On November 7, amendments to the Law “On Judiciary and Status of Judges” initiated by the President came into force. The amendments foresee full restart of the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine (HQCJ) and create the effective tool for cleaning the High Council of Justice (HCJ). However, the judicial reform is now under threat because of the HCJ itself. The latter blocks the implementation of the law.
It was the HQCJ and the HCJ who had failed to clean up and restart the judiciary establishment, which was their main task after the Revolution of Dignity. Instead, these bodies, where most members are judges selected by judges, have sustained mutual cover-up and impunity in the judicial system.
Therefore, the President submitted to the Parliament the draft law on reforming these bodies with the participation of international experts who had previously played the key role in selection of judges to the High Anti-Corruption Court. Thus, international experts will make the half of membership of:
- the Competition Commission, which will hold open competition to the new HQCJ; and
- the Ethics Commission within the HCJ, which will have the authority to dismiss dishonest members of the HCJ.
The composition of these Commissions should be confirmed by the HCJ. And the latter should delegate three members to the Ethics Commission. The law allocated 90 days for it. Moreover, the Competition Commission has to evaluate candidates to the HQCJ at the same time, and the HCJ has to confirm the new composition of the Commission.
In order to create Commissions within the extremely short timeframe and to hold the competition to the HQCJ, the HCJ must confirm two documents as soon as possible. Namely:
- Provision on the competition to the HQCJ.
- The procedure for selection members of the Ethics Commission, which is part of the HCJ Regulation.
Two weeks have passed since the law came into force. The HCJ has not even made amendments to its own Regulation, and has not delegated members to the Ethics Commission, and has not initiated the procedure of creation of the new HQCJ. Such silent behavior of the HCJ is frankly alarming. The HCJ used this time to make its activities even less public and transparent instead. It cancelled the video broadcast of plenary meetings and ignored the law’s requirement regarding transparent decision-making in plenary meetings.
The HCJ obviously tries to prevent the dismissal of its members by hindering the creation of independent Commissions. However, members of the HCJ should remember that regardless of their attitude to the law, they must comply with it. If they fail to make the above-mentioned decisions in time, the HCJ will completely block the restart of judicial administration bodies. Thus, all responsibility for possible failure of the next stage of the judicial reform will be on the HCJ.
The public warns the HCJ against deliberate blocking the process of creation of Ethics and Competition Committees and demands:
- to proceed to the discussion without delay and make decisions that will unblock the process of creation of the Ethics Commission within the HCJ and the Competition Commission on selection members to the HQCJ;
- to ensure maximum transparency of this process and public discussion of draft decisions;
- to delegate to the Ethics Commission three members who meet the criteria of integrity.
The Anti-Corruption Action Center