Conclusions: courts. Maryna Khromykh

Author: Marta Dyka
Conclusions: courts. Maryna Khromykh

For the third year in a row, at the end of December, Svidomi conducts summary broadcasts on our Ukrainian Instagram page, where it talks about what has changed in Ukraine over the year in various areas: the military, culture, medicine, education, the judiciary and political spheres.

On December 26, together with Maryna Khromykh, Executive Director of the DEJURE Foundation, we discuss the courts and the judicial branch in Ukraine, the reform of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Council of Justice, and the District Administrative Court of Kyiv.

Liquidation of the DACK

On December 13, the Verkhovna Rada abolished the District Administrative Court of Kyiv due to corruption. The District Administrative Court of Kyiv was the most harmful court in Ukraine, and its judges were the faces of the judicial mafia. Its liquidation is a significant step for Ukrainian society, particularly in terms of judicial reform. This is a victory for public organizations that have been arguing for years that this court should be liquidated and the judges punished. This is a victory for journalists and activists as well, a victory for civil society. Because if it were not for the public outcry, DACK would not have been liquidated, and the US would not have imposed sanctions against Judge Vovk. (Judge Pavlo Vovk is the head of the DACK. The USA imposed sanctions on Vovk "for extortion of bribes in exchange for interference in judicial and other public processes" — ed.)

What will happen to the judges of the DACK and the cases pending there?

A new court should be established, to which all cases of the DACK will be transferred. However, they have now been temporarily transferred to the Kyiv District Administrative Court. Judges of the abolished District Administrative Court of Kyiv should not be elected to any court in Ukraine, even the smallest.

Election of new members of the Supreme Council of Justice

It is one of the key bodies of the judicial system. Since several members resigned before the beginning of the war, the SCJ is not working. The Supreme Council of Justice is the one to deal with the dismissal of judges, including judges-collaborators.

In early January, there will be a congress to elect and appoint eight members of the SCJ. However, the judicial mafia prevents this from happening. This can only be done with the pressure of the government and society, because with the beginning of the full-scale war, the number of cases increased, so the functioning of the Council is important.

What is worse: if no one is elected or if the bad ones are elected?

Among all the candidates for the SCJ, there are enough to choose from. Society has no questions about them, they have the proper professional level. The main thing is to have the desire and political will. And again, public attention is important.

Why are there problems with the judicial system?

Since 1991, no one has paid attention to the judicial system. If politicians are just re-elected at least every four or five years, then the judicial nepotistic mafia was formed here. Also, the government is to some extent accountable to society, while the courts were a closed structure without reporting. But there was no public interest. Only after the Revolution of Dignity did civil society pay attention to the court.

High Qualification Commission of Judges

As with the SCJ, the entire judicial body in Ukraine depends on the HQCJ. Because the work of the commission is blocked, they cannot appoint about 1.5-2 thousand more judges, as well as dismiss dishonest ones. Also, the HQCJ will be able to carry out qualification evaluations of judges.

Bohdan Lvov's Russian citizenship

In September, investigative journalists of Radio Liberty discovered that Bohdan Lvov, the head of the Cassation Economic Court of the Supreme Court, has Russian citizenship, which he obtained back in 1999. On October 5, Lvov was fired.

Currently, this case is not moving forward. Lvov held one of the highest positions in the judicial system — Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Court. And the fact that this story is not finished is bad. There was a petition to strip Lvov of his citizenship, which gained 25 thousand of votes. This shows that this topic is important to society. The President responded to the petition, but so far there has been no resolution to the situation. Human rights defenders and public organizations, in particular, the DEJURE foundation, also filed numerous requests to revoke Bohdan Lvov's citizenship. In addition, after Lvov was expelled from the court staff, he applied to the DACK with a request for reinstatement. And it was not renewed only because the DACK was liquidated. It is also quite likely that Lvov is not the only judge who is a citizen of the Russian Federation.

Law on the reform of the Constitutional Court

On December 20, the President signed a law amending the procedure for selecting judges of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, despite the recommendations of the Venice Commission. In particular, the Commission noted that one more independent international expert should be included in the Advisory Group of Experts that examines the candidates. This will create an opportunity to have the right to a casting vote, not to choose dishonest people, and not to block decisions. The law currently provides for six members: three independent and three from the government.

Thus, the Verkhovna Rada can vote for any candidate despite the recommendations of the group. This poses a threat to the independence of the Constitutional Court. Now 10 out of 18 judges are already controlled by the President's Office. This is risky because such a court may find important reform laws unconstitutional, as it was in 2020.

The EU and the Venice Commission are constantly drawing attention to this law and calling for changes. This will not allow the judicial mafia to operate and will not allow negotiating with a mono-majority in the Verkhovna Rada. Therefore, we will not only fulfill one of the conditions of accession to the EU but also achieve the fact that for the first time since 1991, Ukraine will have an independent Constitutional Court.