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Ukraine’s judicial reform, explained

by Oleg SukhovNovember 29, 2021 6:00 am
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(Constitutional Court/Facebook)

Why is the reform needed?

Ukraine’s judiciary remains corrupt, dysfunctional and politicized. Its governing bodies — the High Council of Justice and the High Qualification Commission — are discredited because they have protected tainted judges.

The previous High Qualification Commission was disbanded in 2019 by a law introduced by President Volodymyr Zelensky. Sabotage has prevented a new one from forming.

How does the reform work?

Both foreign experts and Ukrainian judges are supposed to take part in the creation of a new High Qualification Commission and in firing and hiring members of the High Council of Justice. Foreign experts will have a decisive role if the vote is split to guarantee that the process is independent from corrupt actors in Ukraine.

What’s the current status of the reform?

The judicial reform law was passed in July.

A professional judge association, the Council of Judges, delayed delegating members to the Ethics Council, which will hire and fire High Council of Justice members, for months. The Ethics Council was formed automatically on Nov. 9, as the law required.

In September international organizations and the Council of Judges also delegated their representatives for selecting a new High Qualification Commission of Judges. But the panel has yet to meet due to the delayed reform.

How can the reform be blocked?

In October, the Supreme Court asked the Constitutional Court to review the law, which may lead to its cancelation. The notorious Kyiv District Administrative Court, headed by corruption suspect judge Pavlo Vovk, may also try to cancel the reform.

"The High Council of Justice and the Council of Judges are also pushing to amend the law and rules of procedure. Such amendments may destroy the reform,” according to legal think tank DEJURE.

Oleg Sukhov
Oleg Sukhov
Political reporter

Oleg Sukhov is a political reporter at the Kyiv Independent. He is a former editor and reporter at the Moscow Times. He has a master's degree in history from the Moscow State University. He moved to Ukraine in 2014 due to the crackdown on independent media in Russia and covered war, corruption, reforms and law enforcement for the Kyiv Post.

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