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Judicial reform timetable – Ukraine

January 15, 2016

In what was a particularly average Presidential press conference for the beginning of 2016 – and it has to be said, a particularly tame performance by the Ukrainian press in a Q&A session – there was really nothing surprising.

press

Of interest, considering its importance to the nation, was mention of the timetable for judicial reform – a process that has been far from, and will not be, swift.

The legal process of constitutional change to reformat the judiciary and to focus judicial immunity, reducing that immunity which is currently carte blanche, is already a year old (and more).

Constitution amending changes have been written, submitted to the Venice Commission, which duly gave a generally positive opinion on 24th July 2015, passed an initial submission to the parliament, and was also submitted to the Constitutional Court who also gave an approving “nod” thereafter – leaving the messy (or perhaps not in this case) process within the Verkhovna Rada and gathering parliamentary support for the amendments with a constitutional (300 +) majority vote.

The next logical question therefore, is when will these amendments, favourably pondered by international experts and the Constitutional Court, reach the parliamentarians that begins the final internal process of their adoption (discounting any retarded attempts at amendments to the amendments)?

With the “Decentralisation” constitutional amendments due to appear within the Verkhovna Rada between 26th and 29th January, where it will be necessary to insure the attendance of all MPs that are not in prison or literally drawing their terminal breath, and thus having herded enough cats into one place at the same time with (hopefully) favourable outcomes to constitutional amendments as a result, it would seem reasonable to try and get the constitutional matters dealt with whilst all MPs are holed up in Kyiv and Party Whips are prowling the corridors to insure none escape until their work is done.

To be entirely blunt, the favourable vote for constitutional amendments relating to judicial reform will be far easier to gather than those for decentralisation – though both will probably pass the 300 (or more) vote threshold somehow.

The President’s press conference did indeed shed some political light upon the timetable for judicial reform.

The constitutional amendments relating to the judiciary are expected to see a Verkhovna Rada vote prior to 2nd February – which in reality, if the herded parliamentarians are to remain herded in Kyiv, will mean it being put to the vote between 26th and 29th January no differently to the “Decentralisation” constitutional amendments.

A successful Verkhovna Rada vote would therefore mean that after about 18 months (or more), the preparatory legal work to reform the judiciary would actually provide for judicial reform that could, and should, practically begin sometime around April/May – although when that reform begins in practice, it too is likely to be a process taken at a speed that will rile the more radical of reformers.

Nevertheless when it comes to some serious constitutional issues with major repercussions for the nation’s governance and rule of law respectively, the week 26th January – 2 February within the Verkhovna Rada, should concentrate a lot of minds.

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