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- Ukraine`s international partners made first step to implement “Judicial Reform”, which started by President Zelenskiy
- Prosecutor General's accusations of judicial reform sabotage by Supreme Court are groundless
On November 27, the US Agency for International Development and the Embassy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Ukraine submitted to the High Council of Justice (HCJ) nominations for inclusion in the Integrity and Ethics Commission (Ethics Commission), which will check the members of the High Qualifications Commission of Judges, High Council of Justice and the Supreme Court for compliance with their status requirements.. They were Carlos Castressana, Giovanni Kessler and Robert Cordy. Claudia Escobar has been appointed as a replacement expert.
Ethics Commission should be established by February 05, 2020 and consist of 3 HCJ members and 3 international experts.
Ukraine's international partners have done their part of work to establish an Ethics Commission and, in general, undertaken the first step in implementing the innovations foreseen by the “Judicial Reform”, which started by President Zelenskiy. Instead, the HCJ, which is responsible the Commission’s launch, has not yet taken any action. In particular, first of all, the Council should amend its own rules of procedure in terms of the formation of the Ethics Commission, and then nominate three members to it. According to information from the HCJ's official website, these issues will not be considered at the next meetings (until December 12) (or they are hidden under the item "Miscellaneous", which, due to the termination of online broadcasts of the meetings by the Council, do not add openness to the discussion on this decisions).
In fact, the HCJ may block the establishment of the Ethics Commission by not amending its own rules of procedure, as otherwise the Commission will not be able to work, because the procedure for approval of international experts within its composition will not be determined.
The start of the Ethics Commission is not in the interests of the current composition of the HCJ, as its primary task will be to check the integrity of these members, by virtue of which they may be dismissed. In the same time, in the opinion of the CPLR experts, pointed, that entrusted the implementation of judicial reform to the judiciary bodies itself and making it inaccessible from them was not the best decision of the lawmaker.
On November 14, the Prosecutor General R. Ryaboshapka said in an interview: “The President took the first step trying to restart the body responsible for the selection and dismissal of judges. At once, we saw sabotage on the part of this body responsible for the dismissal of judges, on the part of the High Council of Justice as well as the Supreme Court. I believe more radical actions are needed here. It may be necessary to try to communicate with the saboteurs within the framework of the Code of Criminal Procedure. … If people continue to sabotage the law, it is obvious that we will have no other way. We will help the country educate fair judges. Honest ones” (translated by the author).
On November 21, the HCJ approved a public address in relation to the above comment, in which it called inadmissible R. Ryaboshapka's political comments on the pace of reform implementation and dissemination of information in order to discredit the judiciary or influence the HCJ.
On November 27, R. Ryaboshapka specified what he meant: “These two institutions are not making sufficient efforts to actively start judicial reform. If sabotage on the part of the Supreme Court and the High Council of Justice is of a criminal nature, we will have no choice but to respond to such actions within the framework of criminal procedural law ”(translated by the author).
Given the level of office occupied by R. Ryaboshapka, his comments can indeed be seen as pressure on the judiciary. However, it is worth noting that the HCJ does not really make effort to implement the legislative changes, since the Council has not yet approved the competition rules for the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine, has not amended its own rules of procedure on the establishment of the Ethics Commission and has not delegated 3 members to its composition. Instead, the HCJ had sufficient time for regulatory and informational support to the termination of broadcasting its own meetings.
In the same time, the allegations of sabotage by the Supreme Court are unfounded, since no action is required from it to implement the reform. The court is subject to reform (as the staff number of judges should be reduced) but not its implementer. Petition of the Supreme Court to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine dated November 15 regarding the constitutionality of certain amendments to the legislation on the judiciary is not sabotage, since this right is vested to the Court by the law.
In addition, further developments may indicate the pressure on the Supreme Court in order of influence to the Head of the Court V. Danishevska. In particular, on November 27, a decision was taken at a meeting of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Legal Policy beyond the established agenda, when only representatives of the Sluha Narodu faction stayed in the meeting room, to address law enforcement agencies on allegedly falsifying the seal of the Supreme Court of Ukraine (which, according to transcripts disclosed by the journalists is associated with the Chairman of the Supreme Court V. Danishevska).