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1 February, 2016  ▪  Valerii Kur   ▪   co-founder of Anti-Organized Crime Department and advisor to Interior Ministry

Making Headway

Having studied the experience of legal system reforms in various countries, I can say that even though I am critical about every process in Ukraine, still I am an optimist

Of course, it would be better to reform the law enforcement system by building it from scratch, as it was the case in Australia, New Zealand or the United States, amending and improving it gradually. Instead, we started from minor details, from a small step: police reform. Reforming and improving the MIA system should not start from there, because this is a "top down" reform. But I would agree with the hated and obscure heads of my country's law enforcement structures that this is almost the only way for the country, where destroying everything and building from scratch is hardly possible. Even if this small new police detachment is made of kids taken from the streets, still they have been selected by certain criteria: they are honest, just, pure, impartial, and not bureaucratized, which is very important. They have not been part of the system.

We have to be prepared to face the fact that all the processes taking place in the legal field, while our legal system is developing, will be accompanied with failures and huge overload. We have the mentality of the past. Therefore, we just need to take into account other people's positive experience to come to a general idea of ​​what we need. The concept of the future reform should cover all branches of the system: from police, which is always nearby, to the Supreme Court.

The changes taking place today are not systemic. All major security agencies are still headed by those who served the previous regimes and presidents responsible for ruining the country. Therefore, the reform may take quite a long time. This is why we need purges at any price (I would agree here, regrettably for many of my friends with whom we have come a long and hard way and who are decent people). Police, public prosecution and courts have to employ professional, pure individuals who would be trusted by the society. These professionals should serve under contract, with no minister or even president having the authority to dismiss them, except by law. The same way we recruit people into the ranks of police, we need to select the employees of all power structures. The managers who would oversee the reform and renewal of these structures should also be recruited in a similar way.

Ministers and generals will hold onto as much authority and as many subordinates as possible, because this is what defines their positions and ranks. Therefore, the first step would be to dismiss the heads of all security agencies, no matter how. If it is problematic to remove them legally, let's go for the "golden farewell." They are the main brake.

The purging should be technical, with the maximum involvement of public institutions, NGOs, and media. The civil society should decide who can represent the Supreme Court or the Ministry of Interior. Besides, the civil society should, at certain stages and to a certain extent, also be involved in the process of selecting local managers and choosing the ones they trust in rural areas and in the provinces.

The authorities should under no circumstances be allowed to build a system the way they see fit. We should not be afraid to raise the issue of replacing the highest ranks entirely, including those that came after Maidan, even if they got their posts legally, otherwise the reform process will take a long time and will face resistance. We should not be afraid of leaving bare some ministry or department. That will not happen. Today we need to establish barriers that no one can overcome. Let's start from the simple things: no future president, minister, or head of the judicial, investigative, public prosecution or MIA structure should believe that they can keep their position and authority for life. They should be prepared to disclose all the information about themselves since birth. They would have to put up with publicity and transparency, with their every step scrutinized by the society. These people should be prepared to either accept these rules and abide by them, or to step down.

There can be no quota principle for the "portfolio distribution." Appointing a political figure the head of the Interior Ministry only because his political force has come to power is an absurdity. The more so if this figure has an ugly tail in the shadow economy and cannot serve as a role model for either law enforcement or the society. Special attention should be paid to the judiciary as a structure taking final decisions. After all, if an error is made at the initial stage by policemen or prosecutors, fair proceedings should ensure that justice prevails in the end. Frankly, I am even less concerned about the prosecution system, because it can no longer exist in its present form. Sooner or later, all its functions aimed at usurping power would be eliminated. Therefore, this is an artificial problem.

Tomorrow holds not the return to the past, but at least a tiny step forward. We have changed. The legal awareness of the society has increased tenfold, people have learned to value themselves and not to be afraid. This is extremely important. Undoubtedly, despite some progress, we still have a lot of work to do, but we will only move forward, however hard the way may be.

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