Digests

Increased fines for domestic violence, institute of starostas, and badges for National Guard

The Verkhovna Rada has started a second plenary week in a row trying to consider all bills that awaited consideration during the month-long New Year celebrations. Today in our digest: increased fines for domestic violence, amendments to the laws regulating the institute of starostas, and an attempt to oblige national guardsmen to carry badges with their serial numbers when on duty.


Higher fines for domestic violence (3908)

Status: first reading.

Who is affected: Ukrainian citizens, the National Police, and the judiciary.

What does the bill change: fines for domestic violence will be increased from 1,000 to 4,000 tax-free minimums, i.e. from ₴17,000 to ₴64,000 (now the fines are from 10 to 40 tax-free minimums, i.e. from ₴170 to ₴640).

Why this is important: the number of cases of domestic violence in Ukraine is high while the efficiency of government bodies attempting to counter it is low.

What is wrong: if the fines are increased hundredfold, it is more likely that the situation with the fight against domestic violence will become even worse. In most cases, the victim and the offender are members of the same family, share the same household, and often continue to live together even after domestic violence has been committed. Consequently, such a fine will bring significant financial loss to both the victim and the offender. Under such circumstances, victims are more likely to refrain from going to the police and thus save the family budget. If the bill is passed, Parliament will only make things worse for the victims instead of actually fighting domestic violence.


New regulations on starostas (4535)

Status: first reading.

Who is affected: Ukrainian citizens, local government bodies, and starostas.

What does the bill change:

  • it will be possible to create starosta districts in towns that are not centers of amalgamated communities. According to the current law, such districts can be created only in villages and settlements
  • starostas will not be members of executive committees anymore
  • starostas will become employees of their village, settlement, or town councils
  • public hearings, meetings, or other forms of public consultations will become a mandatory prerequisite for selecting candidates for the starosta position
  • the bill provisions that starosta districts, as a rule, should have no less than 1.5 thousand inhabitants
  • acting starostas will be dismissed from their positions the same way as regular starostas.

Why this is important: for people, starosta is the closest representative of local government in their district. The quality of services provided by local executive offices largely depends on his or her work.

What is right: the bill fills in the legal void that makes it impossible to appoint starostas of towns that are not centers of their territorial communities.

What is wrong:

  • according to the bill, starostas will be appointed by local councils upon the submission of community heads. At the same time, starostas will have to represent the interests of people living in their districts in local executive offices. A “representation”, though, presupposes that people elect their representatives: MPs, local councilors, oblast councilors, head of their community, etc. If starosta is a subordinate of the head of the community (who also is the head of the executive committee) and of the local council, he or she will not be able to represent the interests of the starosta district properly
  • the bill provisions that a starosta is an employee of the city council but does not specify the nature of such employment. As a result, the council will be free to choose whether to make a contract with a starosta or hire him or her as a public servant
  • the requirement for a starosta district to have no less than 1.5 thousand inhabitants distorts the logic of creating the districts. Population density differs significantly in different localities and it is counterproductive to enforce a unified standard
  • according to the bill, it is possible to retrospectively dismiss acting starostas that held their positions before local elections — since the day new councils assumed their duty (mostly in November of 2020). By trying to introduce ex post facto provision, the bill violates the Constitution.

Alternative solution:

  • to make starostas elected officials and then they will represent people living in their district or take away their authority to represent citizens and then they will be responsible only for implementing local councils’ decisions in their districts
  • to specify that starostas are local government public servants since they have and exercise the authority of public servants
  • only local councils should have the authority to create starosta districts. There should be no requirement of how many people live in a district.


Identification badges for national guardsmen on duty (3731)

Status: first reading.

Who is affected: Ukrainian citizens and servicemen of the National Guard.

What does the bill change:

  • all guardsmen will be obliged to carry their identification badges with serial numbers while maintaining public order
  • a unified register of national guardsmen’s badges will be created, guardsmen will not be allowed to hide their badges
  • the rule does not apply to guardsmen carrying out their duties in the area of the Joint Forces Operation.

Why this is important: a possibility of identity disclosure will keep guardsmen in check. During the Revolution of Dignity and later there were many cases when servicemen of the National Guard overstepped their authority and used ungrounded physical force but then avoided punishment because it was impossible to identify them.