The Congress of Judges appointed the pre-agreed judges to the High Council of Judges once again
On March 9 and 10, the Congress of Judges appointed four new members of the High Council of Justice (HCJ) despite calls from G7 Ambassadors and Ukrainian NGOs not to appoint the candidates until a transparent selection procedure has been implemented. The newly selected members are Valeriy Sukhovyi, Serhiy Bolotin, Vitaliy Salikhov, and Inna Plakhtiy. The Congress was 8 votes short of appointing a pre-agreed candidate Oleksandr Korovaiko as a Constitutional Court judge.
It has come to light that the pre-agreed list of judges to vote for was distributed among the delegates. Candidates to the HCJ were also aware of the existence of such a list. In their speeches, some of them called on judges to vote rationally and independently, despite backroom dealing.

As a result of public pressure of NGOs and international partners, the Congress of Judges voted in favor of 'dark horse' candidates to the HCJ instead of the apparently corrupt judges. The Congress of Judges appointed three of the four HCJ candidates from the pre-agreed list, unlike Inna Plakhtiy, who was not on the list. Although the new members of the HCJ were not on the list of obviously corrupt judges, there are still some peculiar facts about their biography, and current selection procedure does not provide confidence in their integrity.

What do we know about the new HCJ members?
Serhiy Bolotin – the President of the Khmelnytskyi Court of Appeal
Serhiy Bolotin – the President of the Khmelnytskyi Court of Appeal

According to the analysis of our partners, Serhiy Bolotin built his career thanks to a lustrated member of the Yanukovych-era High Qualification Commission of Judges (HQCJ), Anatoliy Martsynkevych, who was the one to distribute the pre-agreed list of candidates among the Congress delegates. And it was Bolotin who replaced Martsynkevych as the President of the Court of Appeal of Khmelnytskyi when he resigned.

Despite a salary of UAH 200,000 per month, Bolotin privatized a state-owned apartment in 2016. At the time of receiving this apartment from the state, the judge already had another apartment, registered owner of which is his mother. In 2019, the judge sold a privatized apartment for UAH 408,000, and in 2020 bought a house for 2.7 mln hryvnia.
Inna Plakhtiy – the judge of the District Court of Lutsk
Inna Plakhtiy – the judge of the District Court of Lutsk.

During her speech at the Congress of Judges, Inna Plakhtiy thanked her "family of judges", in particular her father. Her father sentenced to death a soldier of the anti-communist Ukrainian Insurgent Army in a fabricated KGB case in 1987.

It later became known that Inna Plakhtiy may have been involved in requesting a bribe, and the Pechersk District Court authorized a personal search of the judge and her office. The judge herself states that the decision was not implemented. Although no search was conducted, the case was closed.
Vitaliy Salikhov – the judge of the Kyiv Court of Appeal
Vitaliy Salikhov – the judge of the Kyiv Court of Appeal.

In 2016, a panel of judges with the participation of judge Salikhov banned an attendant from videotaping a court hearing, violating his rights. The presiding judge stated at the meeting that "everyone present in the courtroom must unconditionally obey the presiding judge." At the same time, Salikhov did not react to the unlawful actions of the presiding judge.

The fourth selected member of the HCJ is the judge of the Administrative Court of Cassation of the Supreme Court Valeriy Sukhovyi.

The Executive Director of the DEJURE Foundation
The Congress of Judges ignored the appeals of the public, the position of international partners and appointed judges to the HCJ without the proper selection procedure and integrity checks.

An independent selection commission with international experts should be established immediately to review the integrity of current and future HCJ members. Such a commission must ensure the selection of the best of the best, not the lesser of evil, as the Congress of Judges did this time.
According to our sources, Oleksandr Korovayko, the President of the Kherson Court of Appeal, was a pre-agreed candidate to become the Constitutional Court judge. According to Prosud, he has been the President of the court more than 2 times in a row since 2012, which is explicitly prohibited by law.

Oleksandr Korovaiko lacked just eight votes to become elected, while other candidates received even fewer votes. Thus, the Congress of Judges was unable to appoint a judge of the Constitutional Court.

Advocacy Manager of the DEJURE Foundation
— Public pressure has forced the Congress of Judges delegates to abandon the idea of electing a pre-agreed judge Korovaiko non-competitively. This creates an opportunity for the Parliament to adopt a draft law on a transparent procedure for appointing judges of the Constitutional Court with a real check of their professionalism and integrity.

The concept of the relevant draft law has already been developed by the civic society organizations.

Preliminary approval of candidates for the key judiciary bodies indicates a lack of independence of the elected candidates and possible political or backroom influence on the decisions of the new members of the HCJ.

To avoid these risks, it is urgent to introduce a real competition and integrity check of both current and future HCJ members. Unfortunately, President Zelensky's draft law №5068 is not able to ensure a real reform of the HCJ and needs to be completed.
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