On December 28, 2020, the hearing in the case of the Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine – Oleg Tatarov, who is suspected of committing a crime under Part 3 of Article 369 of the Criminal Code, namely, a proposal, promise or provision of improper benefits to an official, was supposed to take place in the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court. On December 18, 2020, O. Tatarov was handed a suspicion of providing an unlawful benefit to an official for falsifying an examination in the case of taking possession of property of the National Guard in the amount of more than UAH 81 million.
Earlier, on December 24, 2020, the court should have already considered the issue of choosing a measure of restraint for the suspect but could not do this because at about 11:40 pm on December 23, the General Prosecutor’s Office changed the jurisdiction of this criminal proceeding: the case was transferred from the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NACB) of Ukraine to Security Service of Ukraine. NACB considers such actions of the General Prosecutor’s Office as interference in their work.
Due to such changes, the new group of prosecutors was not yet authorized to participate in the proceedings, and therefore the court could not choose a measure of restraint, because according to Article 193 of the CCP, consideration of a petition for choosing a measure of restraint must be considered with the obligatory participation of prosecutors.
A hearing was scheduled for December 28, 2020 to resolve the same issue, but the court was forced to postpone the consideration again until December 30 due to the fact that the prosecutors did not appear without notifying the court of the reasons for failure to appear. The International Society for Human Rights is concerned that in this proceeding there may be a delay in the process by the prosecution authorities, since for the second consecutive hearing the prosecutor’s office cannot start work, which prevents an effective trial and, in the future, consideration of the case within a reasonable time. Also, given the complex process of transferring the case to jurisdiction, and the wide publicity of the case in the media, it is impossible to exclude the problem of manipulating public conscience in order to achieve a certain attitude of society and, possibly, the collegium of the court to the proceeding (see the report of the ISHR “Incitement to hatred and disinformation in the media”). It is noteworthy that the European Court of Human Rights in its decisions takes into account delays, sometimes referred to as “significant periods of inactivity”, which are believed to be the fault of the authorities (“H. v. The United Kingdom”, para. 45).
As mentioned above, the case is resonant, and on the day of the trial, a lot of media representatives, as well as activists, gathered under the building with the words “Tatarov needs to be behind bars!” and posters “No corruption!” demanded punishment for Oleg Tatarov and the resignation of Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova, who, in their opinion, hinders the investigation of the case and the prosecution of the suspect. Often, such actions of activists can be regarded as pressure on the court and inducement to make an appropriate decision, which was previously noted by the observers of the ISHR in the cases of P. Poroshenko, A. Melnik and others. Although, according to the ECtHR, national courts should be composed entirely of professional judges, whose experience and qualifications, in contrast to the jury, allow them to resist any external influences (“Craxi v. Italy”, para. 104; “Mircea v. Romania”, para. 75).
The International Society for Human Rights will continue to clarify the details and monitor these criminal proceedings.