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Transitional Justice in Post-Euromaidan Ukraine

Swimming Upstream

Series:

Igor Lyubashenko

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.

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2. Investigations and trials

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2.1. Theoretical background

“Bandits will go to jail!”1 – This was probably one of the best-remembered slogans used by Viktor Yushchenko in his notorious presidential campaign in 2004 before the Orange Revolution. The slogan referred not to any particular person, but to the generally understood political elites who mismanaged the country and finally tried to “steal” the people’s voices in the presidential election. An average voter could have imagined almost anyone in the role of a “bandit” – a former president, one of the presidential candidates, or some anonymous official who tried to extort a bribe from that very same average voter. The perspective to punish this bandit seemed to be very attractive. Nevertheless, it remained nothing more than an electoral slogan.

Blaming the predecessors for all that is wrong is common practice in politics, especially if the government changes regularly. It is also quite common to hear in everyday discussions that the government (and even the whole political elite) is made up of “bandits”. Usually, these are nothing more than empty catchphrases used in political competition. They are impersonal accusations that do not bear any legal consequences. Of course, the widespread use of such slogans provides no evidence of maturity in a public debate. Nevertheless, the notion of “punishing” politicians has entered our thinking around one of the essential features of a democratic political process – accountability. “Punishment” in this case has a political nature and takes the form of not re-electing the ones who...

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