Foto af Wesley Tingey hos Unsplash

The Council of Judges, which is the professional association of Ukrainian judges, has blocked the judicial reform.

Judicial reform has been on the agenda for a long time and a top of the list goal for President Volodimir Zelensky, but on the way the reform has hit road block after road block. The last one was the yesterday, where the Council of Judges failed to elect three representatives to the Ethics Council, Kyiv Post reports.

The Ethics Council is a central instrument in the new reform aiming at cleaning up the judiciary which is often accused of being corrupt, but now it has been blocked, as out of the 26 members of the Council of Judges, 16 did not vote for any of the candidates before the deadline yesterday.

“I will not allow sabotage of Ukraine’s main reform, which I promised to the Ukrainians and initiated,” he said. “Each unlawful action aimed at blocking judicial reform will be met with an immediate assessment and response. I will not allow judges who thwart reform and the cleansing of the judiciary to deprive the Ukrainians of the right to justice,” said Zelensky following the vote.

In addition to the three representatives of the Ukrainian judiciary, the ethics council is supposed to be made up of three international experts. These six people are expected to fire and hire the members of the High Council of Judges and is going to – in time – rid Ukraine of corrupt judges, thereby cleaning the entire judiciary from the top down. At least in theory.

The reform itself

In the judiciary reform, there are two bills that look quite similar. First of all they will be selecting a new High Qualification Commission of Judges consisting of three judges and three foreign experts, who will decide whether or not a person can become a judge.

The problem, some say, is that four of the panellists are required for approval of a candidate, which some fear will mean that the Ukrainian members of the commission might block reform friendly candidates.

The second bill for the High Council of Justice would introduce an Ethics Council again made up by three Ukrainian judges and three foreign experts. They have the power to suspend High Council of Justice members, if they violate ethics and integrity standards.

Some fear that the division – 3 Ukrainians and 3 foreigners – could mean that the Ukrainian judges might block a suspension of a tainted judge. To sum it up, the fear is that in one bill, a single judge is enough to keep good candidates from becoming judges, while in the other bill, a single judge is enough to keep corrupt judges at the helm.