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Ukraine: Judges Will Be Subjected to Lustration

(May 9, 2014) On April, 8, 2014, the Verkhovna Rada (legislature) of Ukraine almost unanimously approved a Law under which a special commission will be formed to review judgments issued by Ukrainian judges in cases concerning the participants in revolutionary street protests in the capital city, Kyiv, during the period of November 2013-February 2014. The commission will assess the degree of the judges’ collaboration with the previous government authorities (Law of Ukraine No. 1188-VII on Restoring Confidence in the Judiciary in Ukraine [in Ukrainian] (Apr. 8, 2014), Verkhovna Rada website).

The Temporary Special Commission, comprised of 15 people recommended by the Supreme Court of Ukraine, the Government Agency for Anti-Corruption Policy, and the Verkhovna Rada, will be appointed to review the rulings of judges who participated in trials involving the protesters (id. art. 4). The goal of the Commission is to verify that those judges who made decisions to restrict the rights of citizens to hold rallies and meetings after November 21, 2013 (id., art. 3.1.1), imprisoned people who participated in the mass protests (who are recognized as political prisoners) (id. art. 3.1.2), or imposed administrative penalties on citizens who took part in the mass protests (id. arts. 3.1.3 & 3.1.4) did not breach their oath to serve justice and conduct a fair trial or violate the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (id. art. 3.2).

Members of the Commission must have legal education and must not occupy administrative positions in courts, not have worked in law enforcement during the last ten years, and not be affiliated with any political party for the last five years. Five of them must be retired judges (id. art. 4.4). The Commission’s hearings will be open to the public, and its decisions, together with monthly reports naming the judges under investigation, will be published online (id. arts. 4.11 & 4.12). The Commission’s decisions will be made by the majority of its members, and judges under investigation or their representatives may be present during proceedings (id. art. 6.5). Cases of judges found to be in violation of the law or of their professional oath will be heard by the Supreme Council of Justice, the highest professional authority for Ukrainian judges, which has the power to impose disciplinary punishment, including dismissal, on the judges (id. art. 7.7).

Pro-democratic forces believe that the implementation of this Law will raise the authority of the judiciary in Ukraine, restore rule of law, and enhance public confidence in the courts (Lustration in Ukraine Will Start in Courts [in Russian], UA-TODAY.COM (Apr. 10, 2014)). At the same time, pro-Russian circles have accused Ukrainian leaders, arguing that the law indicates Ukrainians want to take revenge and get rid of their political opponents in the judiciary (Lustration in Ukraine: Who are the Judges? [in Russian], VESTIFM (Mar. 27, 2014)).

Prepared by Olena Yatsunska, affiliated researcher, under the supervision of Peter Roudik, Director of Legal Research.