Transitional Justice in Post-Euromaidan Ukraine

Swimming Upstream

by Igor Lyubashenko (Author)
©2017 Monographs 170 Pages


The book focusses on transitional justice policies implemented in Ukraine since the beginning of 2014. The author covers investigations and trials, vetting, historical justice, as well as two issues that only partially refer to the «transitional justice toolbox»: attempts to deal with the consequences of the armed conflict in Donbas and elements of institutional reforms that supplement transitional justice efforts. He explains constrains faced by each of the mentioned policies and interrelationships between them. The author comes to the conclusion that the Ukrainian case presents both similarities and significant differences in comparison to other post-communist countries, which implemented such policies much earlier. Furthermore, there is no evidence supporting the thesis that the implementation of these policies provides visible effects in terms of democratisation of the country.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of figures
  • List of abbreviations
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • 1. Introduction: Justice in times of political flux
  • 1.1. What is transitional justice
  • 1.2. Historical background: Ukraine’s complex transition
  • 1.3. Transitional justice in Ukraine
  • 2. Investigations and trials
  • 2.1. Theoretical background
  • 2.2. Scale of violence
  • 2.3. Demand for transitional investigations and trials
  • 2.4. Supply: policies addressing violence during the Euromaidan protests
  • 2.5. Effects and challenges
  • 3. Vetting
  • 3.1. Theoretical background
  • 3.2. Demand for vetting
  • 3.3. Supply: design of vetting policies
  • 3.4. Effects and challenges
  • 4. Historical justice
  • 4.1. Theoretical background
  • 4.2. Demand: the attitude of Ukrainians to the Soviet past
  • 4.3. Supply: design of historical justice policies
  • 4.4. Effects and challenges
  • 5. Dealing with the legacy of the Donbas conflict
  • 5.1. The essence of the conflict
  • 5.2. The scale of violence
  • 5.3. Theoretical background: transitional justice in an ongoing conflict
  • 5.4. Peace process: establishment of framework for the future transitional justice policies
  • 5.5. Demand: social expectations regarding peace and justice
  • 5.6. Supply: prosecutions, amnesties and involvement of the ICC
  • 5.7. Effects and challenges
  • 6. Institutional reforms and constitutional amendments
  • 6.1. Theoretical background
  • 6.2. Reform of law enforcement agencies
  • 6.3. Reform of the judiciary
  • 6.4. Decentralisation
  • 6.5. Effects and challenges
  • 7. Conclusions: Lessons learned from Ukraine’s transitional justice policies
  • 7.1. Ukraine’s political development after the Euromaidan
  • 7.2. Explaining the patchwork of transitional justice policies
  • Bibliography

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List of figures

Figure 1: Public perception of priority of institutions to be lustrated (October 2014)

Figure 2: Perception of corruption by Ukrainian public opinion (October 2013)

Figure 3: Attitude of Ukrainians to responsibility for historic wrongdoings

Figure 4: Perception of the day of October Revolution

Figure 5: Regional disparities in attitudes to commemorating Joseph Stalin (April 2010)

Figure 6: Ukraine’s public opinion towards the acceptability of compromises for the sake of achieving peace in Donbas (September 2014)

Figure 7: Ukraine’s public opinion toward the acceptability of compromises for the sake of achieving peace in Donbas (October 2015)

Figure 8: The perception by Ukrainians of steps necessary to achieve peace in Donbas (October 2015)

Figure 9: Perception of conflicts by the residents of parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts controlled by Ukraine (February 2015)

Figure 10: General assessment of the situation in the country by Ukrainians

Figure 11: Balance of trust in public institutions (April 2016)

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List of abbreviations

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Without a doubt, justice is one of the most widely exploited notions in politics. Longing for justice is natural for human beings, although misunderstandings regarding what is just in a given situation are always associated with the risk of becoming a new bone of contention, and thus lead to new injustices. If we take into consideration the fact that the history of mankind is essentially the history of different types of conflicts, fixing the legacies of injustice can be regarded merely as one of the most essential drivers in the political development of human societies.

With the development and spread of the concept of human rights, dealing with the legacies of injustice associated with conflict has become more formal in the second half of the 20th century. Not only has it introduced a more consistent framework for an assessment of fundamental occurrences of injustice, it has also contributed to the beginnings of emancipation of policies aimed at eliminating fundamental injustice from the nation-state. Finally, human rights have become the basis of the concept of transitional justice, which in its essence suggest that not only certain deeds, but the very design of certain political regimes can be regarded as a source of injustice and deserves a more formalised, almost automatic, approach.

Although such attempts can hardly be criticised as unnecessary, there are doubts about their efficiency, understood as a movement towards the achievement of some hypothetical point in history where all injustices are remedied. As Tony Judt has pointed out: “Maybe all our museums and memorials and obligatory school trips today are not a sign that we are ready to remember but an indication that we feel we have done our penance and can now begin to let go and forget, leaving the stones to remember for us”.1 In other words, there is a risk that active policies aimed at restoring justice (here, Judt is talking about remembrance of the Holocaust) may have an unexpected side-effect in the form of forgetting the lessons of the past.

Nevertheless, policies aimed at dealing with the unjust legacies of the past, including the rich toolbox of transitional justice, are becoming more widespread in recent years, drawing more attention to both policy advocates and academia. The ← 13 | 14 → problem of transitional justice as an object of scientific inquiry, however, is relatively new. Yet, the literature in this field is growing and is become more extensive. This book is aimed to contribute to this field of knowledge. It is particularly devoted to one of the newest cases in terms of the implementation of transitional justice policies – Ukraine. The notorious Euromaidan protests (also known as the Revolution of Dignity) that shook the country in the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014 can be called, without exaggeration, the most significant event in the country’s modern history. Although at the moment of writing these words the final outcome of the Euromaidan is far from being obvious. What is important from the perspective of this book is that it has induced a public debate on the need to deal with the past, not only the already distant Soviet one, but most interestingly – the post-1991 period. As the reader will learn, it is exactly this period of history that is regarded as the source of problems that ultimately lead to the popular uprising (and indirectly – to the events that followed: the annexation of Crimea by Russia and warfare in Donbas) and thus – the main source of injustices experienced by Ukrainians. The notions that underline Ukraine’s entrance into the period of significant political change are also widely used in the public debate. For example, in his inauguration speech on 8 June 2014, the fifth president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, has said:


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (December)
Transitional justice Ukraine Vetting Institutional reforms Conflict Investigations
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 170 pp., 11 coloured ill.

Biographical notes

Igor Lyubashenko (Author)

Igor Lyubashenko is an Assistant Professor at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (SWPS) in Warsaw. He has a PhD in political science from the Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin. His academic interests are different aspects of transition to democracy in post-communist states, in particular Poland and Ukraine. Previously, he worked as an analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, focusing on politics and international relations in Eastern Europe.


Title: Transitional Justice in Post-Euromaidan Ukraine
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172 pages