Ukrainian National Bar Association - The UNBA urges to abandon the idea of dismissal of judges after their initial five-year term of office

The UNBA urges to abandon the idea of dismissal of judges after their initial five-year term of office

Advocacy 12:50 Tue 20.12.16 240 Reviews Print

The UNBA requests the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, as Guarantor of the Constitution, to ensure the right to access to justice by promoting the stable operation of the judicial system and to prevent politically motivated dismissal of judges from their posts.

This was referred to in the UNBA statement, which was also sent to the Speaker and leaders of parliamentary factions and the VRU special committee.

The reason for this request was the submission of amendments to the Law "On the High Council of Justice", which provides for a complete termination of labour relations with judges initially appointed for five years after the expiry of that term, with the subsequent exclusion of such judges from the members of relevant courts.

The UNBA requests the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Policy and Justice to reject the relevant amendments to the Law of Ukraine "On the High Council of Justice". The bar expresses a clear warning that a large-scale dismissal of judges is taking place in the judiciary.

"If there are courts with no judges already today, it is a disturbing symptom of the coming collapse of the judicial system. This is serious reason to believe that this is being made deliberately, also by way of introduction of such legislation. Victims of these mistakes will be all citizens of Ukraine, because they will be deprived of real opportunities to defend in courts their rights and legitimate interests, and the confidence of the society in the judiciary will decrease. Unfortunately, we can say that expectations of positive changes as a result of the judicial reform may not materialize. Due to the populism and the lack of professionalism on the part of some politicians and officials, the contents of this comprehensive reform risk being distorted up to the point that people are actually denied the right of access to justice", - referred the statement.

According to official information of the High Qualification Commission of Judges and the State Court Administration, as of today, due to the expiry of the initial five-year term, 969 judges do not carry justice. And as of 1 June 2016, more than 90% of the courts in Ukraine had 50% or less of active judges. There are also courts where there are no judges with authority at all. This situation leads to the fact that in certain administrative and territorial units of Ukraine citizens are denied the right to judicial protection guaranteed by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 55 of the Constitution of Ukraine.

In the UNBA opinion, the adoption of the aforementioned draft law will negatively affect the professionalism of the judiciary.

Evaluating such a draft law, one cannot overlook recommendations of the European partners. The initial five-year appointment to the post of a judge has always been considered by the European experts as an unacceptable approach that includes a possibility of political influence on the judiciary. In terms of professionalism of consideration of cases and the workload of judges, this approach is devoid of logic, as judges with a five-year term of appointment consider no less complex cases than their colleagues appointed for life.

"To take away their positions due to the procedure of appointment, under which they have entered the profession in accordance with the previous version of the Constitution, looks like a banal shifting of responsibility", - referred to the statement.

The UNBA predicts that as the result of the adoption of these legislative changes during 2017, about a thousand qualitatively trained, experienced, competent and respected judges will be dismissed.

"The society may certainly have reasonable questions concerning the integrity of certain holders of a mantle, but for addressing these issues, the legislation envisages an attestation procedure rather than a populist and political approach to their exclusion from the judiciary" - emphasized the statement.

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