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Weekly analytics for 23 March – 5 April 2021
- The Venice Commission positively assessed the initiative of the people's deputies on the constitutional procedure
- The Venice Commission and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights positively assessed the draft law on political parties
- Decree of the President of Ukraine "On Some Issues of Ensuring National Security of Ukraine" of March 27, 2021 No. 124/2021 is unconstitutional
The Venice Commission positively assessed the initiative of the people's deputies on the constitutional procedure
On March 22, the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) published an Opinion CDL-AD(2021)006-e regarding the draft law on the constitutional procedure (reg. No. 4533) and the alternative draft law on proceedings and enforcement of decisions of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine (reg. No. 4533-1), approved at the 126th plenary meeting of the Commission (19-20 March 2021, online).
In general, the Commission welcomed the numerous proposals to improve the constitutional process, which aim to make the CCU’s activities more open (transparent) and clear to the public, in particular:
- introduction of an automated document management system of the CCU (paragraphs 27-31);
- improving the process of interaction between the CCU and citizens regarding the submission of constitutional complaints to the CCU (paragraphs 32-22);
- detailing the legislative rules on the removal and self-removal of judges of the CCU (paragraphs 34-36, 39);
- implementation of the non ultra petita principle, according to which the CCU cannot go beyond the issues raised in the constitutional proceedings (paragraph 40);
- streamlining the grounds and procedures for bringing judges to disciplinary responsibility, as well as determining the subjects of initiating such proceedings in accordance with the previous recommendations of the Commission (paragraphs 41-43, 48);
- implementation of the Commission’s previous recommendations on changing the procedure for recognizing acts (their individual provisions) as unconstitutional by the CCU Senate (paragraphs 53-55);
- recognition by the draft law of the need for additional regulation of certain procedural issues of the CCU’s activity at the level of acts of the CCU itself (paragraph 56);
- requirements for improving the motivation of CCU decisions (paragraphs 71-74).
However, having analyzed the draft laws No. 4533 and No. 4533-1, the Venice Commission nevertheless noted that none of the documents proposed:
- improving the procedure for appointing CCU judges through the introduction of competitive selection and the creation of a special independent institution for this purpose (paragraphs 20-22), – this is what the Commission emphasized in its previous Opinion CDL-AD(2020)039 on the CCU reform. The Venice Commission reiterated the recommendation made earlier on the necessity to fill vacancies in the CCU only after improving the competitive procedure for the appointment of judges, which is possible at the legislative level without making any changes to the Constitution of Ukraine (paragraphs 25-26);
- the possibility of reviewing an already adopted decision of the CCU, if the judge who voted for such a decision is accused in a criminal case for committing an act of corruption in connection with the adoption of such a decision (paragraphs 51-52).
In addition, the Venice Commission assessed negatively:
- the lifting of the prohibition on persons with a representative mandate to appoint a CCU judge, in the Commission’s view, violates the requirement of political neutrality of CCU judges (paragraphs 23-26);
- the possibility for the head of state to initiate disciplinary proceedings against judges of the CCU (paragraphs 44-45);
- the lack of gradation of sanctions against CCU judges in disciplinary proceedings (e.g. warnings, salary reductions, etc.), as the dismissal of a judge remains the only sanction that can be applied (paragraph 47);
- the provision on the termination of disciplinary proceedings in case of inaction of the CCU, if the Court does not rule within six months after receiving the respective petition, may easily lead to blocking any attempts to bring CCU judges to disciplinary responsibility (paragraph 50);
- increase in the number of votes of judges for adopting a decision may block the work of the Grand Chamber and the Senates of the CCU. The Commission considers that such measures should not be taken when there are vacancies in the CCU for a long time. Given that there is a specific situation with the CCU in Ukraine, of course, a temporary increase of such a requirement is possible, however, a final change of the requirement on the number of votes can be justified only after the introduction of a new system of competitive selection of judges (paragraphs 61-62).
The Venice Commission also recommended:
- to improve the provisions of Article 15 of the draft law No. 4533 on the removal (self-removal) of judges, as these provisions can be interpreted as the absolute impossibility for a CCU judge to express his/her academic or professional position in the field of law even outside the specific case (paragraph 37);
- to implement the proposal of the alternative draft law No. 4533-1 on granting the NAPC the authority to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the judges of the CCU within its powers (paragraph 45);
- it is expedient to provide for the requirement of a simple majority of votes of the judges of the CCU to bring to disciplinary responsibility for misconduct, except in cases of dismissal of a judge of the CCU (paragraph 49);
- in cases of disciplinary liability of CCU judges, the Court must take a decision within six months, and the Court’s inaction must be the basis for the automatic termination of the proceedings (paragraph 50);
- for reasons of procedural economy, constitutional proceedings in cases of constitutional complaints should be referred from the Senate to the Grand Chamber only at the request of the President or Parliament (paragraphs 53-55)1;
- it is expedient to provide that the internal acts of the CCU must comply with the law (paragraph 56);
- to regulate the issue of the number of votes on the decision of the CCU, it is advisable to use a proportional approach (from the actual number of judges) instead of a fixed one (from 18 judges) (paragraph 62);
- not to introduce the concept of “constitutional doctrine” into the legislation of Ukraine, if its definition in Article 3 of the draft law No. 4533 will remain contradictory and incomprehensible. The question of the application and interpretation of this concept should be more relevant to the CCU (paragraphs 64-66);
- it is appropriate to provide for the possibility for the CCU to actively seek international amicus curiae opinions (for example, by the Venice Commission) (paragraph 70);
- the blanket norms contained in Articles 7, 9, 18, 42 and 65 of the draft law No. 4533 on “liability provided by law” must contain clear references to the relevant acts (paragraph 75);
- the term “persons” in Article 25 of the draft law No. 4533 should be clearer, as it is not clear, for example, which legal entities are meant here (paragraph 76);
- in addition to dissenting opinions, it is appropriate to provide for separate concurring opinions (paragraph 77);
- if draft law No. 4533 is adopted, it is necessary to make sure that all procedural norms from the current Law of Ukraine “On the Constitutional Court of Ukraine” be accurately transferred to the new law on constitutional procedure to avoid future conflicts (paragraph 78).
In consequence, despite a number of individual shortcomings, the draft law No. 4533 can bring many positive changes to the current organization and activities of the CCU. In addition, the Venice Commission believes that the CCU should also express its opinion on the final version of this draft law.
The Venice Commission and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights positively assessed the draft law on political parties
On 23 March, the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) published an Opinion CDL-AD(2021)003 regarding the draft law on political parties, prepared jointly by experts from the Venice Commission and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR). The joint opinion was agreed at the 71st meeting of the Council for Democratic Elections (March 18, 2021, online) and approved at the 126th plenary meeting of the Commission (March 19-20, 2021, online).
The Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR, in general, welcome the ongoing initiative to update the legislation on political parties, which takes into account many of the previous recommendations provided by these institutions. In particular, the Opinion emphasizes that proposals to increase the transparency of registration and operation of political parties, facilitate the process of registration of political parties, establish more effective requirements for party financing and financial reporting, further delineate powers of supervisory authorities in monitoring party finances, ensure gender equality, constitute a right direction of reform, which aims to increase the role, status and importance of political parties as an important tool of democratic governance, as well as stimulation of their development (paragraph 10).
Both institutions also emphasized that the text of the draft law has been the subject of wide public discussion with all stakeholders, and therefore recommended that public authorities continue to hold such inclusive, large-scale and effective consultations during the work on this draft law, involving political parties and ensuring equal opportunities for women and men to participate in this process (paragraph 152).
At the same time, the Opinion notes that the draft law, in an effort to solve the problems of the current Law of Ukraine “On Political Parties in Ukraine”, used a top-down approach to ensure a bottom-up democracy. The draft law overregulates issues that are usually discretionary for political parties themselves, which raises concerns about the issue of internal autonomy of the parties, which is protected by freedom of association. This is complicated by the punitive approach, even in cases of minor violations of the law on the financing of political parties, which would in fact be better addressed through enhanced communication and awareness-raising measures (paragraph 11).
Despite the fact that some procedural aspects of party registration have been improved, political parties still need to confirm the formation and registration of regional party branches in at least 5 constituencies of Ukraine within 6 months of state registration. In addition, the draft law provides for the procedure of confirming the registration of a political party within 1 year after its establishment (a political party ensures the involvement of at least two thousand Ukrainian citizens in at least five constituencies of Ukraine to confirm its activities). Such double registration seems to be a potentially burdensome procedure for political parties, in particular, newly formed parties will not be able to participate in elections if their registration is not confirmed. The combination of such registration and restrictive requirements for party membership may create irrational barriers to party registration and participation in elections, especially in the case of smaller parties (paragraph 12).
The Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR also consider that the establishment of the Unified Register of Members of Political Parties disproportionately affects the right to freedom of association in political parties, as well as the private lives of party members (paragraph 13).
As regards the issue of donations to political parties, although many positive changes are proposed in this direction, the provisions of the draft law on donations from individuals seem too restrictive. At the same time, the maximum level of donations to political parties in general remains too high. Moreover, it is necessary to ensure the consistency of such provisions with the Electoral Code of Ukraine (paragraphs 14, 91).
In addition, the provisions of the draft law on the role, status, competence and limitations of supervisory authorities remain rather vague and need to be further detailed. The legal grounds for banning political parties are also too general. It is very important to clearly define the scope and limits of the powers of state bodies to supervise and apply sanctions. In this context, it would be appropriate to provide for a wider arsenal of sanctions, in order to ensure that sanctions clearly match the gravity of the offenses committed (paragraph 15).
As a result, the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR made a number of recommendations to improve the text of this draft law, in particular:
- to provide for a clearer definition of party symbols, the use of which is prohibited in accordance with part four of Article 3 of the draft law (paragraph 47);
- to specify the provisions of part four of Article 3 of the draft law on the prohibition of the formation and operation of structural units of political parties in educational institutions, because if this also refers to higher education institutions, it looks like an interference with the right of young citizens to association (paragraph 48);
- to amend the provisions of Article 8 of the draft law concerning the international activities of political parties, as well as to eliminate the blanket norm from part three of this article in order to comply with the requirements of legal certainty (paragraphs 54-55);
- to amend the provisions of part one of Article 11 on the prohibition of any activity for unregistered political parties, as well as add the definition of the primary branch of a political party referred to in parts three and four of this article (paragraphs 58-59);
- to substantially change or remove the provisions of the third part of Article 10 of the draft law, which stipulates that a political party shall ensure the formation and registration of its regional organizations in at least 5 electoral regions of Ukraine within six months from the date of state registration (paragraph 62);
- to remove paragraph 8 of the second part of Article 12 of the draft law, as people’s deputies and deputies of local councils elected on party lists are not under the party’s “imperative mandate” and therefore are not obliged to report to the political party (paragraph 64);
- to remove the requirement to confirm registered parties within one year after their creation in accordance with Article 16 of the draft law (paragraph 72);
- to remove from Article 18 of the draft law the requirement for citizenship requirements for party members2, as well as for individual membership of individuals exclusively within one political party (paragraphs 73-74);
- to delete Article 19 of the draft law, which requires political parties to register their members in the Unified Register of Members of Political Parties (paragraph 79);
- to substantially revise Section IV “Activities of political parties” of the draft law or eliminate the relevant provisions that affect the autonomy of political parties too much (paragraphs 53, 63, 86);
- the provision of Article 26 of the draft law on the peculiarities of the formation of the governing bodies of a political party should be made more flexible, and the provision on the principle of rotation in this article is vague, so it should be either removed at all or left to internal discretion of a party (paragraph 87);
- the provisions of part seven of Article 28 concerning the procedure for deregistering candidates from political parties in national and local elections should be revised (paragraph 89);
- to amend the second part of Article 36 of the draft law, revising the disproportionate restrictions on the right of individuals to make donations to political parties, as well as reduce the maximum level of donations from individuals and legal entities in parts two and three of the same article (paragraphs 91-101);
- to amend Articles 38, 41, 42, 44, 45-47 of the draft law on the regulation of public funding of political parties (paragraphs 104-123);
- to define more clearly the status and competencies of supervisory bodies in section VIII “State control over the activities and financing of political parties” of the draft law (paragraphs 127-139);
- to provide in the draft law a wide arsenal of sanctions, which would be proportional to the severity of the relevant offenses (paragraphs 140-148).
In summary, the joint opinion of the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR, in general, welcomed the initiatives aimed at reforming Ukraine’s legislation on political parties in line with international and European standards, as well as the recommendations of the Council of Europe, OSCE, Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and other organizations.
Decree of the President of Ukraine "On Some Issues of Ensuring National Security of Ukraine" of March 27, 2021 No. 124/2021 is unconstitutional
On March 27, the President of Ukraine issued a Decree “On Some Issues of Ensuring National Security of Ukraine” No. 124/2021, according to which the President revoked the decrees of the President of Ukraine of May 14, 2013 No. 256 “On the Appointment of O. Tupytsky as a Judge of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine” and of September 17, 2013 No. 513 “On the appointment of O. Kasminin as a judge of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine”.
In accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine, as amended by the Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine (on Justice)” of June 2, 2016, the President of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and the Congress of Judges of Ukraine shall appoint six judges of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine (hereinafter – the CCU), however, the decision to dismiss a judge of the CCU shall made exclusively by the CCU, and not by the subject of appointment (part two of Article 148, Article 149-1). First of all, due to the fact that the President does not currently have the authority to dismiss judges of the CCU, the Decree No. 124/2021 has signs of unconstitutionality.
In addition, a CCU judge cannot be dismissed due to the revocation of the act of his/her appointment, as the acquisition of the CCU judge’s powers is connected with taking an oath at a special plenary session of the Court and not with the adoption of an act on his/her appointment (part seven of Article 148 of the Constitution of Ukraine). Therefore, the repeal of such an act does not give rise to any legal consequences for judges of the CCU who have already acquired their powers.
It is also worth noting the erroneous practice of repealing acts of an individual nature, in particular decrees on the appointment of judges. In particular, an individual act has a “one-time” effect (i.e. the act expires from the moment of entry into force), respectively, the abolition of such acts after their implementation is virtually impossible, especially given the irreversible legal consequences related to an official exercising his/her powers in a collegial body. The CCU noted that such acts establish specific prescriptions that apply once and expire after implementation (Decision of June 23, 1997 No. 2-зп; Decision of April 22, 2008 No. 9-рп/2008).
The CPLR emphasizes the need to implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission (Opinions CDL-AD(2020)039 and CDL-AD(2021)006-e) on the introduction of competitive selection of CCU judges. The appointment of CCU judges on the basis of transparent competitive selection is a guarantee of restoring public confidence in the CCU as the only body of constitutional jurisdiction in Ukraine. In addition, in case judges of the Constitutional Court commit crimes or other offenses, they must be investigated in the manner prescribed by law.
In view of this, it is not advisable to provoke further escalation of the inter-institutional conflict between the head of state and the CCU, which harms the stability of the constitutional order, the international image of Ukraine and the national security of the state.
Народні депутати пропонують вдосконалити обрання з'їздом суддів членів Вищої ради правосуддя і Ради суддів, а також суддів Конституційного Суду
12 березня група народних депутатів з партії “Слуга Народу” зареєстрували у Парламенті проєкт закону №5231 «Про внесення змін до Закону України «Про судоустрій і статус суддів» та інших Законів щодо дистанційного проведення з’їзду суддів України з кадрових питань». 30 березня двоє інших депутатів із “Слуги Народу” внесли альтернативний законопроєкт – №5231-1, в пояснювальній записці до якого зазначено, що він: «фактично є вдосконаленням законопроекту №5231 від 12.03.2021 в частині забезпечення відповідальності за втручання у вільне волевиявлення суддів та забезпечення таємності їх волевиявлення».
Обидва законопроєкти пропонують запровадити дистанційне проведення з’їзду суддів, на якому обирають членів Вищої ради правосуддя, Ради суддів та суддів Конституційного Суду. У такому форматі з’їзду зможуть брати участь всі судді, повноваження яких не припинені на день голосування, а голосування відбуватиметься з використанням спеціального програмного забезпечення та електронного підпису судді. Крім того, законопроєкт №5231-1 пропонує розширити перелік підстав притягнення суддів до дисциплінарної відповідальності, доповнивши їх пунктами, які встановлюють відповідальність за втручання у процес голосування іншими суддями, неособисте голосування, передачу електронного підпису іншій особі для голосування, а також агітацію (крім самоагітації) суддею, який займає адміністративну посаду у суді, за кандидатів на посаду, яка заповнюється з’їздом суддів.
У щотижневому аналізі 10-15 березня ми розповідали про проведення XVIII з’їзду суддів, на якому повторилася ситуація 2018 року, коли ще до завершення голосування було відомо хто стане членами Вищої ради правосуддя. Існування кулуарно “погоджених” кандидатів визнавали навіть самі судді.
На думку експертів ЦППР, запропонований законопроєктами №5231, 5231-1 механізм обрання членів Ради суддів, Вищої ради правосуддя, суддів Конституційного Суду дистанційно дасть можливість реалізувати волевиявлення всіма суддями безпосередньо, а не через посередництво делегатів. Важливо, щоб таке голосування відбувалося таємно, як це передбачає проєкт закону №5231-1. Водночас цей механізм доцільно впроваджувати одночасно з імплементацією попереднього конкурсного відбору кандидатів до Вищої ради правосуддя і Конституційного Суду незалежними комісіями.
Окремо слід зазначити, що на розгляді Парламенту перебуває президентський законопроєкт №5068 щодо запровадження попередньої перевірки доброчесності кандидатів до складу ради незалежною комісією за участі міжнародних експертів (в аналізі експертів ЦППР запропоновано напрямки доопрацювання проєкту). Тому доцільно синхронізувати проходження законопроєктів №5231, 5231-1 із проєктом закону №5068.
Також важливо подібний конкурсний механізм відбору кандидатів впровадити для цілей формування Конституційного Суду, на чому наголошувала Венеційська комісія. Громадські організації запропонували бачення такого механізму, але наразі парламент не поспішає реалізувати цю ідею.