The legislation No.5068 got a go-ahead by 259 votes bringing updates for election (appointment) of High Court of Justice (HCJ) members and activities of disciplinary inspectors of HCJ. The policy was put forward by Volodymyr Zelensky who earlier called for it urgent adoption.
The law is seen as part of big overhaul of the judiciary system and aims to ensure that candidates seeking HCJ positions meet ‘criteria of professional ethics and integrity’, which will help ‘increase public trust to judicial bodies and judiciary system of Ukraine’.
New law on High Council of Justice. Key takeaways
The High Council of Justice is a powerful judicial establishment that claims a right to appoint, dismiss, punish, and persecute judges. The new law amends several key procedures of HCJ functioning.
Establishment of Ethics Council
It will include six, active and retired, judges appointed by the Council of Judges and three appointed by international organizations with experience of working with Ukraine on anti-corruption and judicial reform issues.
HCJ current members and new candidates are set to be ‘vetted’ by Ethics Council
Tighter eligibility criteria
To be eligible for the election (appointment) to the High Council of Justice, a candidate must be a citizen of Ukraine who has attained the age of thirty five, has command of the state language, has a university degree in law and not less than fifteen years of working experience in the area of law, belongs to the legal profession and meets the criteria of political neutrality.
Introduction of Inspectorate Service of the High Council of Justice
Its inspectors will be tasked with preliminary assessment of HCJ members’ competence, disciplinary cases, collecting information, drafting proposals and decisions.
The updated law drew criticism of MPs from different parties. The ‘European Solidarity’ MP Ruslan Knyazevych argued that by disbanding the patronage service of disciplinary inspectors the law ‘deprives HCJ members of an opportunity to look into appeals to hold judges and prosecutors accountable’. With appeals coming through the Secretariat of High Council of Justice, HCJ members will have only ‘ceremonial duties’ being unable to investigate cases beyond that, said Knyazevych.
‘Batkivshchyna’ MPs claimed that the new policy will allow the government to ‘exercise control over the judiciary system in a manual mode’.