Ukrainian Parliament Votes to Cancel Parliamentary Immunity
3 September, 2019

The Ukrainian parliament has voted in favor of canceling parliamentary immunity on September 3. This decision was supported by 373 MPs.

The new law stipulates changes to an article in the Ukrainian constitution. According to these changes, all lawmakers can be held accountable for crimes without prior approval of the parliament – this includes the possibility of detentions and arrests.

Another part of the same article, which states that MPs don't hold legal responsibility for their voting choices or their speech inside the parliament and its bodies (with the exception of offensive speech and defamation), will stay in force. 

The approval of this decision was encouraged by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy who specifically came to the parliament to observe the voting. 

"Ukrainian deputies invented an eternal engine of political life,"  Zelenskyy said in his speech. "It works very simply. Initially, candidates promise to cancel immunity, then fail to vote for that decision, then people forget [about the promise]. In the next election, candidates make that promise again."

"It's time for this gadget to be consigned to the dustbin of history. I appeal to all deputies: just do what you' promised," he told lawmakers.

This comes days after the Ukrainian civil network "OPORA" warned MPs about the danger pertained in the changes to the constitution. 

"Full cancelation of parliamentary immunity can be dangerous for functioning and autonomy of parliaments in countries with vulnerable democracies and big-scale corruption practices," OPORA's August 28 statement read. "Unfortunately, Ukraine can still be considered such a country, therefore the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine needs to prevent the risk of pressure on deputies or of their political persecution." 

According to OPORA, the constitutional changes can"weaken the parliament's institutional power and the independence of its members."

The new changes will come into force on January 1, 2020.