Fair elections, legal reforms, media freedom and the fight against corruption must be prioritised if Ukraine is to discourage fears of the country’s international isolation.
Outlining the progress of the Council of Europe’s €22 million ‘Action Plan’ for Ukraine, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland warned in his 10 September Kyiv speech that their was “strong evidence” among international partners that the country “may become more and more isolated.”
Reforming key institutions would help to stop this “worrying trend,” the Secretary General confirmed.
According to Jagland, the Action Plan provides a framework for progress. Legal reform leading to a new Criminal Procedure Code would ensure “the proper implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights, ultimately leading to a decrease in the number of complaints to the European Court of Human Rights.
“The next phase of the Action Plan,” he said “should also focus on co-operation regarding the adoption of secondary legislation, institutional guidance, capacity building for judges, prosecutors and lawyers.
“Against the background of the case against Yulia Tymoshenko I believe that it is time to have a fresh look at the Ukrainian Criminal Code and in particular to the review of articles 364 and 365 of the Code.
“I know that there are different views on the gas contract with Russia. Politicians should be held accountable for their decisions in Parliament and before the electorate. At the end of the day, it will be our Court in Strasbourg who will examine all the evidence and have the final say in this case.
The Secretary General urged Ukraine to take steps towards eliminating excessively long detention on remand, ill-treatment by police, poor conditions of detention,
non-enforcement or lengthy enforcement of domestic judicial decisions and excessive length of civil and criminal proceedings.
Jagland confirmed that expanding media freedom and fighting corruption were important concerns within the “reform process.”
He added: “Corruption is a cancer in many democratic societies today. One cannot fight it without an independent judiciary, free media and a Parliament that is willing and able to exert proper control over the Executive.
“A major problem in Ukraine and many other countries, as I perceive it, is the influence of non-transparent relationships between business, politics and the media. This is damaging to democracy. We have to fight it.”
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