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Open Letter on the state of the judiciary

15.02.2007
Serhiy Kyrychenko
To:
The President of Ukraine V. Yushchenko
The Prime Minister, V. Yanukovich
The Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, O. Moroz
The Head of the Supreme Court, V. Onopenko

Open letter

I am forced to turn to you in this form by the situation which has arisen in society due to the fact that representatives of the judiciary are ignoring provisions of the Constitution, the Law on the Judiciary, as well as norms of the Civil Procedure Code with regard to court assessors and jurors. Through this appeal I hope to draw public attention to this issue. I am not looking for those who are guilty or have an interest in perpetuating these problems. There is no hope that this question will be resolved in the nearest future and that those guilty of impeding the enforcement of the Ukrainian Constitution and laws will be brought to justice, however I am haunted by a sense that collapse of the judicial system is inevitable. I would also like to remind Ukraine’s leaders of the existence of these problems and the need to solve them. We cannot remain silent since this only aggravates the crisis in the justice system and power structure, engenders a lack of responsibility which in turn abases us in the eyes of world community and places us in an uncomfortable position. As a result, we look very bad in the world, and this, I would remind you is our mutual face, the face of the state which I hope you honour and love. It is not possible to proclaim intentions, and cite European standards but do nothing ourselves to implement them in our lives. Endless talk and constant promises remain empty words, unfulfilled dreams, a con. Those who should ensure that the Constitution is adhered to, failed to respect it themselves. Each Ukrainian judge, having received indefinite tenure (an absurd situation – a judge for ever!) becomes judge, prosecutor, a president, a government and parliament all together, and there are almost no levers of influence or control over them. It is virtually impossible to bring charges against judges who have broken the law, with this impunity leading to irresponsibility – this is the reality of today’s life in Ukraine.
Examples of distrust of Ukrainians to the judiciary are a clear indicator of the quality of work of Ukraine’s judges. Burble about judicial reform will not suffice, we need real, immediate and decisive measures, the main one being a major shake up of the judge corps. I stress this is my personal opinion.
For me as a citizen of this country the situation is totally baffling when the Constitution contains a norm about the population participating in administering justice, numerous codes and laws confirm this, and yet the number of people’s court assessors and jurors in our courts has not increase. Instead in Russia, a country which many of our politicians call a country with a dictatorship under its President, a system of
people’s court assessors and jurors has been long and fairly efficiently been functioning, while we talk on about the EU, NATO, European democracy and the rule of law.
I am ashamed for myself, for the country and for our common future. For this reason I have sent numerous appeals to all institutions that could resolve this problem however the responses received contain banal wishes, thanks and problems to resolve the problem in the future. And all of this against a background of court arbitrary rule and reluctance to change anything in the present system.
Ukraine finds itself in a situation where changes are needed to the judicial system in the country, mechanisms for legal proceedings in line with European norms and taking example from the best of world court. Disregard by the judiciary of the provisions of the Constitution and laws of Ukraine is extremely dangerous. These processes are reminiscent of the Middle Ages and will inevitable result in a damaged image for Ukraine, its external isolation and, finally, a deterioration in the economic situation. I believe that Ukraine’s future will depend on whether we can stop the endless chatter and declarations of principles. The time for chatting has ended, we need action.
Respected President Yushchenko! I would ask you to remember your election slogan: “Not in word, but in deed!”. Stop organizing different useless “round tables”, but make the decisive step – initiate and implement judicial reform! Carry out all that you promised on Maidan, and the majority of people will endorse you, because this problem is common to all Ukrainians. It is impossible to live in darkness all the time, to waffle and dream – our children will forgive us. The eternal Russian questions “Who is to blame?” and “What is to be done?” must not separate us any more, on the contrary they need to consolidate society, mobilize and unite all Ukrainians.
The issues I present before society in this letter are highly topical and demand thorough and broad discussion, so I would leave the right to a final word to all those who love their country, children and grandchildren, as well as to those on whom the enforcement of Ukrainian laws and Constitution is dependent. .
Dear Ukrainians – let’s consolidate our efforts and try to build our own house. The people will perceive the beginning of real judicial reform when Article 124 of the Constitution is fulfilled, when court assessors and jurors take their place in our courts.
It is time for change and action. May God bless your ideas and actions!
Yours sincerely,
Serhiy Kyrychenko
State Deputy of the 2nd and 3rd convocations,
Honoured lawyer of Ukraine, deputy of the Kherson City Council from the 5th convocation
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