Sept 27, 2021
The Kyiv Post reported on September 24, “Ukraine’s judicial reform is stuck in limbo. The Council of Judges, Ukraine’s main professional judges’ association, continues to block this reform, despite President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s September promises to prevent sabotage.
This is bad news for Ukraine. Corruption in the courtroom is one of the country’s biggest problems, according to a broad international consensus. Ukraine’s international partners, including the G7 ambassadors, have lambasted the obstruction.
An important law creating a judicial reform map passed in July. It says that the country must create an Ethics Council to oversee the integrity of the judiciary’s main governing body, the discredited High Council of Justice.
The Ethics Council would hire and fire High Council of Justice members. It must contain three Ukrainian judges and three international experts. If a vote is split 3-to-3, international experts’ opinion must prevail.
International organizations have already nominated their experts for the Ethics Council but the Council of Judges failed to delegate its members in spite of Zelensky’s vow to ensure reform. So far, the president has done little to resolve this stalemate.
If Zelenskyy really wants to unblock the reform, he must submit amendments stipulating that the Ethics Council must start functioning without the representatives of the Council of Judges if they are not elected by a certain deadline, Vitaly Tytych, ex-head of judicial watchdog Public Integrity Council, told the Kyiv Post.
Zelenskyy’s spokesman Serhiy Nikiforov told the Kyiv Post that Zelenskyy would wait for the Council of Judges to delegate its representatives.
G7 ambassadors released a critical statement on Sept. 23. ‘G7 ambassadors continue to follow closely the process of judicial reform with concern,’ they said. ‘They note with disappointment the Council of Judges’ timetable for selecting candidates for the Ethics Council after international partners nominated theirs.’
‘The proposed timetable does not reflect the importance and urgency of this reform. Ambassadors continue to call on the Council of Judges and all partners to ensure the swift nomination of experts to the Ethics Council.’
Zelenskyy issued his own condemnation. ‘I will not allow sabotage of Ukraine’s main reform, which I promised to the Ukrainians and initiated,’ he said on Sept. 13. ‘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.’
On Sept. 16, top officials of Zelenskyy’s office, top judicial officials and G7 ambassadors met in an effort to find a way out of the impasse. However, no practical results have followed.”