The role and ongoing reform of the General Prosecutor’s Office remains a controversial issue in Ukraine, dividing both lawmakers and the public. The institution inherited from the Soviet past must change to reflect the overhaul of the country’s legal system, but the changes need to impact on its culture and quality of its personnel and this will take years. Moreover, the mission of the Office and its functions need to be rationalised and depoliticised in practice, its credibility affirmed, and the morale of its staff restored. These were the main conclusions of a public discussion organised by DRI in Kyiv on 20 March with more than forty lawmakers, experts, representatives of civil society and the media.
How can the General Prosecutor’s Office be integrated into a modern democratic legal system and how can it be freed from the stigmas of corruption and political dependence? At the heart of the current debate is what should be the proper inter-relationship among the functions of prosecution, oversight, representation and investigation, and of prosecutors with the police, lawyers and judges. The movement has been in the direction of absorbing the General Prosecutor’s Office into the judicial system and removing its supervisory role.
The experts agreed that recent constitutional and legal changes have started the reform of the Office of the General Prosecutor but it is only a beginning. As Bohdan Vitvitsky, special advisor to the General Prosecutor and former U.S. federal prosecutor, emphasised, apart from reform of the legal framework, for the General Prosecutor’s office to be effective and credible the prevailing political, legal and ethical cultures have also to be changed and the quality of the personnel improved through better selection processes and training. Other speakers pointed out that it was not only a matter of depoliticising the issue and institution, but also of ensuring proper technical capacities and motivation of the personnel though decent salaries and restoration of respectability to the Office.
The other speakers included parliamentary deputy Olena Sotnyk, the head of working group on the reform of the General Prosecutor’s Office, Valentyna Telychenko, Department Head and Professor at the Academy of Advocates Nataliya Dromina-Voloc, and DRI’s senior legal expert Anton Lovin. Their contributions and discussion were enriched by questions and remarks from the audience.