Political Points of the Centre of Policy and Legal Reform include a weekly expert analysis of the most important processes in Ukraine in areas of constitutionalism, political parties and elections, governance and public administration reform, judiciary, combatting corruption, criminal justice, etc.
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- President and Prime Minister have determined judicial reform one of the priorities
- High Council of Justice imitates the formation of a new High Qualifications Commission of Judges
- The Ministry of Justice presented a new model of jury trial in Ukraine
- Ukraine has expectedly fallen in the Corruption Perceptions Index-2019
President and Prime Minister have determined judicial reform one of the priorities
On the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos, President of Ukraine V. Zelensky declared the importance of judicial reform in the fight against corruption, and Prime Minister of Ukraine O. Goncharuk named judicial reform one of the main tasks for ensuring the economic growth of Ukraine.
2. CPLR assessment
Awareness of the top leadership of the state about the dependence of the economic development and the level of corruption on the activity of the judicial system is important for the formation of the country’s development strategy. One of the first draft laws introduced by the new President to the new Parliament was a draft law relating to the judiciary (the so-called “Draft law No. 1008”).
However, it is still unclear what vector of complex judicial reform the new political power has chosen, since the draft laws introduced by the President or his political force are aimed at fragmental and not always deliberate reform of specific processes in the judiciary, rather than systemic and consistent changes.
The CPLR experts believe that recognizing judicial reform among top priorities requires political authorities to formulate a clear plan of actions in this area. Earlier, the CPLR has published its vision of judicial reform measures.
High Council of Justice imitates the formation of a new High Qualifications Commission of Judges
On December 26, 2019, the competitive selection to the High Qualifications Commission of Judges (hereinafter – the HQCJ) began, in which international organizations were required to delegate their representatives to the selection commission before January 3, and the candidates were required to submit documents for participation before January 13.
In total, 189 candidates applied for the competition (for 12 vacant positions of the HQCJ members). However, within the term set by the High Council of Justice (hereinafter referred to as the HCJ), the quota of international experts in the selection board was not filled, as none of the international organizations submitted their nominations.
On January 21st, the HCJ requested international organizations again to submit nominations, having previously extended the deadline for nominating members to the selection commissions by the international organizations until February 5.
2. CPLR assessment
In political points of December 9-16, 2019, the CPLR experts questioned that international organizations were delegating their representatives to the selection commission. This is because the HCJ, having approved the procedure for the competitive selection, completely eliminated the role of the international experts assigned by law and created the possibility for manipulative selection.
The CPLR experts are of the opinion that the extension by the HCJ of the deadline for submitting candidates to the selection commission is the HCJ’s attempt to shift the blame for the failure of the formation of the new HQCJ to international organizations. This situation may be addressed by adjusting the law, which will remove the HCJ from the procedure of forming a new HQCJ.
The Ministry of Justice presented a new model of jury trial in Ukraine
On January 20, the Ministry of Justice presented two draft laws aimed at implementing a classical jury institute model in the country. In place of the current jury trial (two judges and three jurors), under the new procedure, the jury trial will be administered by a panel of 7 jurors, who will sit separately from the judge and will not deliver a judgement, but a verdict. In the verdict, the jury must answer the question of whether the event was a crime and whether the defendant was guilty. In addition, the jury members will be elected by the voter list; being a jury member remains a person’s right, not a duty.
In the first place, the right to jury trial will be given to persons who can get life imprisonment, and a little later – to persons who can be imprisoned for more than ten years.
2. CPLR assessment
As stated by V. Petrakovsky, the CPLR expert: “The jury trial is not just a change to the law. It is a different culture, a different behavior of both the authorities and the citizens, a different perception of all parties: the court, the prosecution, the defense and citizens involved in the process. I am convinced that this institute should be implemented as soon as possible.”
During the parliament consideration of the draft laws, they should be improved, in particular in terms of securing the right of appeal (it is advisable that the jury’s verdict can be reviewed, but only by a jury). Consideration should also be given to enshrining the duty of citizens to perform the functions of a jury and, at the same time, to exclude the obligation of a jury to submit electronic declarations of persons authorized to perform the functions of the state, since these aspects constitute a serious obstacle to citizen participation as a jury.
Ukraine has expectedly fallen in the Corruption Perceptions Index-2019
Recently, the result of the Corruption Perceptions Index-2019 for Ukraine was published: it got two scores down. Overall, Ukraine scored 30 points, returning to the level of 2017, and ranked 126th among 180 countries in the world. For the first time in the last six years, Ukraine has lost points on the Index. Instead, some countries confidently score points: Vietnam and Ecuador +4, Azerbaijan +5, Angola and Armenia +7, moving up in the ranking table at once by 21-28 steps. On the other hand, the last fact gives rise to the hope that proper anti-corruption activities make everything possible.
2. CPLR assessment
This result is quite expected against the background of the fact that anti-corruption reform has slowed down considerably in the last year or two: The Anti-corruption Strategy and the State Program for its implementation have not been adopted for a long time; the judicial and law enforcement systems have not been restarted and do not serve the society as it expects; a large scale privatization has not taken place, the activity of the President of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, its committees and deputies is not becoming more transparent; the body responsible for independent state control in the area of access to public information has not yet been determined by the law; the government failed to ensure proper verification of beneficiaries, tighten control over the financing of political parties etc.