More than half of the cases opened by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) over the past eight years do not concern national security. This is evidenced by the results of a study conducted by the NGO Osiazhny Obriy (Overall Horizon), which analyses the activities of law enforcement agencies.

The authors of the study analysed the cases investigated by the SBU from 2013 to 2020 and found that the number of cases not related to national security accounted for 54.7%, i.e. 14,558 cases. Moreover, most of these cases were initiated in 2013 and 2018.

SBU DonbassAmong non-national security cases, the authors of the study outline proceedings classified as smuggling, including drug trafficking; economic crimes; official crimes, such as abuse of power and forgery of documents; and abuse of power by the military (Articles 201, 201-1, 305, 359, 364, 365, 366, 367, 425, 426 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).

At the same time, in 2018, the SBU commenced the most legal proceedings (37%) over official crimes.

The study suggests that such a large number of cases initiated against officials and judges before the elections are explained by the need to provide administrative resources, namely, by opening new cases as levers of influence and closing them when necessary agreements are reached.

“It should be noted that the number of official crimes investigated by the SBU in 2018 was 3.14 times higher than over the other seven years combined,” the study says.

However, the authors of the study emphasise that the main task for the security services is to identify threats to national security and prevent them.

Currently, the SBU is empowered to investigate offences under 44 articles of the Criminal Code, as well as to investigate most of the criminal offences provided for by the Criminal Code, including corruption offences falling under the jurisdiction of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine.

Therefore, the SBU‘s function to investigate crimes in a very wide range of categories causes significant damage to both national security and the work of other law enforcement agencies.

Among the negative consequences of combining counterintelligence and crime investigation functions, the researchers, in particular, highlight the following:

  • Lack of opportunity to fully focus on counterintelligence and analytical activities
  • Abusive acts and corruption due to investigation into crimes not within the jurisdiction of the SBU
  • Lack of motivation and professionalism of counterintelligence agents
  • Obstruction of other bodies to investigate crimes through the possibility of taking away cases, depriving other bodies of responsibility for the results of work in their fields

Protection of own interests

SBU UkraineAlso, according to the study, over the past eight years, the SBU has registered an average of 3,327 cases per year. The average percentage of those submitted to court is 22.9%, closed – 10.8%, suspended – 3.6%, and ongoing (unfinished) – 62.7%.

This indicates that cases are registered to have grounds to use existing law enforcement powers against a person in order to obtain information or some benefits, track specific people or exert pressure in another form, human rights activist Volodymyr Yavorsky said.

He says that in the near future the Verkhovna Rada plans to adopt a draft law on reforming the SBU which, according to human rights activists, grants unlimited powers to the Service that will not be controlled by anyone at all.

“I am not aware of similar bodies in democratic countries. But it very much resembles the State Security Committee of the Republic of Belarus (KGB) and the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB),” Yavorsky warns.

As a reminder, the reform of the SBU was one of the demands that human rights defenders put forward to the new government back in July last year. Experts then noted that the agency had inherited many of the functions from the Soviet special services and its work was practically not controlled. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also called on the new government to reform the SBU.

Source: Zmina Human Rights Centre

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