Sanctions against smugglers, national vaccination plan, and new members of stock market regulator: decisions by President
At the end of last week, President Zelensky played judge by punishing smugglers. He also decided to once more violate the Constitution by running the executive branch by ging orders to the Cabinet and exercising some of its powers.
Decree against the “kingpin smugglers”
Who is affected: courts, law enforcement agencies, Ukrainian citizens and legal entities under sanctions.
Decree in a nutshell: enacts the decision by the National Security and Defense Council on imposing sanctions against 10 citizens of Ukraine and 79 legal entities from Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, and Switzerland for 3 years.
What is wrong:
- sanctions are special restrictive measures that a country introduces in self-defense against external threats. Thus, they cannot be reasonably applied to Ukrainian citizens or legal entities. The President and the National Security and Defense Council are doing court’s job and “punish criminals” without having the authority to do so
- the President and the National Security and Defense Council violate the presumption of innocence: a person is considered innocent and cannot be punished until proven guilty by due process of law and court’s decision
- according to the President, sanctions were introduced against the “top-10 Ukrainian smugglers”. The decree, however, does not provide any information about grounds or reasons for the sanctions but instead just announces the list of people and legal entities and penalties applied to them.
What’s next: persons and legal entities under sanctions can challenge the penalties in the following courts:
- in the Supreme Court, although at the moment the Court does not seem to take the side of complainants
- in the Constitutional Court, although for almost half a year the Court has not issued any decisions. Moreover, the President has recently dismissed (in violation of the Constitution) two judges of the Constitutional Court
- in the European Court of Human Rights. If the Court will find for complainants, the government budget of Ukraine will suffer significant losses.
Decree on establishing a national vaccination plan against COVID-19
Who is affected: the Cabinet, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, doctors, and Ukrainian citizens.
Decree in a nutshell: enacts the decision by the National Security and Defense Council and gives the following orders:
- to the Cabinet:
- to draft and approve a vaccination plan that will ensure that the majority of the adult population are vaccinated before December 2021
- to negotiate with vaccine producers
- to the Ministry of Health:
- to facilitate the procurement of vaccines
- to carry out an information campaign on vaccination
- to inform the President and the apparatus of the Council of National Security and Defense on the progress in vaccination
- to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs — to enhance the efficiency of the cooperation on procuring vaccines with foreign countries and international organizations.
What is wrong:
- the President and the National Security and Defense Council try to assume control over the executive branch although according to the Constitution the highest body of the executive hierarchy is the Cabinet
- by issuing this unconstitutional decree President Zelensky has once more demonstrated that de facto he can interfere with the work of any executive body
- the vaccination plan against the COVID-19 was approved in December of 2020 and presented to the general public at the end of January 2021 at the meeting of top executive officials including the Prime Minister
Decrees on replacing members of stock market regulator
Who is affected: businesses, Ukrainian citizens, and the Cabinet.
What is wrong:
- the Constitutional Court has ruled that national regulators are executive bodies considering their functions, scope of activity, and competencies. Therefore, heads of national regulators should be appointed not by the President but by the Cabinet
- these presidential decrees are unconstitutional and could be challenged in court.
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