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Avakov proposes a 3 month cessation of the courts – Ukraine

January 5, 2016

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov wrote the following on his Facebook page:

СУДАМ НИКТО НЕ ВЕРИТ. НАДО РЕШАТЬСЯ!

Судам никто не верит. И дело не в законах, по которым судят. Дело в судьях!

Судьи в Украине сейчас в общественном сознании – воплощение всего чего угодно, только не законности и справедливости! В сегодняшней ситуации любое решения суда, судебные процедуры – общество подвергает сомнению. И есть за что! Дела по выпущенному беркутовцу Садовнику, Ефремову, Лукаш, Мельнику, пьяного судьи Оберемко, процедуры по Корбану, выпущенным под залог взяточикам за сумму в 1/3 от полученной взятки… Уверен, Вы мне продолжите этот список на сотни страниц.. Доверие к судейскому корпусу – ноль!

И что предпринимать?! Никакая реформа МВД и Полиции (мы ее правильно, хоть и болезненно, но проводим и проведем!) – не поможет изменить РЕАЛЬНОЕ положение вещей в правоохранительной сфере. Без радикального изменения в системе прокуратуры и судов, изменения уровня доверия людей к прокуратуре и СУДАМ – ничего не выйдет!

Все недавние законы и проекты изменений в законы по судьям, по моему мнению – увы, полумеры – которые не поменяют ничего! В том числе и последний конституционный проект.

Считаю, что необходимо вернуться к радикальному проекту, на котором настаивал в свое время «Народный фронт», но не получил тогда поддержки. Речь тогда шла о полной(!) замене судейского корпуса. Полной перезагрузке – с новым набором, профессиональным конкурсом и реальной ВНЕШНЕЙ аттестацией нынешнего судейского корпуса. Предлагалось выстраивать новые суды параллельно, пока старые будут работать.

Я же сторонник еще более жесткого процесса. Никто, уж извините, не помрет – и все поймут и согласятся, если в стране не будет функционировать судебное правосудие в течении трех месяцев формирования новых судов! Если люди будут понимать, что происходит процесс реальных изменений и очищения – согласятся потерпеть! Принять все необходимые законодательные акты на переходный период – от продления процессуальных сроков до порядка рассмотрения дел и – амба – локаут! – перезагрузка на три месяца. Все ушли на конкурс – придет новый суд!

И не надо мне говорить, что это утопично, сложно, затратно.. Если есть воля к РЕАЛЬНЫМ изменениям – получить новое качество правоохранительной системы – только так и нужно действовать! И все наши партнеры иностранные и поймут и помогут. И люди поддержат! И инвесторы поверят и придут- ведь это вопрос не только справедливости и законности – это вопрос и экономики!

По иному заниматься изменениями судов – это пустой процесс – это как варить суп из топора – вода кипит, топор покрывается пузырьками, но толку нет – это процесс для простаков, которых хотят надуть..

Считаю – надо решаться на радикальную реформу судов – и это процесс и задача для всех для нас на 2016 год, наряду с завершением ключевого этапа реформы МВД и реальным, а не бутафорским процессом изменений в прокуратуре.

Время примерок и прикидок – прошло. Надо действовать решительно и резко. Пока еще открыто окно возможностей!

Arsen Avokov

Arsen Avokov

It is a statement that proclaims, in his view, that all new laws and proposed constitutional changes that relate to changes in the judicial system, the appointment, sacking, attempts to de-politicise, and removal of carte blanche constitutionally granted immunity for judges are “half measures that will not change anything.”

His proposal, to pass all necessary temporary legislation valid for a 3 month period whereby the judiciary of Ukraine simply stops working whilst all existing judges are vetted, and the judicial corps purified of the corrupt and incompetent.  A radical approach required to garner any success.

Prima facie, who would not/could not be in favour of such a swift and thorough vetting and purification?  A thorough cleansing of the Ukrainian judiciary is long overdue.  But the rule of law demands that the “means” as well as the “ends” are weighed in equal measure and are both legitimate and lawful.

Thus there are issues to consider – many of them legal both internationally regarding the obligations Ukraine has made within signed and ratified instruments, and also domestically with regard the constitution – and other domestic law.

Therefore whatever temporary legislation Mr Avakov is thinking of will need to take into account all such matters.  First and foremost perhaps, is the pending constitutional amendments that indeed address and remove the carte blanche immunity the judiciary are currently offered, and which have a fairly high degree of support from the Venice Commission as given in their official “Opinion”.

The constitution cannot simply be brushed aside without consequences both domestically and at the European Court of Human Rights when hundreds more claims are submitted by a botched purge upon the judiciary.  Is not President Poroshenko sworn to uphold and defend the constitution as a major role of the office he holds too?

Ergo, at the very least, the constitutional amendments relating to the judiciary and making them far more accessible to accountability without their current absolute immunity is surely a prerequisite to any temporary 3 month legislation that would then be (at least far more) constitutional than simply ignoring it now – and with far less legal blow-back as a result.

But is 3 months to purify the entirety of the judicial system long enough?  What is the desired outcome – to remove the worst of the worst, or retain the best of the rest?

Mr Avakov’s own ministry has seen a process that took far longer than 3 months to draw in applicants, go through vetting and interviewing of the new Patrol Police – discounting their 10 week “boot camp” training.

How many months did it take for the anti-corruption appointees to apply, get vetted, be interviewed by public panels and eventually be selected etc?

These things took time and included the public to gain the trust of society in the appointment system – and thus far have worked reasonably well in garnering and retaining public trust.

Who will be judge and jury over the reappointment/retention or dismissal of the current judiciary?  Will it not require the same lengthy and public involvement in the process if it is to project the perception similar to that of the Patrol Police and anti-corruption appointees?  Are not judges to be subjected to such scrutiny when they are equally as important to the system of rule of law?

Perhaps Mr Avakov envisages a far swifter system of reappointment/dismissal per the vast majority of the police that occurred (discounting the Patrol Police) whereby a very solid majority were retained?  Is that the “purification” to which Mr Avakov alludes?  If so, what level of previous corruption will be tolerated in keeping a judge, as it was in keeping a police officer, and who will decide?

Furthermore policing did not stop whilst it was being overhauled – and yet the judicial system should?

What say the Ministry of Justice?

More sensibly, some judges in every region would simply have to continue working even if the majority of others were suspended during any vetting/reappointment/dismissal protocols that eventually are arrived at.

The police will still need a judge to grant search and seizure warrants in every region of Ukraine.  A judge will still be required to extend or end the detention of those on remand.  Likewise a judge will be required to remand in custody those deemed a risk to society and/or flight risk during the 3 month (probably far longer if it is to mean anything) suspension of the Ukrainian judicial system as he proposed.

As supportive of any radical overhaul of the judiciary as we may all perhaps be, the judicial review of the rights of those temporarily held in custody prior to any finding of guilt cannot be sacrificed without significant repercussions from the Europeans, Council of Europe etc.

Thus the simple suspension of the Ukrainian justice system for a 3 month purification purge is not so simple.  There will have to be at the very least a minimum continuance to insure adherence to human rights obligations and property rights regarding warrants for search and seizure.  There are other emergency issues that require a judge – emergency care orders for children at risk that go beyond any proscribed police parameters etc – but the point has been sufficiently made.

The above in mind, and accepting that the cessation of the Ukrainian judicial system for 3 months (or more) is simply not practical, nor without significant legal ramification domestically and beyond – but supportive of a swift, deep and comprehensive purification of the judiciary – it would perhaps be wise to identify certain judges in each region that are expected to pass any future reappointment processes with ease, to act as the few required to insure Ukraine meets the obligations it has made with regards to the most basic human rights and also allows for the functioning of the Interior Minster Avakov’s law enforcement bodies.

Another issue to consider is the backlog created by an absolute stop for 3 months (probably longer) of the entire judicial system.

Not only does everything stop with regard to existing cases and appeals, but new cases will continue to accrue too.  This before any cases currently allocated to a dismissed judge also having to be reallocated and the case heard anew.  Realistically, a 3 month suspension of the Ukrainian justice system will equate to a backlog that will take a year or more to clear.  The public should be made aware that such an outcome is extremely likely – for they will be far more accepting of delays as long as the benefits manifest.

There are perhaps other ways to tackle the issue rather than a complete cessation of the entire Ukrainian justice system that would allow for the required thoroughness, public scrutiny, and thus improved confidence in the outcomes?  A method whereby a complete cessation can be avoided and the urgent and necessary cases still dealt with?

Is it viable to roll out the purification similarly to how the new Patrol Police was rolled out across the oblasts?  For example, could Odessa be “purified” but whilst that occurs could judges from Vinnytsia hear the urgent pending cases in Odessa – and that then be reversed once Odessa has been “purified” and the judiciary of Vinnytsia put under scrutiny?  Is it feasible to “purify” 50% of the oblasts at once, providing judicial cover from the other 50% – and then reverse the process and purify the remaining 50%?

Furthermore, and to be blunt, the new laws and constitutional amendments pooh-poohed by the Interior Minister in his FB entry as “half measures that will not change anything” would still be seen as half measures after any radical purification he advocates?  He would lobby for their repeal – or do they have, and will they retain, some merit after his proposed purification?

How will any purification and the dismissal of numerous judges thereafter, attract replacement judges if the salaries remain woeful?  Can the fines levied by the courts against wrong-doers be used to self-finance a revamped justice system whereby fines paid to the State are then reinvested in the justice system – either in full or in part (officially or unofficially)?  Would that increase the temptation of the judiciary to simply fine (heavily) offenders to sponsor their own pay rises?

Is there anything in the (as yet unpublished) 2016 budget that provides for judicial salary increases of a scale that would make corruption far less attractive when combined with lengthy custodial sentences for those caught in nefarious deeds after judicial immunity is tackled?

Clearly there can be no complete cessation of the Ukrainian judicial system as Mr Avakov states, but also as he states, there is a need for the State to aggressively and swiftly address the issue of a Ukrainian judiciary which all to often fails to deliver justice to the Ukrainian constituency on a daily basis – and across innumerable cases that never receive any publicity.

Perhaps a little more thought is required to accomplish what without doubt is necessary with regard to required outcomes in a far more timely manner, whilst also meeting the bare minimum of the State’s obligations domestically and internationally whilst doing so – for a solution (if slightly imperfect) there will be that will provide for both swift “purification” and continuing to meet legal obligations.

What is actually missing is the will to find it and then implement it.

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