Head of EUAM: You don’t have time to wait for the anti-corruption courts to be established

February 14, 2017

An interview with Serhiy Sydorenko, published by Evropeiska Pravda on 6 February, 2017

EU Pravda previously published an interview with Head of EUAM Kestitus Lancinskas in spring 2016. Recently, Mr Lancinskas recently marked his one-year anniversary as Head of EUAM, so we decided to check which plans have been implemented and which have not.

EUAM is a special institution that works in Ukraine independently of the EU Delegation, working in only one direction, i.e. security sector reform, and, to a lesser extent, judiciary reform. EUAM stakeholders include not just police, but also prosecutor’s office, NABU, NAPC, Border Guards and SSU.

EUAM is at times reprimanded by experts for not criticizing the Kyiv authorities. However, talking to us, EUAM Head was sincere saying that not everything is perfect.

Here is a new interview with Mr Lancinskas with EU Pravda.

It has been one year since you arrived to Ukraine. What did you manage to accomplish up until now?


— Since our Mission is advisory, our main activity is advising. In addition, we are conducting trainings and provide equipment to our counterparts. This year, we have implemented various projects for total of 1 million Euro, and plan on doubling it. We have trained over 300 trainers in different regions. These are mainly police officers, and MoIA service centre staff. We are planning on returning to these regions to assess trainers’ work and to help them. Of course, the hectic political situation with a changing government, General Prosecutor, Head of National Police has affected us. However, I think we have achieved significant progress.



— Here’s a quote from your interview a year ago: “It would be great if, in a year, Ukraine had a sustainable police structure and criminal investigation chain established”. Has this been accomplished?


— The structure is not perfect, but it is there. And we are helping to enhance it. It is not so easy with criminal investigations. How it works? There’s a police investigator, prosecutor and then judges to do their jobs. This is the whole chain of criminal investigations, from beginning to guilty/not-guilty verdict. We have started with police and prosecution. In the judiciary, however, we have not accomplished much progress, I admit.



— By the way, speaking about prosecution. It is widely believed that prosecution reform failed, while the Prosecutor General claims that 70% of new faces joined prosecutors’ offices.


— I also heard PG Lutsenko say that out of around 600 new prosecutors, selected in 2016, over 70% are people from outside the system. In 2015, for example, the situation was quite the opposite, with only one-off similar appointments. Those selected at competitions are to work at the lowest level, i.e. local prosecutor’s offices, while changes are also required at the level of regional and General prosecutor’s offices. This is the only way to bring changes. This is where we are trying to engage with the GPO.

We are maintaining close ties with deputy prosecutors Yenin and Stryzhevska, who are people from outside the system. We’ve agreed that we’ll help conduct a prosecution system audit, establish prosecutors’ assessment procedures. We’ve set 1 April as the deadline to do this. It should have been done already, but we’ve started working with them only in late October 2016.



— Do you want another quote of yours? On the so called “Diamond Prosecutors” you said: “If someone is used to taking bribes, keeps huge amounts of money and diamonds in their office, I don’t believe such people can change. It’s a different mentality… such people must be fired.”


— I would repeat the same thing now.


— But there are those, in the GPO leadership, whose assets are worth more than they have been earning. Even the “diamond prosecutor” Korniiets, who has become a symbol of corruption, has not been punished. Can we talk about GPO reform in this case?


— That is why, we, international donors and organisations, working in Ukraine, would like to see more new faces at all levels in the prosecution authorities. This is needed to renew the institution, build public trust and increase institutional efficiency and effectiveness.



— Have you told Yuriy Lutsenko about the need to bring in new people?


— That is why Lutsenko is establishing general inspectorate within the GPO, to deal with corruption prevention and investigation of internal corrupt practices. Its staffing has begun, and its head is already appointed, so I think we should expect some changes soon.




— There is an initiative to cut NABU’s powers and scope of cases that NABU is set to exclusively deal with. Is it acceptable?


— We have always, officially and publically, said that we are definitely against this. Ukraine has developed a system to fight corruption, and, at the highest levels, it seems to be working quite effectively. Look, NABU has been working for over a year now, and they have been investigating around 300 cases with around 50 sent to courts. This means that it is working and it must be given a chance to develop.

On the other hand, the chain is incomplete. NABU initiated the investigation, finished it and handed it over to specialized prosecutor for assessment; then, together, they send the case to court. And what’s next?

There are cases, filed to court by NABU, that have been idle for six months with courts doing absolutely nothing about them. The international community thinks it’s a negative tendency. And Ukrainian people see that, despite investigations, there have been no sentences!

Logically, these should lead to court rulings – guilty/non-guilty, any.

Yes, they say that we need to wait for anti-corruption courts to be established. But when is it going to happen? Before judges are appointed and all procedures are complete and they start working, that is why it is important to find a way to unblock this process within the existing system. I am confident that Ukraine has all the means to solve this issue.



— How?


— The thing is that courts, which NABU files their cases with, are often understaffed. Of course, judges from other courts could be transferred there to unblock the work. Thus, the issue can be resolved rather quickly.


— Here’s another quote from your last year’s interview: “In Ukraine, investigative bodies don’t talk to each other… pointing at each other, instead, blaming others in not working as good as themselves.” Has anything changed here?


— It’s in progress. Slowly, but it is changing.

In Kharkiv and Lviv, where EUAM opened regional presences, we have established working groups made up of prosecution and police investigators, as assessment criteria are the same.

Working together, they are beginning to realise that they have a common objective. So, something is changing, but I’d like to see these changes happen much quicker.


— Looking at what’s going on between the GPO and NABU, I don’t see these changes. What I see is them fighting for cases, even publically. Is it even normal? Has this taken place in other countries?


— It is not normal. Perhaps the legal framework and anti-corruption system should be enhanced. But you have NABU and SAPO already. They
work, and are working together. And the General Prosecutor can switch to establishing a system of fighting corruption at regional and local levels.



— Do you think NABU should be present in the regions more?


— No, I don’t think so. NABU is just too small to deal with all types of corruption cases. Secondly, the law says that NABU is responsible for top-level corruption only. They’ve started doing this quite effectively, so let them continue.


— What are the most burning issues with police reform?


— As you know, police underwent the re-attestation process, which is now complete. The question is whether it went well or not so well. The main thing, however, is that nothing followed it.


What should have been done is that re-training of these police officers should have started, immediately. Otherwise they will not be able to work anew. Luckily, NPU training and development concept have been already approved by MoIA, and we are ready to help implement it.


Police have faced very difficult conditions: lack of public trust; working in a country with changing political system, with a growing crime level.


We’ve established great patrol service that was well received by the public. However, there’s still a lot to work on: crime investigation, crime situation analysis, crime prevention etc.



— How did it happen that the Patrol Police enjoys enormous public trust, while other police components can’t boast the same?


— Gradually, but very slowly, public trust in them increases. One of the reasons behind it is that there has been no re-training programme developed for those police officers who passed re-attestation. It’s not only about increasing the level of investigators’ professionalism. Yes, these skills must be improved at all times, as new crime investigation techniques and methods emerge, as well as new tools, new types of expertise to prove crimes. The main thing that must change is re-training: police officers who passed re-attestation must realise why they work in the police and what their job is about. Organisational values and culture must evolve.


— Is it possible that a former police ( militsiia) officer, who is used to humiliating people, realised, all of a sudden, that human
rights is above all?


— It depends on how long they have been working with the police. Also, that is why re-attestation was needed – so that only those who are able to change remained.



— Do you think it was successful?


— Re-attestation was not perfect. We also get information that those officers who should have stayed had been dismissed, while those who should have been fired stayed. There must be some ground behind such rumours. But given the unprecedented scope of re-attestation in such a short period of time mistakes are unavoidable.


I don’t think looking for somebody to blame it on will help. Everybody made mistakes, and attestation commissions did not know how to work and how to assess police officers. They were learning by doing. I think that re-attestation was generally a success, despite mistakes that must be admitted.



— How can these mistakes be eliminated?


— Those who failed re-attestation could appeal to the court. As to those who passed re-attestation by mistake, now it’s the police internal security and NABU’s job to identify those who should not be working in the Police.



— Last year, the NPU head resigned. Did this affect the system?


— I don’t want to comment on this. It was a personal decision of former NPU leadership and it’s their right. At the moment, a new head is being appointed and I believe the selection commission will select the best of the 64 candidates.


— The thing is even if they select the best one, Minister Avakov is not obliged to appoint him.


— Let’s not put the cart before the horse. The Law on NPU does not require competition at all. So, we should appreciate the Minister’s decision to select a new NPU head, at an open competition, involving candidates from outside the organisation.


Let’s wait for the competition results and the minister’s decision. On our part, we will work with any new NPU Head appointed.


— How effective do you think police work is?


— Police work assessment must be developed anew.

Right now, the assessment is conducted based on statistical data, which is not right. Qualitative assessment criteria must be developed, as in EU countries.


— Why don’t we just borrow other country’s – Lithuania for example – assessment system?


— You can’t just copy, translate and approve it. It just won’t work. There must be a different organisational culture, other political situation. It must be adapted to Ukraine’s reality.

— What criteria are used to assess police work in Lithuania?


— You won’t believe me, but the level of public trust is the main criterion. Police commissions special opinion surveys, and sociological research companies conduct such surveys every year. There is a long list of criteria and questions. More people are engaged compared to regular opinion polls. We are talking about thousands of respondents in all regions. There are region-specific questions.



— Why can’t the same be done in Ukraine?


— This approach will be introduced in Ukraine, but in 3-4 years from now. State authorities are very afraid to make mistakes. That is why police must be given some time for changes to be visible.



— Still, quantitative parameters are important, too. You referred to these at the beginning of our conversation, when you said that the level of crime in Ukraine increased.


— Criminality is a social phenomenon. Its level depends on many factors: beginning with their social standing, revenues and political situation.


Law-enforcement agencies’ actions impact on crime level is around 10%, 15% as a maximum. The rest is self-regulation.


Thus, criminality also increases due to a declining Ukrainian economy, the political situation in the country, and military conflict in Eastern Ukraine, hence numerous negative social phenomena.


Firstly, this means that public trust in police increases and people report on those crimes they hadn’t reported before. Secondly, police started registering those crimes it had not registered before.


— Can crime solving be one of these parameters?


— Only for some units. This criteria works 100% when referring to murders and robberies.


Or for the department responsible for fighting drug trafficking, for example: the higher solving rate, the higher the mark. Drugs is a very latent crime, practically no one reports it. Thus, if the department is solving more and more of such crimes every year, it means it works more professionally.



— Car theft has become a real issue in Ukraine. Do you know about this?


— I’ve also heard and read about successful operation to detain a group of people, specialized in stealing Range Rovers. We had the same thing in Lithuania. There was a time when over 30 cars were stolen daily. It is a lot for such a small country such as Lithuania (with population comparable with that of Kyiv – EP).


That is qualified thefts only. These units had not dealt with inexpensive car thefts or joy-riding. These cases had remained as the regional police’s responsibility.


In the end, after three years, car theft statistics first stabilized, then this phenomenon became very rare.



— Have you been approached for advice in this regard?


— We shared our view when discussing the police structure with the Minister and Head of Police. We suggested that organised criminal investigation services and specialized units dealing with certain types of crimes be re-established.


— I find it difficult to understand whether MoIA is ready to listen to EU advice at all, if they are not approaching you on most burning issues. And car theft is a burning issue.


— You know, the Ministry of Internal Affairs is actually one of those agencies that listens to and closely cooperates with us. But it’s a 330,000 staff system, so you can imagine why it takes so long for anything to happen.


— Can you be more specific on when you did not like something and MoIA listened to your advice?


— Sure. Together with our Ukrainian colleagues, we are now implementing an investigators and operatives merger pilot project in Boryspil district. Its objective is to develop a concept of detectives for a future police structure.


When this idea was being elaborated, there was an issue of when to launch the project. Kyiv officials wanted to postpone it, but we did not agree. Then we had a productive, but very tough discussion. And our criticism worked – the project has now been launched.


— And the last question, if I may. Can you please share your plans for 2017?


— This year, the mission mandate expires. These days, mandate extension is being considered in Brussels, and I believe there will be a positive decision. This will mean that we are going to work for at least another year in Ukraine.


Firstly, we’ll begin with launching three major projects. Together with the Danish agency DANIDA, we are launching a big anti-corruption project. Also, I hope that, together with the Swedish National Police, we will launch another project – on police station refurbishment – in the near future.


We have selected 20 police stations in four regions. Our experts will change everything there. This will include a change of structure, trainings for police officers, new attitude to people, new equipment, public reception halls, etc. This will be a real, tangible result.

Thirdly, we are at the final stage of approving a major three-year project in the Rule of Law, in which EUAM will be responsible for implementation of the component related to the development of law-enforcement agencies.



— Where will these model stations be established?


— In small towns.


We decided that it was worth working there, when we implemented the so called Sambir project. It is not finished yet, by the way. It has been launched in half of the stations so far.

But we now realise what challenges people face. That’s how we came up with the idea of setting up 20 model police stations that will later be cloned in other regions of Ukraine.



— In terms of police structure reform in general, what should change by the end of 2017?


— We will continue working on NPU structure enhancement.


We are on the right path, and I hope that in a year we’ll be able to say that the National Police has got a modernised structure, incorporated best European practices and started utilising new crime investigation techniques; that the police’s information system will be developing, its quality will improve, that not only a
strategy, but a full-scale police officers training system will be developed and approved.


I hope that all of this we’ll be able to see at the central level.


But it is even more important in Ukraine that strategic documents drafted in Kyiv are implemented locally. Reforms that are being developed in Kyiv must spread to the regions.