Ukraine President Claims International Suit Immunity

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych will be immune to any international court ruling on lawsuits that may be filed by jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych said Wednesday.

Viktor Yanukovych

He responded to Tymoshenko’s plans to submit a barrage of lawsuits against Yanukovych, who had recently accused her – even before a trial - of involvement in a contract murder 16 years ago.

“There are issues of sovereignty of each state, there are issues of legal sovereignty, issues of legal systems,” Lavrynovych said at a press conference.

“We mandatorily implement only those rulings that are in line with the country’s commitments to [international] agreements, conventions.”

Tymoshenko is currently assembling a team of international lawyers to file the lawsuits against Yanukovych after he had told Bloomberg, a U.S.-based international news agency, that she had “motives” and was “involved” in the murder of lawmaker Yevhen Shcherban in 1996.

Tymoshenko’s plans may have far-reaching consequences, since Bloomberg has offices and bureaus in 192 countries, potentially allowing her to attack Yanukovych virtually anywhere in the world.

But Lavrynovych said the idea may not appeal to other countries that will be forced to decide on legal issues and disputes between two Ukrainian citizens.

“If, for example, a citizen of Singapore or Zimbabwe starts filing lawsuits to Ukrainian courts, dealing with each other, I think you will have a predictable reaction,” Lavrynovych said, apparently suggesting that the Ukrainian court would simply reject the lawsuits.

“What is being suggested [by Tymoshenko] is not any different,” Lavrynovych said.

But Tymoshenko’s party, Batkivshchyna, quickly responded by attacking Lavrynovych and pledging to go ahead with the lawsuits.

Lavrynovych “informed the people today that Ukraine is not obliged to implement international court rulings,” Batkivshchyna said in a statement.

“Yanukovych’s government suddenly understood that international courts are not working under [the presidential administration’s] dictation.”

Tymoshenko will use her right to file the lawsuits against Yanukovych.

“Even if a native of Zimbabwe is disseminating lies in the Ukrainian media then even a citizens of Zimbabwe may be prosecuted by a Ukrainian court because of his lies,” Batkivshchyna said.

Last month, general prosecutor Viktor Pshonka said Tymoshenko was being treated as a material witness in the Shcherban case and investigators were trawling through evidence in the case, including new testimony from the dead man's son.

Ruslan Shcherban was 19 at the time and survived the attack, but he has said recently he has evidence implicating Tymoshenko.

Source: Ukrainian Journal