The Ukrainian judiciary is finally changing. All levels of courts have been reorganised, the procedure for the appointment of judges has been modified, the High Council of Justice established (including civil society representative), an open competitive selection of judges to the Supreme Court is underway, and judicial immunity is being partially lifted. However, ordinary citizens should not expect that results of the reform will be felt immediately. These were the key points from the public discussion “Judicial reform 2016: what results should we expect in 2017?” organised by DRI in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on 12 December 2016.
Serhiy Petukhov, Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine, noted that not only the courts, but the entire justice system is being overhauled. For example, the launch of the State Investigation Bureau will bring a significant change to the system of investigative bodies. The reforms will also extend to the penitentiary system, out-of-court settlement and mediation, enforcement service and other elements of the judiciary. Volodymyr Kravchuk, judge of Lviv District Administrative Court, President of the Association for the Development of Judges’ Self-government in Ukraine, welcomes the judicial reform. He nevertheless expressed some concern because the Parliament does not adopt laws to address the serious understaffing in courts and delays in establishing new courts. Yuliya Kyrychenko, constitutional law projects manager of the Centre for Political and Legal Reforms, emphasised the need to expand the powers of the Public Council for Integrity, and provide it with real leverage over the judicial selection process. She also warned against the Parliament approving the important laws regarding the High Council of Justice and the Constitutional Court under a shortened procedure, rather than through a proper legislative process. Ruslana Vovk, DRI Legal Expert/Project Manager, focused on how the reforms are perceived abroad. She noted that the justice reform is viewed in Europe as the first comprehensive systemic change in Ukraine. The reform was developed by highly professional specialists with involvement of civil society and international stakeholders and gives grounds for optimism. Andriy Kozlov, member of the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine, reminded the participants about the urgent necessity to start active work on preparing the law on the High Anti-Corruption Court.
What’s wrong with the Constitution and how to amend it: the perspective of Lviv’s youth
On 11-12 December 2016, DRI organised trainings for Lviv’s students and a debate within the framework of its national debate contest “The Constitution: on the road to change”. Teams from the youth organisations “ELSA Lviv” and “Young Diplomacy” discussed the feasibility of adopting the Constitution of Ukraine by referendum. Serhiy Petukhov, Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine, provided training on public speaking skills, while Yuliya Kyrychenko, constitutional law projects manager of the Centre of Political and Legal Reforms, briefed the students about the legislation pertaining to referendums. During the debated, the “ELSA Lviv” team argued that the adoption of a new Constitution by the Parliament would promote the search for consensus between the different political forces, and noted that there is neither a legal framework nor possible abuse prevention mechanisms for the adoption of the Constitution by referendum. The “Young Diplomacy” team emphasised that the people are the source of power, thus, direct governance by the people should be ensured through a referendum on the constitution. The jury composed of Serhiy Petukhov, Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine, Ruslana Vovk, DRI (Berlin) Legal Expert/Project Manager, Yuliya Kyrychenko, constitutional law projects manager of the Centre of Political and Legal Reforms, and Nadiya Pashkova, representative of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, announced “ELSA Lviv” as the winning team.