Constitutional experts have called on Ukraine to take action on judicial reform.
The Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional matters – better known as the Venice Commission – has adopted an opinion on the ‘Draft Law on amendments to the law on the judiciary and the status of judges of Ukraine,’ prepared by the National Commission for Strengthening Democracy and the Rule of Law.
According to the commission, the new draft law submitted for opinion represents a clear improvement over earlier proposals. The new draft appears to have – at least partially – reversed the earlier decision to effectively deprive the Supreme Court of much of its jurisdiction and would appear to restore it to its position as the highest judicial body in the system of courts. The provisions concerning disciplinary measures and dismissal of judges are much clearer and ensure respect for their rights when a complaint is made against them.
The Venice Commission therefore welcomes the draft law and encourages the Ukrainian authorities to adopt it taking into account its recommendations.
At the same time, some important recommendations of the Venice Commission could not be addressed in the draft law since they would require amending the Constitution. These include the role of the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) in the appointment and dismissal of judges, which risks politicising the judicial system, and the existence of a five-year probationary period for judges, established in Article 126 of the Constitution.
In its opinion the commission notes: “During this first temporary appointment, judges have less room for independence from the political power, both executive and legislative. It should be ensured that judges in these temporary positions cannot be appointed to deal with major cases with strong political implications.”
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