UARU
Controversial Law Puts Ukrainian Anti-Corruption NGO Under Pressure
2 April, 2017
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Last week it was announced that all leaders of anti-corruption NGOs will now be legally obliged to declare all of their assets. This amendment to the law was signed by President Petro Poroshenko on 27th March. Despite the fact that lawmakers see this amendment as a way of increasing transparency, many anti-corruption activists have described this change in the law as unconstitutional. Watch both Hromadske’s interview with Andrii Marusov, Head of Transparency International Ukraine, who calls for the abolishment of this amendment, and phone interview with Ukrainian MP Volodymyr Ariev, who also shared his view on the matter.  

Transparency International Ukraine speaks out against this law and calls it ‘bullshit’. So can you explain what really happening now?

Andrii Marusov: What we see now, that there is no need to set up any working group, because according to Ukrainian traditions any working group is just a burial site for any initiative. If actually, the President himself agreed that it was nonsense that’s ok, that no need for further consultations or negotiations. What the presidential administration should actually do is just make a very short draft law and submit it to the Parliament. And, certainly, to secure the support of Petro Poroshenko Bloc, People’s Front, and other factions in the Parliament.

There is a debate in Ukrainian society. There are the people in civil society, who aren’t anti-corruption activists, but they say what’s wrong with being transparent. Many people don’t understand what’s wrong, and why all sudden anti-corruption activists want to hide their wealth and speak against transparency.

Andrii Marusov: You know, it’s very funny discussion. I would say it’s a post-soviet society with very low legal culture. Because, for example, when I speak to any foreign journalist, they stop me after the first sentence, they say that this is bullshit and nonsense, when just ordinary citizens are obliged to submit electronic declarations as a civil servants. But they aren’t given their powers. For any German or French journalist it’s understandable that it’s unconstitutional.

This is actually what Mr. Putin tried to do, and was successful in establishing this control, including also Transparency Russia, our colleagues in the chapter. They were the first, who were so shocked after adoption of this law.

We have Volodymyr Ariev, Ukrainian MP from Petro Poroshenko bloc. There is a lot of criticism from civil society and from their institutions, they say that this law isn’t constitutional. Why did the party vote for it?

Volodymyr Ariev: Well, I see this sort of manipulation from both sides of discussion. MP’s have been voting for that, and NGO’s too. I was absent during this voting, I didn’t vote for that, I haven’t researched the matter, I couldn’t give you a clear answer, whether it’s right or not. On the one hand, transparency is good in any case. We have been informed with some cases of NGO’s working with anti-corruption cases, there were some activists who were caught up with blackmailing and bribing. Some NGO’s are under the control of some politicians and they are not really NGO’s. Also we have stories about their luxury apartments bought in the most expensive areas of Kyiv.

I think it’s like a hippocratic oath - someone working in anti-corruption should show transparency themselves. We need to research more deeply the international experience, because they have very special kind of reports about their income in USA. So I think if NGOs want to achieve something, they will do it for sure. I know that they have an idea to make a round table with politicians to discuss it.

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Andrii Marusov: If the purpose of the authors of this draft law, their true purpose would be to clean, to make transparent the civil society sector, then they will employ, apply, and propose different measures. He mentioned that in some countries there are some special public reports for NGOs. For example, in UK charitable organisations, they are obliged to publish on special website their financial reports. They are not lengthy, but at least it allows any UK citizen to go on to the webpage and look at them. We can use it not only for NGO’s, but also for anti-corruption NGOs, but also for all charity organisations.

What can we expect at this moment? Are there still any debates? Because as we see it now, the law is there and that’s it.

Andrii Marusov: As I said in the very beginning, we do expect that Mr. Poroshenko will do the next step. He promised that we will submit a draft law cancelling these scandalous norms in the law. Certainly, we can help his administration to be sure that nothing is hidden, and that there is no corruption.