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09.07.2008

Constitutional Court declares law limiting its scope unconstitutional

   

A judgment passed by the Constitutional Court at the end of June, coinciding as it did with another important judgment concerning National Deputies shifting factions, and couched as it inevitably was in legal terminology, did not receive the attention it warranted.  The decision put most simply puts the Verkhovna Rada in its place and revokes its attempt to curb the Court’s jurisdiction.

The judgment came in response to a submission from 47 National Deputies.  Not exactly a swift response, we should add, since the submission was made in September 2006.  The Deputies asked the Court to determine whether the ban on the Constitutional Court’s review of amendments to the Constitution which had already come into effect were constitutional. .

This extraordinary ban was passed in a law adopted and signed by the President all in one day (!) on 4 August 2006, which also saw the formation of a coalition under the premiership of Viktor Yanukovych.  The law “On introducing amendments to Section IV  “Final and transitional provisions of the Law of Ukraine “On the Constitutional Court of Ukraine”, prohibited the Court from making amendments to the Law from December 2004 introducing “political reforms” which seriously stem the President’s powers and introduce proportional representation.  The said law is highly controversial, and is considered by many constitutional experts both within Ukraine and in the Council of Europe to be a major factor in the ongoing political crisis.  It was also passed under circumstances which make its legal validity questionable.

It is important to mention that the Constitutional Court had been prevented from functioning for some eight months prior to August 2006.  The Verkhovna Rada had needed to swear in new judges, and did not do so until after this law “trimming” the powers of the highest court in the land.

June 2008

The Constitutional Court finally issued a judgment in which it: points out that the Verkhovna Rada’s powers with respect to the Court cover only procedure for the organization and work of the latter and that changes to this may only be made through amendments to the Constitution.

Since a draft law with amendments to the Constitution may only be considered by the Verkhovna Rada following an assessment from the Constitutional Court, and this was not carried out, the Court decided that the Verkhovna Rada had passed the law of August 2006 with infringements of the Constitution (Articles 147, 150). It did however state that the charge that the Verkhovna Rada had thus attempted to influence the Court’s judgments had not been proven.

The Court therefore declared unconstitutional the amendment from 4 August 2006 of the Law “On the Constitutional Court of Ukraine” which banned it from reviewing changes to the Constitution which had already come into force.

The Constitutional Court’s judgment we would note with relief is binding.

 

(Halya Coynash)

More details about this law can be found at: http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1154893174

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