In the Revolution of Dignity times, many judges, instead of protecting the innocent, chose to become a handy obedient punitive instrument in the hands of authorities.
Hundreds of judges ruled in favour of deliberately unlawful decisions, such as arresting the injured and innocent activists, forfeiture of the driver’s license from the participants of peaceful actions of Automaidan, prohibition of peaceful gatherings.
Punishment of the guilty was one of the main Maidan demands, as it is the feeling of complete impunity that is the main cause of despotism and anarchy, it also led to atrocious crimes during the Revolution of Dignity.
The civil society has been expecting for the prompt cleansing of the legal system from those judges, who completely discredited themselves. To ensure this, in April of 2014, the Law “On reviving trust in the judicial authorities” was passed, it provisioned screening/vetting of the judges, whose rulings had been obviously autocratic during the Maidan times.
The High Council of Justice has practically completed reviewing disciplinary proceeding concerning the “Maidan Judges” under the law.
What are the consequences and how do they come up to expectations?
According to the data, provided by the High Council of Justice in response to the inquiries of All-Ukrainian Union “Automaidan” NGO, claims concerning 351 judges were to the High Council of Justice. Those judges made decisions addressed by the Law “On Reviving Trust in the Judicial Authorities”.
After considering the complaints submitted, the High Council of Justice did the following:
- submitted the proposal to dismiss 64 judges (31 in 2016 and 33 in 2017), out of which:
- 31 judges were dismissed in 2016 (by the President and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine)
- 3 judges were dismissed by the decision of the High Council of Justice
- proposal to dismiss one judge was revoked by the High Council of Justice
- 29 judges are still waiting for the final decision
- proposed the temporary suspension of 5 judges;
- refused to open disciplinary proceeding against 204 judges (124 in 2016 and 60 in 2017);
- refused to submit papers for dismissal of 68 judges (11 in 2016 and 57 in 2017);
- sent the materials to the High Qualification Committee of Judges concerning 10 judges;
- returned appeals without reviewing them concerning 3 judges;
- shelved appeals concerning 24 judges;
- cancelled disciplinary hearing considering 1 judge.
29 out of 31 judges dismissed in 2016 appealed their dismissal in the High Administrative Court of Ukraine (hereinafter – the HACU).
The HACU sustained almost all the appeals, however all the decisions were overridden by the Supreme Court. Many of the cases still remain without final decision.
Out of 33 judges that the Disciplinary Houses received dismissal submssions against in 2017, 26 judges appealed them to the High Council of Justice. The High Council of justice viewed 6 complaints, out of which:
- 5 complaints cancelled and submissions remained in effect
- 1 complaint sustained and the submission was cancelled.
Therefore, just 34 judges have been actually dismissed, which makes 10% of all the Maidan judges. In addition, we do not have the data on the number of judges de facto fired by the order of the head of the court. There were cases when judges continued holding their positions for over a year after the Presidential decree on their dismissal (judges of the Holosiivsky district Larysa Kalinichenko and Maksym Frolov).
The total number of all the dismissal submissions concerns 63 judges, which makes just 18% of all the Maidan judges.
80% of the judges responsible for the despotic court decisions were never punished. Most of them continue daily administering “justice” to this day.
Among the judges who managed to avoid dismissal for breaking the oath are the following: Mykola Chaus, Bohdan Sanin, Vladyslav Deviatko, Yevhen Ablov, Viktor Kytsiuk, Olena Mielieshak, Oleksandr Hrynenko.
Odious judges the Council refused to fire:
- Mykola Chaus, judge of Dniprovskyi District Court in Kyiv. Forfeited driver’s licenses of two car owners for trip to Mezhyhiria on December 29, 2013. One of them did not drive anywhere on that day. The Council decided these offences were insufficient ground for dismissal. Special feature: When his case was being heard by the Council, he was hearing H .Korban case
- Bohdan Sanin, judge of the Kyiv District Administrative Court, speaker judge. He prohibited peaceful gatherings on Maidan from December 1, 2013 to January 7, 2014. The Council decided that offences in his actions were present, yet insufficient ground for dismissal
- Yevhen Ablov, judge of the Kyiv District Administrative Court, deputy head of the court. He ruled that the Berkut forces had to clear Maidan of people using force on the night from December 10 to December 11, 2013. The Council decided that offences in his actions were present, yet insufficient ground for dismissal. Special Feature: he heard the case on dispersing the people from Maidan in half a day, then in 2 weeks the service status of his apartment was removed, he privatized it and sold for 9.1 million hryvnias.
- Viacheslav Deviatko, judge of Obolonskyi District Court in Kyiv. He forfeited driver’s licenses of two car owners for trip to Mezhyhiria on December 29, 2013. He was not brought to account as the statute of limitations has passed. Special feature: he replaced judge Mamontova who reported pressure from the Presidential Administration concerning her decision-making process. Leads the case against Yanukovych, where he is accused of the state treason.
- Viktor Kytsiuk, judge of Pecherskyi district court in Kyiv. Forfeited driver’s licenses of two car owners for trip to Mezhyhiria on December 29, 2013. The Council decided that offences in his actions were present, yet insufficient ground for dismissal. Special feature: There is information that his sister interfered with the automatic case distribution in Pechersk district court and distributed all Automaidan cases between two judges – Kytsiuk and Tsarevych. He is indicted for his decisions and faces 8 years in prison.
- Olena Mielieshak, judge of Shevchenkivskyi District Court in Kyiv. She forfeited driver’s license for trip to Mezhyhiria on December 29, 2013. The Council decided that offences in her actions were present, yet insufficient ground for dismissal. Special feature: She was a head of court during the Revolution of Dignity and there is testimony that she told the judges what decisions they had to make in Automaidan cases.
- Oleksandr Hrynenko, judge of Kyiv region Appeal Court, former head of the court. He forfeited driver’s license for trip to Mezhyhiria on December 29, 2013 – a person who was not even in Kyiv at the time. The Council decided that offences in his actions were present, yet insufficient ground for dismissal. Special feature: He was a head of court during the Revolution of Dignity, there is information that he was Portnov’s protégé and organized judgements in Automaidan cases. His wife won the competition for the position in the Supreme Court.
The High Council of Justice has recently appointed for termless position judge Oksana Dudar from Rivne, who prohibited peaceful gatherings in Maidan times.
However, a true triumph of impunity for the “Maidan judges” came when judge O. Zolotnikov won the competition to be appointed to the Supreme Court. He was the one who supported the decision to prohibit peaceful gatherings in the central streets of Odessa.
Have these results lived up to the society’s expectations? The question is rather rhetorical.
One must bear in mind – it has been proved that most of these judges did break the law; however, the High Council of Justice believed that it was not enough grounds for dismissal, and the statute of limitation had passed for other punishment.
The worst, however, was categorical refusal of the High Council of Justice to establish the reason for the judges to rule in favour of the similar decisions on such large-scale basis. Direct orders from the President’s Administration are known to be the reason. They were passed on through the heads of courts. Still, all the facts proving that judges were pressured, have been ignored. All my requests to call to the witness’ stand people who could confirm such influence on judges have been denied.
The High Council of Justice member Alla Lesko was quite influential in the ordeal. She reported on the case of V.Kytsiuk, where the interference with the Pechersk court judges’ decision-making process could be clearly seen. Cases of the judges V. Deviatko and O. Mielieshak were heard in the First Disciplinary House, where she (Alla Lesko) is a secretary. There were witnesses of the influence exerted on the judges. Yet, the High Council of Justice deliberately avoided looking into the facts.
I believe the judges whose cases were heard by the Council started to be used by the present authorities for their purposes, and the Council encouraged it. The case of judge Chaus led the way. Recommendation to dismiss him was submitted at the Council meeting, however, after he reviewed the case of H. Korban the “correct way”, the Council changed their mind and decided that such a convenient judge should be kept onboard.
The case of V. Deviatko, head of the Obolon District Court, seems suspicious/dubious as well. The High Council of Justice had being protracting the case until the statute of limitations passed. Now he is hearing case No.1 – accusing Yanukovych in state treason. Given the circumstances, one cannot help but doubt the objective ruling of the judge who can assist Yanukovych to appeal the decision in the European Court.
Therefore, the results of the High Council of Justice work hearing cases of the Maidan judges have been nothing but lamentable. The overwhelming majority of the judges were able to eschew responsibility, and organizers and coordinators of the judicial autocracy got off scot-free, as the Council took no interest in their deeds.
The High Council of Justice made it loud and clear that it would not undertake the task of uncovering and changing good old traditions of influencing the judges politically or otherwise. Everyone involved needn’t worry – they will walk away with impunity. Also, the Council allowed the discredited and dependent judges to continue holding their positions and readily looked the other way when they were used for rulings required of them.
This experience makes us take with a huge grain of salt the ability of the current members of the High Council of Justice to change the situation in the judge corps for the better, cleanse it from the tainted judges, rejuvenate the courts, protect the judges with integrity, renew the public trust in the judicial system in general.
Tomorrow, the High Council of Justice will assemble in their office for discussions to make final decision on the Supreme Court Judges, which will be paramount for the future of justice and the whole state. Unfortunately, the risk to reincarnate the Yanukovych legal system in all its former glory with the “Phone Law” rather than the Supremacy of Law and the likes of Chaus, Sanin and Ablov holding key positions is very real.
Roman Maselko, lawyer, AutoMaydan, 24 Sept. 2017, pravda .com.ua