The General Court of the European Union has issued a judgment to annul the EU Council's 2019 acts extending EU sanctions and freezing the assets of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his son, Oleksandr Yanukovych, due to the lack of sufficient legal protection for both individuals.
As reported by Censor.NET.
"The General Court annuls the Council's 2019 acts extending the fund-freezing measures imposed on Viktor Yanukovych, former President of Ukraine, and his son, Oleksandr Yanukovych. The Council failed to demonstrate that the rights of the defence and the right to effective judicial protection were respected in the criminal proceedings underlying that extension which are being conducted against those individuals by the Ukrainian authorities," the judgment reads.
The Court recalled that following the suppression of the demonstrations in Independence Square in Kyiv in February 2014, the Council of the European Union adopted restrictive measures against certain individuals in March 2014, including Yanukovych, President of Ukraine at the time of those demonstrations, and his son, Oleksandr, a Ukrainian businessman. Those measures, ordering the funds of the individuals listed to be frozen, were imposed on those two men, initially for one year, because they were subject to criminal proceedings in Ukraine for involvement in crimes in connection with the embezzlement of state funds and their illegal transfer outside Ukraine.
In March 2015, the Council extended the restrictive measures against the two men by one year. By judgments of September 15, 2016, the General Court of the European Union annulled the March 2014 acts and, accordingly, the decision of March 2015 on the extension of sanctions.
In March 2016, 2017 and 2018, the Council extended the restrictive measures against the two individuals concerned by one year on the ground that they were subject to criminal proceedings by the Ukrainian authorities, in particular for the misappropriation of public funds or assets. Those measures have been systematically annulled by the General Court.
In its judgment today, the General Court noted that, while the Council can base restrictive measures on the decision of an authority of a competent third state to initiate and conduct criminal proceedings relating to an offence of misappropriation of public funds of that state, the Council must nevertheless satisfy itself that the rights of the defence and the right to effective judicial protection were respected by that authority. In that context, the Council must show, in the act imposing the restrictive measures, that it has verified that the decision of the authority of the third state was taken in accordance with those rights.
According to the judgment, the Council did not demonstrate that it had actually examined those decisions and that it was able to conclude from them that the essence of the procedural rights of the individuals concerned had been complied with.
According to the document, the grounds for instituting criminal proceedings on charges of the embezzlement of state funds are not capable, alone, of demonstrating that the criminal proceedings in question were initiated and conducted in accordance with the rights of the defence and the right to effective judicial protection.
"The Court points out that where, as in the present cases, a person has been the subject of restrictive measures for several years on account, essentially, of the continuing conduct of the same preliminary investigation by the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine, the Council is required to verify whether that person's right to be tried within a reasonable time has been respected by the Ukrainian authorities before it decides whether or not to extend those measures again," the judgment reads.
According to the judgment, in deciding to maintain the names of both men on the list of persons subject to restrictive measures, the Council made an error of assessment. "Consequently, the General Court annuls the contested acts in so far as they relate to Mr Fedorovych Yanukovych and Mr Viktorovych Yanukovych," the judgment reads.