Tefft: Success of Ukraine's Criminal Code depends on presumption of innocence

Print version
Aug. 18, 2012, 2:51 p.m. | Ukraine — by Interfax-Ukraine

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Tefft

The successful implementation of the new Criminal Procedure Code, which comes into effect in November of this year, will depend on the reconsideration of the notion of the presumption of innocence by participants of the judicial system, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Tefft has said.

"The adoption of the new Criminal Procedure Code gives Ukraine a chance to redefine the understanding of the presumption of innocence. Actually, the success of the new Criminal Code will depend on a new understanding of the fundamental principle of law," the diplomat said in an article published in the Dzerkalo Tyzhnia weekly on Saturday.

According to Tefft, public dialogue among all participants of the criminal court system (including the attorneys) should lead to fundamental changes in their approaches. "Of course, the further introduction of regulations prohibiting prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, government officials and court employees to make public statements or disseminate information which violate the presumption of innocence would help the cause, but without a fundamental change in the understanding of the legal system by court system officials, one cannot expect this problem to be solved even with the help of well-written laws," the ambassador said.

The diplomat said that the presumption of innocence is being ignored in Ukraine in two cases, "during a routine arrest of people, suspected and/or accused of a crime, and in public statements by politicians and prosecutors, who really should know better than to speak of someone's guilt long before the end of the trial."

"If it (the Criminal Procedure Code) is properly implemented, this document has every chance to make the criminal justice system in Ukraine into one that both protects human rights, and provides law enforcement agencies a possibility to expose and prosecute through honest ways in such complicated cases as multi-level corruption and conspiracy to launder money with the involvement of many suspects and the international banking sector," Tefft said.

He also believes that the reduction in the number of detainees awaiting trial will improve "the current unpleasant situation in Ukraine before the European Court of Human Rights."


The Kyiv Post is hosting comments to foster lively debate. Criticism is fine, but stick to the issues. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks will be removed from the site. If you think that a posted comment violates these standards, please flag it and alert us. We will take steps to block violators.
kp_xoxol Aug. 18, 2012, 10:07 p.m.    


The country with the largest prison population in the World which hold the record incarceration rate of SIX TIMES the World average - the police state USA talks a bout "presumption of innocence".

It could be funny if not so pathetic, heh, heh, heh :D

The US hypocrisy knows no bonds. Yuck :(

{# <-- parent id goes here
EMILIO MUJICA Aug. 19, 2012, 3:39 p.m.    

Last June 2011, my Ukrainian wife was denied a USA three months visitor VISA by one staff officer in the Kiev-USA Embassy, for the "PRESUMPTION" that She would be potentially guilty of running away from Ukraine, and staying in USA illegally. She was judged as "guilty", rather than using the "presumption" of innocence. In other words, the "burden of proof" for her honest VISA application, is on her. The use of the word presumption of being honest and innocent may be sometimes dubious in its application.

{# <-- parent id goes here
My_Opinion Aug. 19, 2012, 7:05 p.m.    

The presumption of innocence is indeed important, especially to those detainees at Guantanamo who have been presumed guilty since they were captured, and in many cases were granted access to fewer procedural rights than the Nazi terrorists caputred after World War II. Beyond this, there is the assumption in the ambassador's remarks that laws violating the presumption of interest are never passed by the United States. In fact, most western democracies routine skirt around this presumption. They do so in cases where proving criminal intent would be difficult, such as in cases of possession of stolen goods. In such cases, mere "actus reus" -- possession -- creates rebuttable "mens rea" -- guilty intent, so that the right to remain silent is killed, because silence spells conviction. Even where evidence is more easily obtained, such as in immigration processes, western democracies begin from the presumption that an individual is inadmissible until the individual proves otherwise. I trust the ambassador will clarify whether Ukraine should follow America's guilty-till-proven-innocent Guantanamo example, or its "do as I say and not as I do" example.
Unhappily, America is now engaged in the unequal application of its values everywhere. It continues to harrass Putin's government for being undemocratic, possible because America does not control Russian oil and gas, at the same time remaining dishonestly quiet about its support of the dictatorship in Saudi Arabi, where the oil taps are opened at America's convenience.

{# <-- parent id goes here


© 1995–2014 Public Media

Web links to Kyiv Post material are allowed provided that they contain a URL hyperlink to the material and a maximum 500-character extract of the story. Otherwise, all materials contained on this site are protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced without the prior written permission of Public Media at
All information of the Interfax-Ukraine news agency placed on this web site is designed for internal use only. Its reproduction or distribution in any form is prohibited without a written permission of Interfax-Ukraine.