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Ukraines controversial case against its former Prime Minister

Arie Bloed
Analysis 14 October 2011

The OSCE Chair-in-Office for 2013 is capably managing itself in the international spotlight by highly controversial criminal proceedings against the former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko for ‘abuse of power’ which resulted in a seven year prison sentence and a huge fine. The very fact that the the present OSCE Chairman-in-Office (the Lithuanian foreign minister) and many Western countries and organizations are expressing serious concern about the legality of this whole process shows how far Ukraine has apparently derailed itself from the track of the rule of law and justice.

Tymoshenko lost the last presidential elections against the current president Viktor Yanukovich with whom she is entangled in a bitter feud. She considers the case against her to be purely politically motivated, although Yanukovich (of course) strongly denies these allegations. It is obvious that Tymoshenko’s claims are supported by the OSCE leadership (see e.g. http://www.osce.org/cio/83848), the EU and many other countries.

The process is very remarkable, as Tymoshenko is not accused of corruption or other forms of self-enrichment. The target are decisions which she took in her capacity as the then Prime Minister of the country in entering into a gas deal with the Russians which turned out to be disadvantegeous to Ukraine. In other countries this could have political consequences for the person involved, but would definitely not lead to a criminal prosecution. There probably would not be that many leading politicians in the world who could not be prosecuted on this doubtful basis. As a matter of fact probably most politicians in the world would be behind bars, if the Ukrainian exemple would be followed. Although there will be an appeal procedure, the present political and judicial leadership in the country has been highly successful in damaging the public image of the country almost beyond repair. This case is just one example of the fact that the country is moving quickly in a strongly authoritarian direction and that the rule of law and the protection of human rights are seriously at risk.

Since Ukraine is set to become the political leader of the OSCE in 2013, this controversial process only leads to further uneasiness about the question whether the country, or at least the present leadership, is in a position to take on this responsible position.

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