In 2 years, the Anti-Corruption Court has already managed to pass 45 sentences of the first instance, of which 37 are guilty and 7 are acquittal. Regarding the remaining one verdict, the information has not been made public, so, we do not know its operative part. Out of the total number of sentences, 4 HACC sentences were overturned after the notorious decision of the Constitutional Court of October 27, 2020; these cases concerned “unconstitutional” false declaration. In turn, in two years, the HACC Appeals Chamber reviewed 21 cases, and, in particular, has already overturned one of the sentences of the court of first instance.
In total, over the two years of its existence, the HACC has considered not a lot and not a little, but more than 19,000 motions, applications, and complaints.
In 2 years, the Anti-Corruption Court has considered criminal cases against three MPs (two of them were acquitted, and one was found guilty), two heads of local councils, 11 (!) judges (two of them were acquitted), one prosecutor, 4 heads of enterprises, 6 lawyers; and 17 representatives of other professions, two of them were acquitted.
Since HACC’s creation, bail amounting to UAH 900 mln was posted in high-profile corruption cases, of which more than UAH 65 mln was irrevocably collected to the budget. In particular, in the case of Maksym Mykytas, the state has collected UAH 30 mln after Mykytas violated the conditions of the interim measure — he communicated with two other suspects.
What needs to be done to make the court’s work more efficient?
As we can see, the Anti-Corruption Court is already successfully performing exactly the functions that the public and the authorities expected from it from the very start on September 5, 2019. However, of course, not everything is that simple. Among the obstacles that prevent the HACC from fully performing the task assigned to it, we can identify the following.
- Lack of understanding between the HACC and the legal environment.
Nowadays, the Ukrainian National Bar Association is very actively countering the HACC in the media field. Lawyers have repeatedly accused the court of “working in an accusatory manner.” However, in practice, according to the monitoring data of Transparency International Ukraine, such an accusation has not been corroborated.
On the contrary, quite often lawyers who are also members of the lawyer’s self-governing bodies and consider disciplinary cases of attorneys, also represent the defense in the HACC. In fact, this is not prohibited, nor is it a violation. However, how, in case of violations of the norms of ethics and process by such lawyers (which did happen!), these people will punish themselves — the question remains unanswered. This makes it impossible to actually bring the lawyer-violator to justice.
- The lack of possibility for the HACC to bring people to justice for contempt of court.
All courts have this right, except for the higher specialized ones, which also include the HACC. As of today, the Verkhovna Rada has registered a draft law to eliminate this gap, but it is not yet known when parliamentarians will consider it.
What else needs to be done to improve the performance of the HACC?
- Reforming the High Council of Justice (HCJ), which today is the main leverage on the court. Thus, recently, there has been a practice of systematically bringing judges, including judges of the HACC, to disciplinary action — for instance, disciplinary actions in relation to Timur Khamzin and Andrii Bitsiuk. The system of bringing to disciplinary action is an important mechanism in legal proceedings, but too often it is selective. Therefore, experts repeatedly emphasized the repressive nature of the HCJ’s work in relation to the HACC.
- Meeting the need of the HACC regarding its premises. Last summer, the Verkhovna Rada handed over the premises at 41 Peremohy Avenue in the capital to the Anti-Corruption Court. However, the already transferred building still has to be adapted to the needs of a modern court, which requires a significant modification.
- Settling issues of judges’ residential and property security, as was repeatedly noted in the court.
So, how much can a court achieve in two years, under pressure, supervision, and expectations from all sides? As you can see, a lot because both the expert and specialized community have already felt the difference between “before” and “after” the launch of the HACC.
The project is implemented by the EU Anti-Corruption Initiative (EUACI), a leading EU-funded anti-corruption support program in Ukraine, which is financed by the EU, co-financed and implemented by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.