NGOs welcome the President’s initiative to restart the High Qualification Commission of Judges (HQCJ) and to involve international experts in the process. At the same time, the positives can be offset by significant shortcomings contained in the bill.
Bill No. 1008, submitted by Volodymyr Zelensky, provides for a complete update of the composition of the HQCJ and gives a key role to the international experts in this process. Exactly six months ago, international experts secured the integrity of the High Anticorruption Court, so we are convinced that they will contribute to the formation of a virtuous HQJC.
The presidential bill also provides for a mechanism to control the already elected members of the Supreme Court of Justice and the High Council of Justice (HCJ). Thus, it is proposed to create an ethics committee of three international experts and three HCJ members. The task of the commission is to monitor the integrity of the members of the HQCJ and the HCJ. In the presence of facts of dishonesty, the ethics committee will be able to initiate the dismissal of such member.
However, in order to initiate the dismissal of a dishonest member of the HQCJ or the HCJ, such a decision must be supported by at least one HCJ representative in that commission, and the final decision on the dismissal is taken by the HCJ itself. It is doubtful that HCJ members will vote for the dismissal of their own colleagues. Therefore, in order for the Ethics Commission to be effective, the role of international experts in it should be strengthened, as it was during the selection of judges of the High Anti-Corruption Court.
Also, the bill does not eliminate the problem of retaining hundreds of unfair judges who have already undergone a qualification, and the procedure for selecting judges of the Supreme Court has not been determined. The approval by the current HCJ of the newly elected HQCJ’s regulation creates the risks of creating artificial obstacles to the activities of the HQCJ and its excessive dependence on the position of the HCJ.
Therefore, we suggest at least:
We are convinced that only such changes will help achieve the purpose of the bill and we urge the members of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Legal Policy to initiate the corresponding amendments to the Bill No. 1008.
Transparency International Ukraine
Anticorruption Action Centre
Avtomaidan All-Ukrainian Association