In the previous material, we analyzed what the Public Integrity Council is and the main principles and results of its work. However, since December 2020 — when the mandate of the last composition of the Council expired — a new piece has not been elected. Why? Let’s find out in this material.
Why has the Public Integrity Council yet to be re-elected since 2020?
In 2019, a presidential law was adopted, which provided for the dissolution of the High Qualification Commission of Judges and a new principle for its formation due to the inability of the Commission to provide quality renewal and cleaning of the judicial corps (less than 1% of judges did not pass the inspection). And it is only possible to elect members of the Public Integrity Council with the current members of the High Qualification Commission of Judges. At first, the High Council of Justice blocked the formation of a competitive commission to select new members of the High Qualification Commission of Judges, and then specific provisions of the Law were generally recognized as unconstitutional.
A new attempt to form the High Qualification Commission of Judges was made in the summer of 2021, after the adoption of the Law on the restoration of the work of the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine (1629-IX), which did not fully resolve the problem of the excessive influence of the then corrupt High Council of Justice on the formation of the Commission. The High Council of Justice lost its authority on the eve of a full-scale invasion due to most members writing resignation letters, fearing an investigation of their integrity by the Ethics Council.
A significant lever of influence on solving this problem appeared during the full-scale invasion when in June 2022, Ukraine received the status of a candidate for the EU. In this regard, the European Commission provided Seven Recommendations on critically essential reforms, one of which was the relaunch of the High Qualification Commission of Judges and the High Council of Justice members integrity verification.
When will the new composition of the Public Integrity Council become operational, and why is it important?
First, it is necessary to form a full-fledged composition of the High Qualification Commission of Judges to elect a new composition of the Public Integrity Council. However, in the critical conditions of full-scale war, the key bodies for checking the integrity of judges and judicial candidates received hope for a restart. The Recommendation of the European Commission in connection with Ukraine’s acquisition of the status of a candidate for the EU requires the completion of the verification of the members of the High Council of Justice by the Ethics Council and the formation of a new composition of the High Qualification Commission of Judges.
A significant step was the renewal of the selection process of new members of the High Council of Justice and verifying their integrity by the Ethics Council. In January 2023, the minimum number of members required for the High Council of Justice was elected (15 out of 21), and therefore the body became full-fledged again. It gives a chance to form a new composition of the High Qualification Commission of Judges, which had not worked for almost three years. From February 2023, the competitive Commission with international experts selected 32 candidates from among 301 applications, from which the High Council of Justice should choose 16. Interviews took place during May 2-12, but their results have yet to be discovered.
So, the new composition of the High Qualification Commission of Judges can start working soon. It means that after the start of the work of the Commission, a meeting of representatives of public associations must be announced to elect a new member of the Public Integrity Council. When will this happen? It depends on the speed of decision-making by the unique composition of the High Qualification Commission of Judges, but it will likely be in the second half of 2023.
The election of a new member of the Public Integrity Council is critical to exercising public control over the selection of judges and checking their integrity because the Council is currently the most influential body accessible to the public. The new composition of the Public Integrity Council and the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine may be able to provide a new impetus to resolve previous contradictions and increase the efficiency of work, which has a chance to improve the integrity of representatives of the judicial branch of government and, most importantly, to increase the indicators of citizens’ trust in the judiciary in Ukraine.
You can find short information about these below:
This document is prepared by the Reanimation Package of Reforms Coalition with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) within the framework of the project ” Ukraine Responsive and Accountable Politics Program” (U-RAP), which is implemented by the National Democratic Institute. The opinions expressed in this document belong to the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID.