Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada has limited parliamentary immunity, 373 MPs supported this initiative.
We will dwell in more detail on what the MPs actually voted for.
What is parliamentary immunity?
This is a kind of a guarantee that the MP would not be held criminally, administratively or otherwise liable without the agreement of the parliament.
This guarantee was enshrined by article 80 of Ukraine’s Constitution.
There are two forms of immunity:
- Political (indemnity) - immunity from being held accountable for political and professional statements. Example: voting in the Verkhovna Rada. Exception: slander and insult.
- Criminal. That is, the MP might be brought to justice only with the consent of his fellow MPs.
So is immunity limited or removed? It is limited.
Bill No. 7203, which the parliament voted for, implies the exclusion of the second paragraph from the Constitution, that is, the need for the consent of the parliament to put the MP to justice. In this case, indemnity remains.
Literally, the text of the bill reads as follows:
“To amend Article 80 of the Constitution of Ukraine, setting it out as follows:
Article 80. MPs of Ukraine shall not be legally liable for the results of voting or statements in parliament and its bodies, with the exception of liability for insult or defamation.”
As it was before? A special petition concerning the MP, who committed a crime, was submitted to the Parliament signed by the Prosecutor General. After that, the submission was considered by the regulatory committee and only then the question was submitted (or not submitted) for voting.
The law should enter into force on January 1, 2020.
Why is this decision criticized? The main claims were made both by opposition forces in parliament and by individual public figures and experts. In their opinion:
- The law was adopted in violation of the regulations.
- According to the regulations, the corresponding profile committee did not have the right, to meet during the intersessional period, since it can only do this during the session. In particular, representatives of the European Solidarity and the Batkivshchyna declared this during a committee meeting on September 2, but their arguments were not heard.
- The opposition and social activists pointed to the conclusions of the Constitutional Court and the Venice Commission. In 2015, Ukraine’s Constitutional Court recognized certain provisions of the draft law as constitutional but noted that immunity ensures safety from unlawful interference into the MP’s activities, the unhindered and effective exercise of his duties.
The Venice Commission considered that the abolition of immunity in countries with vulnerable democracies could be dangerous to the parliament’s autonomy.
Position of the Servant of the People party
First Vice-Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk has voiced the official party’s position on the sidelines of the Parliament.
“We are deeply convinced that there was no violation of the rules during the adoption... I have already spoken about the committees. This question, in addition to the rules, is also regulated by the law on committees, which clearly states that during the intersessional period there is an opportunity to gather committees if this is insisted by more than a third or half of the members of this committee."
There is another important thing
Some MPs emphasize that in order to adopt the law on lifting immunity, it is necessary to amend some additional law and several other legal acts.