“Does Ukraine need a gradual or a radical reform of the judiciary?” Students debated this question in the first round of DRI’s annual national tournament, “Constitution: the road to change“, held in Kyiv from 20-21 October.
Aimed at educating students and youth as well as sparking their interest in contributing to the democratic reform process, the debate was structured in the Oxford style and involved teams from the Institute of International Relations of Kyiv National Shevchenko University (IIR) and the All-Ukrainian CSO “European Youth of Ukraine’ on the theme”: Dismissal of all judges or re-assessment?
A lottery decided that the IIR team would support the notion that all present judges should be replaced – students argued it was essential in order to satisfy society’s demand to fully renew the judiciary and restore their trust in it. “Only this will help to eradicate corruption, establish democracy and the rule of law,” the team concluded. Nevertheless, they agreed that until new judges are selected on the basis of open competition, the current ones should continue to perform their duties to safeguard the international principle of judicial continuity.
Opposing the motion, the CSO “European Youth of Ukraine” stressed the necessity of a step-by-step re-assessment of judges to prevent paralysing the already overloaded courts, and suggested a type of “audit” process to keep qualified specialists in the judicial system. The team noted that the application of the collective liability principle was contrary to European practices and the Venice Commission’s position.
“On the one hand, accepting individual liability is appropriate in order to cleanse the system of corrupt judges, on the other, removing all the current judges, according to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, is inadmissible except in special cases,” the team argued. The European Youth activists emphasised that neither of the methods would guarantee a 100% corrupt-free judiciary.
Both sides agreed that reforming the legal sphere is crucial and urgent. They also concurred on the need to monitor the lifestyle and assets of judges, and highlighted the role of the Public Council for Integrity.
A panel of three judges concluded that the teams performed almost on par with each other. They declared the “European Youth of Ukraine” team the winner by a narrow margin (scores of 201 and 192 points). The winning team also gained 30 points for having the “best debater”: Anna Roshchyk. DRI national representative in Ukraine Bohdan Nahajlo congratulated the winners and awarded them Amazon Book certificates as prizes.
The Kyiv competition kicked off a series of student workshops later planned in other Ukrainian cities in 2016-17.
The workshop was a two-day event. On the first day, the participants were trained in public speaking and debating by Oleksandr Palko, the President of the Comma Eloquence Training Club and offered the lecture by Andriy Kozlov, DRI Senior Legal Advisor, on general context and issues entailed in judiciary reform. On the second day, the actual debates in front of the jury and public took place. The jury panel was composed of Mykola Gnatovsky, DRI Senior Constitutional Expert and Professor at the IIR, Yuliya Kyrychenko, Expert of the Center for Political and Legal Reforms, and Vasyl Babych, DRI Project Officer.
To read more about upcoming events read here.