The Verkhovna Rada on Dec. 13 approved a bill on the Constitutional Court that may deal a blow to Ukraine's European integration prospects and allow the president to fully control the court, legal experts say.
"By voting for this bill, you are not only disrupting European integration but also enabling the usurpation of power," Mykhailo Zhernakov, head of legal think-tank Dejure, wrote on Facebook, addressing the lawmakers.
Ukraine's dysfunctional Constitutional Court has been involved in many scandals and controversies. Ukraine's Western partners and civil society have called for reforming the institution and replacing discredited judges with independent and honest ones.
The bill was passed by the Rada in the second and final reading. To become law, it must be signed by the president.
Under the bill, a panel of experts will be able to approve or reject candidates for Constitutional Court jobs based on ethics and integrity standards. There will be three representatives of the Ukrainian government and three foreign experts on the panel.
Ukraine's foreign partners and civic activists have called for giving foreign experts a crucial role in the process by ensuring that their vote will prevail if the vote is split 3 to 3. However, the Verkhovna Rada refused to give them such a role.
Dejure argues that, under the current version of the bill, pro-government experts will be able to block any independent candidates. As a result, the President's Office will be able to handpick loyalists and fully control the Constitutional Court, according to Dejure.
The authorities have denied the accusations.
On Dec. 9, G7 ambassadors said that foreign experts should have a crucial role in the selection of Constitutional Court judges.
"The adoption of a new selection procedure is necessary for appointments. It is important that DL 7662 allows for meaningful involvement of independent experts, including a casting vote," the ambassadors said on Twitter.
Ukraine’s unreformed Constitutional Court has faced mounting criticism since it destroyed Ukraine’s entire asset declaration system for state officials in 2020, eliminating a crucial pillar of the country’s anti-corruption infrastructure.
Oleksandr Tupytsky, a former chairman of the Constitutional Court, has been involved in several corruption scandals and has been charged in several criminal cases. He fled Ukraine after Russia launched its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24 and is currently wanted by Ukrainian law enforcement.