The arrest of the President of the Supreme Court, Vsevolod Kniazev, and the exposure of a large-scale corruption scheme in the Supreme Court, according to the judges themselves, became a “black day” for the judicial system of Ukraine. Furthermore, NABU and SAPO reported on attempts of the criminal group to influence the election of members of the High Qualification Commission of Judges because, as the head of the Supreme Court, Knyazev was also a member of the HCJ.
This disclosure raises concerns about the outcome of the appointment of the members of the HQCJ, especially given the critical importance of this body. The European future of our country depends on the restart of this body because the successful holding of the competition is one of the conditions for opening negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the EU. At the same time, it is the newly elected HQCJ that will determine the future of Ukraine’s judiciary for the next ten years because this body is responsible for the selection of 2,500 new judges – almost half of the judicial corps.
In order to eliminate the doubts of society and international partners regarding the non-transparency of the appointment of the new composition of the HQCJ and to ensure trust in it, we call on the High Council of Justice to take the following steps:
1. Do not delay the process of appointing the new composition of the HQCJ
On May 12, the High Council of Justice held the last interviews with candidates for the HQCJ. Accordingly, all stages of the competition have ended, and now members of the High Council of Justice have only to evaluate what they have heard and appoint the winners of the competition. However, any delays and prolongation of the election process will only provoke doubts of both the Ukrainian society and our Western partners regarding the absence of external influence on the results of the competition. Moreover, the report of the European Commission on Ukraine’s progress in carrying out reforms is expected in early June.
2. Appoint only those whose integrity is not in doubt, in particular change agents, as members of the HQCJ
It is important that the new HQCJ consists of members whose integrity is beyond doubt. Agents of change who will be able to resist the pressure of the “judicial mafia” and fulfil the tasks facing the new composition should be among them. There are such candidates on the list.
3. Ensure open roll-call voting of members of the HCJ for each candidate
Given the information about the possible impact, voting for members of the HQCJ behind closed doors will only contribute to increasing distrust in the appointment process. Recently, the HCJ has already heeded the call of the G7 Ambassadors and NGOs to broadcast interviews with candidates openly. It is crucial to continue transparent selection practices, especially considering the context of NABU and SAPO statements. Such a step should be an open roll-call vote of HCJ members for each candidate. The requirement for the openness of the HCJ voting is already established by law and must be observed. Ensuring roll-call voting for the initiatives of the HCJ can become another positive practice of this composition.
Anti-Corruption Action Centre
Centre for Economic Strategy