Achievements of judicial reform: “View from Bankova” with Fedir Venislavskyi

Photo Ukrinform

At what stage is judicial reform in Ukraine? How many honest judges are in the country. And when Ukrainians will be able to obtain for only legal court decisions.

We are talking about this in the program “View from Bankova” on the UA TV channel with the MP (“Servant of the People” faction), the representative of the President of Ukraine in the Constitutional Court of Ukraine Fedir Venislavskyi.

Anna Nitchenko hosts the program.

– How do you assess the resonance caused by the publication of the Bellingcat investigation into the operation to detain the Wagnerians? What are the legal consequences of this situation?

– First, the resonance predicted by our political opponents did not happen. Because neither the Bellingcat investigation nor the investigation of the Temporary Commission of Inquiry (TSC) of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine established the fact of treason by senior officials of the Ukrainian state.

There are some facts from reality that our political opponents have tried to distort very much. And in recent days, this is especially noticeable, because they are talking about what exactly is not in the Bellingcat investigation.

However, TSC, after working for several months, prepared an interim report. Anyone can get acquainted with it on the website of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. But I would urge everyone to wait for the final report, which should be more complete, comprehensive, taking into account, in particular, the materials provided by Bellingcat investigative journalists.

In fact, there are three ways to investigate this event. The first is the Temporary Commission of Inquiry of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. The second is the State Bureau of Investigation, under the procedural guidance of the Office of the Prosecutor General, and criminal proceedings were registered on the information published in the media. And the third area is the investigative journalism of Bellingcat and Ukrainian journalists.

That’s when all this information is fully studied and summarized, then we can draw some conclusions.

But I would like to emphasize once again: Bellingcat and the commission of inquiry have not established the fact of treason, the fact of information leakage from the President’s Office.

– This year, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted a bill to resume the work of the High Qualification Commission of Judges. At what stage is the judicial reform in our country now?

– Yes, on July 16 this year, the Verkhovna Rada passed two key laws – on amendments to the law “On the Judiciary and the Status of Judges” and the law “On the High Council of Justice”. They provide for a completely new mechanism for the formation of the High Council of Justice and the selection of candidates for the High Qualifications Commission of Judges. In the first and second cases, there is a rule that international experts may in fact have the decisive right to prevent odious, dishonest candidates for these positions.

The President of Ukraine has repeatedly stated that judicial reform is one of the essential priorities of his activity and that of the Servant of the People political party.

To date, we have received the formed Ethics Council, which will select candidates for the High Council of Justice. And we have received a competition commission, which will select the composition of the High Qualification Commission of Judges (HCCJ). It is now necessary to resume the selection process within a few months and to receive recommendations from the Ethics Council on the composition of the High Council of Justice. And then the High Council of Justice on the basis of recommendations of the competitive commission will form the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine.

I predict that both the first and the second event will take place in a few months. We will have an effective composition of the High Qualification Commission of Judges, which will be able to immediately start filling vacancies in the courts. We will fill vacancies in the courts, and the activities of the renewed High Council of Justice will allow us to quickly and effectively prosecute odious judges who make unjust, opportunistic, illegal decisions.

– And what will judicial reform change for ordinary Ukrainians?

– The main goal of judicial reform is to restore trust. Every ordinary citizen who goes to court will be sure that there will be no decisions that contradict the ideas of the rule of law and justice. That is, a person must come to court and receive a fair court decision that will not raise questions in terms of legal reasoning, validity and application of legal norms.

– Is there unity today among the main players in the judicial sphere of Ukraine – judges, prosecutors, public organizations – on the need to reform the judicial system? And who is more – opponents or supporters?

– This is a very interesting question, because it does not have a single answer. It all depends on from whose point of view to assess the prospects of judicial reform.

The events of recent months have shown that the judiciary and the judiciary are not interested in establishing clear and understandable rules for conducting proceedings and making court decisions. The judiciary is very opposed to the initiatives of the President and our political force, which we are trying to implement.

And it turns out a paradoxical situation. Judges today in almost all courts have a very high level of salaries, ranging from UAH 30-40 thousand and ending with UAH 300-400 thousand per month. However, the level of trust in the judiciary is quite low.

Why is this happening? The question is very ambiguous. On the one hand, this is because decisions involving scandals are very resonant. Journalists and civil society always emphasize such scandalous decisions. And, as a rule, the perception of this information array gives the impression of the judiciary in general. At the same time, most court decisions are fair and correct.

There are also about 10-30% of judges who are not satisfied with their salaries and who, in addition to official sources of income, also have unofficial ones. We are talking about the corruption component. It is this corruption component that allows a narrow circle of judges to receive a lot of money, and this is why we have odious, often absurd decisions.

Therefore, of course, judges who are accustomed to participating in corruption schemes are very opposed to the judiciary and judicial reform.

However, the position of the expert community coincides with the position of the Verkhovna Rada, our political force. Everyone understands that it is necessary to conduct a very careful selection for the positions of judges of people who will not be subjected to corruption temptations in the judicial process, will make fair, lawful decisions. This goal can be achieved only when independent experts in the competition commissions, the Ethics Council will filter out odious, dishonest, unscrupulous candidates for these positions.

In general, society, citizens, our political force, and the Verkhovna Rada are interested in completing judicial reform as soon as possible. And a certain group of judges, of course, opposes and tries to put sticks in the wheels.

– And what is the president’s position on judicial reform?

– At all meetings, the President aims to purge the judiciary of judges who make unjust decisions. This is one of the most important priorities for the president. He always talks about it.

– The problem of corruption in the courts was acute almost the entire period of Ukraine’s independence. This was especially true of economic affairs. Are anti-corruption mechanisms sufficient now to prevent corruption in Ukrainian courts?

– I think that the anti-corruption mechanisms created and launched during our rule, during the term of our Verkhovna Rada and the powers of the President, are now absolutely sufficient for anti-corruption activities to be conducted effectively.

We have the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, which is very authoritative and has very important mechanisms for formulating anti-corruption strategies and preventing corruption. We have the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, which conducts pre-trial investigations. We have unblocked the activities of the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court, which is to hear cases prepared by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau.

That is, in general, the system of anti-corruption bodies is sufficient for these bodies to function. But there are still some important steps to be taken to change the legal framework, including criminal procedure law, which will allow pre-trial investigation bodies to perform their functions more effectively.

I think we should get obvious results in the near future. But the main thing to emphasize is that the anti-corruption system is completely independent. All mechanisms have been created and they must now demonstrate their effectiveness.

– How do our partners assess the judicial reform of Ukraine? I mean the United States and other partner countries.

– The initiatives that came from the president and our political force and were implemented in law are highly appreciated by both the ambassadors of the G7 countries and the international expert community. Everyone supports our initiatives.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that when the Council of Judges did not nominate its candidates to the Ethics Council, a round table was initiated with the participation of G7 ambassadors, representatives of the President’s Office, the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Legal and Anti-Corruption Policy. And we managed to unlock this process. And in many respects thanks to such active position of our international partners.

Therefore, of course, they support and understand that this reform is one of the key to building Ukraine as a state governed by the rule of law.

To remind, Ukraine’s international partners congratulated the establishment of the Ethics Council for judicial reform.