At a meeting at the President's Office on 18 February, representatives of the Office, the Parliament and the judiciary discussed the possibility of extending the deadline for checking the integrity of the current HCJ members. Such an initiative undermines the pace of judicial reform initiated by President Zelensky and will mean a conscious setback in reform.
Judges and MPs stressed that a rapid inspection of the current HCJ members within six months, as required by current law, could provoke a "collapse of the judiciary" because the dismissal of the HCJ members as a result of the vetting would mean the incompetence of the HCJ.
This thesis was denied by Lev Kyshakevych, the Head of the Ethics Council. He noted at the meeting that the beginning of the vetting of the current HCJ members does not automatically lead to the removal and termination of their powers - this is possible only after the vetting, the interview and in case of non-compliance with the criteria of integrity and professional ethics. Thus, the Ethics Council's vetting in the near future will in no way affect the competency of the HCJ.
Experts of the DEJURE Foundation agree with Lev Kyshakevych and emphasize that there will be no collapse of the judiciary as a result of the vetting and dismissal of members of the HCJ of low integrity.
"If you think about what the representatives of judges and MPs are saying, it turns out that members of the HCJ of low integrity cannot be dismissed now, their dismissal must be extended for years so that this unreformed HCJ can take control of the newly formed HQCJ and manage the appointments of 2,500 judges throughout Ukraine. That is, they propose to roll back the judicial reform of Volodymyr Zelensky because it is the cleansing of the High Council of Justice that is the essence of the reform. Covering up the reluctance to reform the judiciary with war is very convenient, but ineffective. The struggle for a fair trial for all is the same battlefront as in the east, but internal. Any concessions here will mean President Zelensky's capitulation in judicial reform.”
- said Mykhailo Zhernakov, Chair of the Board of the DEJURE Foundation.
The expert stressed that Ukrainians and international partners should not be intimidated by the "collapse" of the judiciary in the event of dismissal of the HCJ members as a result of the vetting by the Ethics Council.
“There are three reasons why the promised "collapse" of the judiciary will not happen. First, the HCJ does not exercise most of its powers anyway, so if the HCJ becomes incompetent, a couple more months without it (until new members are selected) will not be critical to the judiciary. Secondly, in the event of a military threat and the need to evacuate courts, the SJA can do everything necessary. Thirdly, in the absence of a quorum, the vacancies in the HCJ can be filled in 2-3 months - competitions to fill five vacancies in the HCJ are already underway. Every day of the current HCJ members in office means another day of corruption, mutual guarantee and preservation of the judicial system, which is trusted by two per cent of Ukrainian citizens.”
- commented Mykhailo Zhernakov.
The Ethics Council, which will reform the HCJ, was formed on November 9, 2021. According to the law on the HCJ reform, the current HCJ members must be checked for integrity and professional ethics within six months of the start of the Ethics Council. On the eve of the inspection, the acting Head of the HCJ Oleksiy Malovatsky and the member of the HCJ Pavlo Hrechkivsky resigned.