Ukraine's Parliament has voted 390 out of 438 taking the first step to amend Ukraine's Constitution and remove parliamentary immunity and limit Presidential immunity.
Under the provisions of Ukraine's current constitution Ukraine's President is the only person who has absolute immunity. Members of parliament currently have the same immunity as that afforded to Judges.
The proposed amendments means that the President can not be arrested or detained without the consent of the parliament. If the president is found guilty of an offense he automatically loses office.
Members of Parliament will no longer be able to claim immunity from criminal liability. They can not be arrested or detained without the consent of the parliament or a court order. They can be prosecuted.
The proposed amendment also removes a members of parliaments liability for defamation for actions and statements made within the parliament. This brings Ukraine's constitutional provisions in line with other western democracies.
This should put an end to the political debate about parliamentary immunity even though not one member of parliament has ever been prevented from being prosecuted.
Viktor Yushchenko has campaigned to have Parliamentary immunity removed but in his proposed constitutional amendments he has retained immunity for Judges and the President.
The proposed amendments will be referred to Ukraine's Constitutional Court for review and will need to be represented to the Parliament for adoption in February 2010.
The main problem with the proposed amendment is that it leaves the President exposed to vexatious litigation. A requirement of 60% or two-thirds of the parliament should be required before the president can be detained or loses office would be better.
An earlier proposal to remove immunity from Ukraine's Parliament only, which did not include the President and Judges, received only 206 votes and as such was defeated.
Extract from Ukraine's current Constitution
People’s Deputies of Ukraine are guaranteed parliamentary immunity. People’s Deputies of Ukraine are not legally liable for the results of voting or for statements made in Parliament and in its bodies, with the exception of liability for insult or defamation. People’s Deputies of Ukraine shall not be held criminally liable, detained or arrested without the consent of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.