Zelensky argues that the reform is with conflicting clauses, but others are worried that the Presidents veto will do more damage than good.
The long-awaited judicial reform bill passed the second hearing in parliament two weeks ago, but President Volodymyr Zelensky has now stopped it. He has vetoed the bill because he is worried that a new amendment will undermine the role of foreign experts in the future appointments of judges in Ukraine, which is vital, according to foreign experts.
International institutions and organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, IMF, have asked for wide-scale reforms of the judiciary for years. The Ukrainian courts are often accused of being corrupt, and IMF has asked for Ukraine to give foreign experts power to determine who can qualify to become a high court judge in Ukraine to better the problem. The main problem is with the High Qualification Commission of Judges, which is the body that hires and fires judges in the Ukrainian judicial system. The body has been accused of being corrupt for years, and it is impossible to reform the system without also reforming it.
In the new bill, foreign experts will get veto power when selecting candidates for the High Qualification Commission of Judges. It is seen as a positive step by foreign institutions and experts, but the bill has now been blocked by Zelensky, who is worried that an amendment will undermine the role of the foreign experts.
Kyiv Post writes that while one clause in the new bill gives foreign experts a crucial role in selecting candidates for the High Qualification Commission of Judges, another clause is doing the opposite. As a result, Zelensky has vetoed the bill to pressure parliament to remove the second clause so that the role of the foreign experts is clear.
Not so simple
While the President’s veto on one side is a positive move, there are also problems. Roman Maselko, an ex-member of judicial watchdog Public Integrity Council, wrote on Facebook that Zelensky would also like to include new clauses, making the reform less effective.
“He didn’t use the opportunity to improve the bill and didn’t propose restricting the High Council of Justice’s ability to nullify the reform,” wrote Maselko, according to Kyiv Post, “Instead, he initiated proposals that do not improve the bill at all.”
Among other things, experts say that Zelensky wants to include a clause that will mean that only judges and former judges can be appointed to the High Qualification Commission of Judges. They argue that it is problematic because the whole system is rotten, and it is a risk to the system if only people within the system – judges or ex-judges – can get a role.
Furthermore, in the bill, the High Qualification Commission of Judges will consist of three Ukrainian judges and three foreign experts, who will decide. In case of a split decision, the words of the foreign experts would prevail, but a new amendment suggested by a parliament member from Zelensky’s party, Servants of the People, wants to change that.
Others are also criticizing that the High Council of Justice, which can recruit members for the High Qualification Commission, will keep a lot of influence in the new bill. The High Council of Justice has also been accused of being corrupt by several organizations.