20/03/2015 - 21/03/2015
Scuola San Giovanni Evangelista - An opinion issued by the Venice Commission, stated that the main obstacles to ensuring an independent judiciary in Ukraine lies in constitutional provisions.
Even though Ukraine is facing a particularly trying time, the issue of ensuring an independent judiciary is essential for a more democratic future of the country, experts said in the plenary.
The Law on the Judicial System and the Status of Judges is rooted in the existing constitution, which prevents fundamental changes in the judicial system, said experts from the Venice Commission and the Council of Europe’s Directorate of Human Rights, who co-authored the opinion.
Experts said that the law was generally “coherent” and “well put together” and appeared to follow previous recommendations. Improvements cited include strengthening the role of the Supreme Court as guarantor of the unity of jurisprudence, an emphasis on the ceremonial role of the President in judicial appointments and the introduction of a list of grounds for liability for “breach of oath”.
Yet, some serious problems need to be addressed both at the constitutional and at the legislative level: the role of the Verkhovna Rada should be excluded in the appointment to permanent posts, dismissal of judges and lifting their immunities; the composition of the High Council of Justice should be modified so as to ensure that it mainly consists of judges elected by their peers; the power of the President to establish and liquidate courts should be removed from the Constitution.
The provisions of the law on the qualification assessment of judges should provide appropriate safeguards and be harmonised with the lustration process, the opinion pointed out. “Despite the wish of the authorities to see incompetent and corrupt members of the judiciary removed from office, if this to be achieved it has to be carries out in a fair and proportionate manner, which does not compromise judicial independence,” the experts said.
The co-operation with the Ukrainian authorities on amending the “Lustration Law” in Ukraine was also discussed. New opinion on the amendments to the Law is to be presented at the next plenary session of the Venice Commission in June.
Other opinions adopted following the Venice Commission’s plenary session include that on draft amendments to a media law in Montenegro. Experts expressed “strong reservations” about the potential limits to free expression that these amendments may pose. The constitutional law experts also adopted opinions on the Revised Draft Law on the Public Prosecution Office of Montenegro, on the Revised Draft Law on Special Public Prosecutor’s Office of Montenegro, and on the Draft Law on the Prosecution Service of the Republic of Moldova.
The texts of all adopted opinions were published on the Venice Commission’s website before Monday, 23 March 2015.