shokin’s ill-health provides a face-saving opportunity for both).

From what this blog is led to believe (by reliable sources), it was, and currently remains, the presidential plan to retain Mr Shokin in his role throughout 2016 to manage the “transition of the prosecutor’s office”.  That plan, daily, seems more and more untenable, and will continue to cost the President political points the longer he retains Mr Shokin – both with the Ukrainian constituency and almost certainly with Ukraine’s external supportive “friends” and certain international institutions with which the President claims to want deeper and further integration.

A perhaps deeper problem is that thus far President Poroshenko has appointed 3 people to the position of Prosecutor General during his term, all of whom have failed to meet the expectations of the public – or the international community.  Results under them all have thus far been woeful – unless you happen to be among those that should be prosecuted, and the public expect to be prosecuted – but thus far haven’t been.

Would any forth Presidential appointment bring the just results necessarily required, compared to the previous three appointments?

Does President Poroshenko have the integrity to appoint a Prosecutor General that will genuinely serve the public without fear or favour, rather than be perceived serve President Poroshenko?

Is it a matter of timing rather than a matter of integrity when appointing a genuinely independent, public serving, Prosecutor General?  Does President Poroshenko believe that the nation remains too politically weak to allow the (in)famous, the great and the powerful to be brought down by a Prosecutor General that actually serves the public?

Is it the case (as it so often is during a transition) that certain “understandings” have been reached with the “old guard” that they gracefully bow out mostly unscathed by those that replace them?  Certainly Ihor Kolomoisky makes claim to such an agreement being reached in the prelude to his resignation as Dnepropetrovsk Governor, and Dmitry Firtash was less than discrete during his court appearance in Vienna.   That Rinat Akhmetov remains untouched perhaps indicates that a deal has been reached whereby all concerned recognise that if the occupied Donbas is to return to Ukrainian control, he as the major employer and asset owner of the region, will have a major role to play – a role he can’t play if in jail and won’t want to play if prosecuted now?

Is it to be understood in so simple terms that the deliberate retention of a deeply unpopular (and to be blunt ineffective) Prosecutor General for as long as possible, is to protect grubby little deals that the President currently perceives as necessary to uphold so as to prevent the complete implosion of the country from the top – down?

If so, is his perception right or wrong?

Is it simply that President Poroshenko wants a man loyal to him, rather than to society, at the top of the prosecutor’s machinery, and is thus simply too weak of character to surrender this lever of power – or alternatively too autocratic to do so?

Is there some other reasoning – something far more nefarious?

Irrespective of all those questions, and whatever their answers be, that Mr Kasko, a public servant, not be allowed to fully discharge the duties that the public have charged him with, requires an explanation – publicly.

Would allowing Deputy Prosecutor General Kasko to accept his international invitations have in any way undone any “grand plan” or internal balancing act?  If not, what was the point of such unnecessary obstructiveness?

Is there any other way to view this as anything other than as a public disservice?


Avakov proposes a 3 month cessation of the courts – Ukraine

January 5, 2016

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov wrote the following on his Facebook page:


Судам никто не верит. И дело не в законах, по которым судят. Дело в судьях!

Судьи в Украине сейчас в общественном сознании – воплощение всего чего угодно, только не законности и справедливости! В сегодняшней ситуации любое решения суда, судебные процедуры – общество подвергает сомнению. И есть за что! Дела по выпущенному беркутовцу Садовнику, Ефремову, Лукаш, Мельнику, пьяного судьи Оберемко, процедуры по Корбану, выпущенным под залог взяточикам за сумму в 1/3 от полученной взятки… Уверен, Вы мне продолжите этот список на сотни страниц.. Доверие к судейскому корпусу – ноль!

И что предпринимать?! Никакая реформа МВД и Полиции (мы ее правильно, хоть и болезненно, но проводим и проведем!) – не поможет изменить РЕАЛЬНОЕ положение вещей в правоохранительной сфере. Без радикального изменения в системе прокуратуры и судов, изменения уровня доверия людей к прокуратуре и СУДАМ – ничего не выйдет!

Все недавние законы и проекты изменений в законы по судьям, по моему мнению – увы, полумеры – которые не поменяют ничего! В том числе и последний конституционный проект.

Считаю, что необходимо вернуться к радикальному проекту, на котором настаивал в свое время «Народный фронт», но не получил тогда поддержки. Речь тогда шла о полной(!) замене судейского корпуса. Полной перезагрузке – с новым набором, профессиональным конкурсом и реальной ВНЕШНЕЙ аттестацией нынешнего судейского корпуса. Предлагалось выстраивать новые суды параллельно, пока старые будут работать.

Я же сторонник еще более жесткого процесса. Никто, уж извините, не помрет – и все поймут и согласятся, если в стране не будет функционировать судебное правосудие в течении трех месяцев формирования новых судов! Если люди будут понимать, что происходит процесс реальных изменений и очищения – согласятся потерпеть! Принять все необходимые законодательные акты на переходный период – от продления процессуальных сроков до порядка рассмотрения дел и – амба – локаут! – перезагрузка на три месяца. Все ушли на конкурс – придет новый суд!

И не надо мне говорить, что это утопично, сложно, затратно.. Если есть воля к РЕАЛЬНЫМ изменениям – получить новое качество правоохранительной системы – только так и нужно действовать! И все наши партнеры иностранные и поймут и помогут. И люди поддержат! И инвесторы поверят и придут- ведь это вопрос не только справедливости и законности – это вопрос и экономики!

По иному заниматься изменениями судов – это пустой процесс – это как варить суп из топора – вода кипит, топор покрывается пузырьками, но толку нет – это процесс для простаков, которых хотят надуть..

Считаю – надо решаться на радикальную реформу судов – и это процесс и задача для всех для нас на 2016 год, наряду с завершением ключевого этапа реформы МВД и реальным, а не бутафорским процессом изменений в прокуратуре.

Время примерок и прикидок – прошло. Надо действовать решительно и резко. Пока еще открыто окно возможностей!

Arsen Avokov

Arsen Avokov

It is a statement that proclaims, in his view, that all new laws and proposed constitutional changes that relate to changes in the judicial system, the appointment, sacking, attempts to de-politicise, and removal of carte blanche constitutionally granted immunity for judges are “half measures that will not change anything.”

His proposal, to pass all necessary temporary legislation valid for a 3 month period whereby the judiciary of Ukraine simply stops working whilst all existing judges are vetted, and the judicial corps purified of the corrupt and incompetent.  A radical approach required to garner any success.

Prima facie, who would not/could not be in favour of such a swift and thorough vetting and purification?  A thorough cleansing of the Ukrainian judiciary is long overdue.  But the rule of law demands that the “means” as well as the “ends” are weighed in equal measure and are both legitimate and lawful.

Thus there are issues to consider – many of them legal both internationally regarding the obligations Ukraine has made within signed and ratified instruments, and also domestically with regard the constitution – and other domestic law.

Therefore whatever temporary legislation Mr Avakov is thinking of will need to take into account all such matters.  First and foremost perhaps, is the pending constitutional amendments that indeed address and remove the carte blanche immunity the judiciary are currently offered, and which have a fairly high degree of support from the Venice Commission as given in their official “Opinion”.

The constitution cannot simply be brushed aside without consequences both domestically and at the European Court of Human Rights when hundreds more claims are submitted by a botched purge upon the judiciary.  Is not President Poroshenko sworn to uphold and defend the constitution as a major role of the office he holds too?

Ergo, at the very least, the constitutional amendments relating to the judiciary and making them far more accessible to accountability without their current absolute immunity is surely a prerequisite to any temporary 3 month legislation that would then be (at least far more) constitutional than simply ignoring it now – and with far less legal blow-back as a result.

But is 3 months to purify the entirety of the judicial system long enough?  What is the desired outcome – to remove the worst of the worst, or retain the best of the rest?

Mr Avakov’s own ministry has seen a process that took far longer than 3 months to draw in applicants, go through vetting and interviewing of the new Patrol Police – discounting their 10 week “boot camp” training.

How many months did it take for the anti-corruption appointees to apply, get vetted, be interviewed by public panels and eventually be selected etc?

These things took time and included the public to gain the trust of society in the appointment system – and thus far have worked reasonably well in garnering and retaining public trust.

Who will be judge and jury over the reappointment/retention or dismissal of the current judiciary?  Will it not require the same lengthy and public involvement in the process if it is to project the perception similar to that of the Patrol Police and anti-corruption appointees?  Are not judges to be subjected to such scrutiny when they are equally as important to the system of rule of law?

Perhaps Mr Avakov envisages a far swifter system of reappointment/dismissal per the vast majority of the police that occurred (discounting the Patrol Police) whereby a very solid majority were retained?  Is that the “purification” to which Mr Avakov alludes?  If so, what level of previous corruption will be tolerated in keeping a judge, as it was in keeping a police officer, and who will decide?

Furthermore policing did not stop whilst it was being overhauled – and yet the judicial system should?

What say the Ministry of Justice?

More sensibly, some judges in every region would simply have to continue working even if the majority of others were suspended during any vetting/reappointment/dismissal protocols that eventually are arrived at.

The police will still need a judge to grant search and seizure warrants in every region of Ukraine.  A judge will still be required to extend or end the detention of those on remand.  Likewise a judge will be required to remand in custody those deemed a risk to society and/or flight risk during the 3 month (probably far longer if it is to mean anything) suspension of the Ukrainian judicial system as he proposed.

As supportive of any radical overhaul of the judiciary as we may all perhaps be, the judicial review of the rights of those temporarily held in custody prior to any finding of guilt cannot be sacrificed without significant repercussions from the Europeans, Council of Europe etc.

Thus the simple suspension of the Ukrainian justice system for a 3 month purification purge is not so simple.  There will have to be at the very least a minimum continuance to insure adherence to human rights obligations and property rights regarding warrants for search and seizure.  There are other emergency issues that require a judge – emergency care orders for children at risk that go beyond any proscribed police parameters etc – but the point has been sufficiently made.

The above in mind, and accepting that the cessation of the Ukrainian judicial system for 3 months (or more) is simply not practical, nor without significant legal ramification domestically and beyond – but supportive of a swift, deep and comprehensive purification of the judiciary – it would perhaps be wise to identify certain judges in each region that are expected to pass any future reappointment processes with ease, to act as the few required to insure Ukraine meets the obligations it has made with regards to the most basic human rights and also allows for the functioning of the Interior Minster Avakov’s law enforcement bodies.

Another issue to consider is the backlog created by an absolute stop for 3 months (probably longer) of the entire judicial system.

Not only does everything stop with regard to existing cases and appeals, but new cases will continue to accrue too.  This before any cases currently allocated to a dismissed judge also having to be reallocated and the case heard anew.  Realistically, a 3 month suspension of the Ukrainian justice system will equate to a backlog that will take a year or more to clear.  The public should be made aware that such an outcome is extremely likely – for they will be far more accepting of delays as long as the benefits manifest.

There are perhaps other ways to tackle the issue rather than a complete cessation of the entire Ukrainian justice system that would allow for the required thoroughness, public scrutiny, and thus improved confidence in the outcomes?  A method whereby a complete cessation can be avoided and the urgent and necessary cases still dealt with?

Is it viable to roll out the purification similarly to how the new Patrol Police was rolled out across the oblasts?  For example, could Odessa be “purified” but whilst that occurs could judges from Vinnytsia hear the urgent pending cases in Odessa – and that then be reversed once Odessa has been “purified” and the judiciary of Vinnytsia put under scrutiny?  Is it feasible to “purify” 50% of the oblasts at once, providing judicial cover from the other 50% – and then reverse the process and purify the remaining 50%?

Furthermore, and to be blunt, the new laws and constitutional amendments pooh-poohed by the Interior Minister in his FB entry as “half measures that will not change anything” would still be seen as half measures after any radical purification he advocates?  He would lobby for their repeal – or do they have, and will they retain, some merit after his proposed purification?

How will any purification and the dismissal of numerous judges thereafter, attract replacement judges if the salaries remain woeful?  Can the fines levied by the courts against wrong-doers be used to self-finance a revamped justice system whereby fines paid to the State are then reinvested in the justice system – either in full or in part (officially or unofficially)?  Would that increase the temptation of the judiciary to simply fine (heavily) offenders to sponsor their own pay rises?

Is there anything in the (as yet unpublished) 2016 budget that provides for judicial salary increases of a scale that would make corruption far less attractive when combined with lengthy custodial sentences for those caught in nefarious deeds after judicial immunity is tackled?

Clearly there can be no complete cessation of the Ukrainian judicial system as Mr Avakov states, but also as he states, there is a need for the State to aggressively and swiftly address the issue of a Ukrainian judiciary which all to often fails to deliver justice to the Ukrainian constituency on a daily basis – and across innumerable cases that never receive any publicity.

Perhaps a little more thought is required to accomplish what without doubt is necessary with regard to required outcomes in a far more timely manner, whilst also meeting the bare minimum of the State’s obligations domestically and internationally whilst doing so – for a solution (if slightly imperfect) there will be that will provide for both swift “purification” and continuing to meet legal obligations.

What is actually missing is the will to find it and then implement it.


The Council of Europe publishes its report – 2nd May Odessa

November 5, 2015

The Council of Europe has eventually, a few weeks later than expected, delivered its report into the events surrounding and following the tragic events that occurred in Odessa on 2nd May last year.

There will be some that take issue with some of the findings – there always are.  There will be some that simply dismiss it – there always are.  Others will accept it unquestioningly – there are always those that do.

Whatever the case however, the report is an overarching, quite damning indictment of the Institutions of State in Odessa and nationally both prior to, during, and after that fateful day.  That is something almost all will agree with.


Thus there will be those fixated upon the detail and whether it matches their perceptions of events, and there will be those stunned and transfixed by the systemic and grotesque failures of the State.

All such issues concentrate minds – and rightly so.

There are however other equally important questions to be asked – and amongst those questions must be, what if it happened again?

Whether in Odessa or elsewhere in Ukraine, what lessons have been learned?

How have any policing plans been modified to be far more robust and useful in preparation (intelligence allowing), during such an event, and with post event investigations and accountability?

Have metropolitan emergency plans been overhauled?  Has any GAP analysis occurred?  Have any plans (modified or otherwise) been practiced by both management and by way of deployment?

Is there a clear management structure?  Gold, silver and bronze command?  Identified emergency incident committee members are nominated – or not?

How does any public disorder policing plan fit together with an counter-terrorism plan – or does it fit at all?

Are there competent experts and investigators easily contactable?  If so, have they trained together?  Has anybody and/or everybody got to grips with crime scene protection and evidence chain integrity – particularly amongst the “first officer responding” ranks?

If Odessa under its new Police Chief has got to grips with these operational and investigative functions, has there been any form of “knowledge share” with other cities?  If the city hasn’t got to grips with such issues – why hasn’t it?

(Which then leads to questions about whether there is an operational plan for an explosion at Odessa Port Side, or an aircraft crashing at Odessa Airport?  If so, has it been practiced, when was it last practiced etc?  There probably are, but when was the dust last blown off them?  Are they still fit for purpose?)

It may seem somewhat dismissive of the (expectedly) dismal contents of the Council of Europe report to be asking questions of the future upon the day of its official publication and when such a report concentrates minds upon the tragic and grotesquely negligent events of the past, but such questions of the future have equal weight when using the report as a foundation for contemplation.


OSCE holds its nose and says it all went OK – Ukraine

October 27, 2015

Yesterday’s entry relating to the local elections in Ukraine stated:

“One wonders just what is going to appear in the official reports of the official observers – for this election has been nowhere near the standards of the presidential, nor Verkhovna Rada elections of 2014.

Indeed it has been so consistently illicit in its nature that it belongs with elections from a decade past.

Of course the content of the official reports very much depend upon who actually writes the reports – and equally upon who decides who writes the reports. So openly dirty, illicit and unambiguously grubby has this election and the associated campaigning been in comparison to those elections held last year, there is going to be more than a little room for doubting any official report that states anything to the contrary. The entire election campaign in Odessa (and clearly in other regions too) has been an affront to the rule of law from start – and it seems, to finish.

Yet, somehow, it will be seen to pass the international “official sniff test” despite the rank odour the campaigning has given off from the very start.

Admittedly, and it is right to note, not all of the recorded irregularities over the preceding months and today/tomorrow, are irregularities that would or could change the voting behaviour of the constituency. Nor effect the ballot counting. Minor irregularities clearly will not sway a voter or an electoral count, but they are nonetheless irregularities. Some irregularities certainly will be of that very serious category however.

Whatever the case, it seems likely that the elections will pass the “official sniff test” so as not to put (another) hurdle in the way of decentralisation.”

Unsurprisingly today the OSCE has held its organsiational nose to avoid the noxious odour when applying the “sniff test” of electoral international/Council of Europe standards.


The OSCE (via ODIHR mission Tana de Zulueta) opined that “the elections held in Ukraine conform to international standards in spite of pressure from big business and mass purchase of election advertising space in printed media and air time on TV and radio.”  It was further stated that in general the elections were well organised and competitive.

This despite no polling stations opening in either Mariupol nor Krasnoarmeysk, and the elections in Svatovo being declared invalid.

In fact the primliminary OSCE report has almost nothing positive to say about the elections whatsoever.

OPORA, a prominent and reliable NGO, as of the time of publishing, had recorded 1,128 violations of electoral law during the entire period of the election campaign.  In order of commonality rather than seriousness, in 1st place – 557 illegal campaign financing violations.  In 2nd place – 290 instances of voter bribery (some of which have been transfered to the police, some of which haven’t).  In 3rd place – 136 violations of election procedures, election commissions, (including those that influenced the election results.)

They recorded 46 recorded violent confrontations, 35 cases of misuse of administrative resources, 33 occasions where the work of observers was obstructed, and 30 cases of falsification of election results.

This before the results of their parallel vote counts can be compared to reported vote counts – which will lead to court appeals undoubtedly where discrepancies present themselves.

Further, the OSCE’s Tana de Zulueta added that the complexity of the legal framework, the dominance of powerful economic groups, and the fact that practically all media campaigns to cover the elections had been well paid for, pointed to the need to push ahead with reforms in the country.

So everything passes the OSCE/international “sniff test” – despite official concerns that the electoral law is an ass and urgently needs changing, the campaigning was hardly fair unless candidates/parties were sponsored by big business/oligarchy as media coverage was simply monopolised, and that there were several canceled or invalidated elections.  This notwithstanding the litany of recorded electoral violations, some clearly serious, recorded by the OPORA NGO.

There may yet be further issues of course.  Parallel vote counts may raise significant anomalies.  There will be court challenges.  There are numerous second rounds of voting for mayors on 15th November that have to be policed/monitored strictly, and also new elections to organise for Mariupol, Krasnoarmeysk, and Svatovo due to failures in those regions.

Thus we are left to ask what next not only for democracy, but the rule of law that underpins it?

1,126 recorded violations, means there is documented evidence of 1,126 violators.  What will happen to them?  As the entire election campaign and voting day has been an affront to the rule of law, will the rule of law be allowed to recover and actually deal with these violations and the associated offenders in order to send a message for future elections, or will it all be simply forgotten?

Will any official cautions, fines small or large, or imprisonment, be forthcoming from the 1,126 documented irregularities?  If so, how many?  1?  10?  100?  500?

With the OSCE holding its institutional nose and moving swiftly on, will the rule of law (or lack of it) do the same in Ukraine?


From one long awaited report to another – CoE Odessa

October 14, 2015

The headlines are full of MH17 – both that of the fantasy from the Almaz-Antey conference, and that of the long awaited Dutch Safety Board report.

To be quite blunt, the findings of the Dutch prosecutors to be announced in mid/late February 2016 is the report that is really one that should be long awaited, for that is where clear accusations of culpability will be found, rather than within a Safety Board report.

However, there is another long awaited report relating to Ukraine, and specifically Odessa, due imminently.


On 22nd October (at least that is the proposed date), the Council of Europe is due to release its report into the tragic events of 2nd May 2014 in Odessa.

It is of course a very necessary report, for most assuredly the Ukrainian investigation will be flawed, having been deliberately frustrated and influenced, and will be without doubt falling far short of an investigation of serious quality.

It seems extremely likely to be an exceptionally uncomfortable experience for the Ukrainian authorities, and also those of Odessa – and rightly so.  It would be wise for the current authorities to take what is coming directly on the chin, rather than try to point the finger elsewhere in some kind of blame game.

It may well be that most of those directly involved in leading the violence have disappeared into the mists somehow.  It may be true that those then leading the institutions of State within the city are no longer in charge – but not all have disappeared or run away (yet) – yet the current national and city authorities have certainly made little effort to bring even the most prominent of offenders and/or the previous authorities to justice.

Even worse, their interactions with the victims families of either side have been somewhat less than compassionate, understanding, nor particularly honest.

As has become the trade-mark of the Poroshenko/Yatseniuk tandem, nobody of any importance is in jail for the crimes committed, and domestic investigations are known to be both flawed and deliberately glacial.

ECfHR claims from the surviving victims and deceased victims families of both sides are a certainty to follow what is close to a shambles of a domestic investigation – and the Council of Europe report will undoubtedly become part of their case against Ukraine.

Indeed, quite when the domestic investigation findings will be made public remains to be seen.  Perhaps they are deliberately being kept in abeyance until all external investigation reports have been publicised in order to mitigate (by way of last minute amendments) much of the well deserved criticism that will come.

One wonders, should names be named in the Council of Europe report, whether there will be any meaningful attempt at due process after crime scenes were compromised within minutes of the crimes, evidence chains have long since been compromised and broken, State “experts” have not exactly lived up to that definition, and the local expert-journalist group has once again done a far better job than the State investigative bodies both by way of investigation but also forcing due process momentum.

There will be some serious squirming when the Council of Europe report is released – not only by those involved at the time, but also those charged with the investigation  since.

Yet another self-inflicted inglorious moment is upon the immediate horizon for the political class and the institutions of State, both nationally and within the city – and deservedly so.

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