Sept 14, 2021
The Kyiv Post reported on September 14, “The Council of Judges, the main professional association of Ukrainian judges, on Sept. 13 blocked Ukraine’s judicial reform.
The judges’ association failed to get enough votes to elect three representatives to the Ethics Council, a body crucial for cleansing Ukraine’s judiciary under one of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s two judicial reform bills.
Out of the 26 members of the Council of Judges, 16 did not vote for any of the candidates. The deadline for their election expired on Sept. 13. The Council of Judges also called on the Verkhovna Rada and the Supreme Court to revise the judicial reform legislation. Under the procedure, the Supreme Court may file a motion with the Constitutional Court to recognize the current judicial reform as unconstitutional.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reproached the Council of Judges in a statement.‘I will not allow sabotage of Ukraine’s main reform, which I promised to the Ukrainians and initiated,’ he said. ‘Each unlawful action aimed at blocking judicial reform will be met with an immediate assessment and response. I will not allow judges who thwart reform and the cleansing of the judiciary to deprive the Ukrainians of the right to justice.’
There will be a meeting on Sept. 16 at the President’s Office with the participation of judicial top officials, representatives of parliament and G7 ambassadors in an effort to resolve the problem, the President’s Office said.
Mykhailo Zhernakov, head of the legal think-tank DEJURE, said that “judges are protecting the corrupt and unreformed High Council of Justice because they fear what may happen to them.”
The bill on creating the Ethics Council was passed in July. The Ethics Council, made up of three Ukrainian judges and three international experts, is expected to fire and hire members of the High Council of Justice, the judiciary’s main governing body, based on ethics and integrity standards. If the vote is split three to three, international experts’ opinion will prevail.
International organizations have already nominated their experts for the Ethics Council.
Explaining the Council of Judges’ rationale, its head Bohdan Monych said on Sept. 13 that he believed the reform legislation should be revised because Ukrainian judges would not have sufficient voting powers. He denied the accusations of sabotage.
Monych told the Kyiv Post that the Council of Judges would delegate its representatives if the reform is revised. Specifically, he wants the quorum at Ethics Council meetings to be increased from two members to four.
Civic activists and judicial experts argue, however, that such a quorum will allow Ukrainian judges to sabotage Ethics Council meetings by not attending them.”