Head of the Constitutional Court speaks out against life tenure for judges


In an interview to the newspaper “Sevodnya” [“Today”] Andriy Stryzhak spoke about the role of the Constitutional Court, problems with implementation of its judgments and about fighting corruption in the judiciary.

Asked what was needed so that the Court’ judgments were implemented, Judge Stryzhak said that in 2008 the Court had passed 29 judgments, finding 18 provisions of laws, including Cabinet of Ministers resolutions and Presidential decrees unlawful.

A significant event, he says, was the situation with the Regulations of the Verkhovna Rada which must be set out as a law, while the Verkhovna Rada keeps passing it as an act or resolution. During 2008 the Court twice declared this unlawful, and yet no law has been passed.  He says that this is because parliament can diverge from the regulations when they have been passed as an act. They would not be able to carry this off were it a law.

The same situation was seen with the law on the Budget. The Constitutional Court declared both the Budgets for 2007 and for 2008 unconstitutional, stating that the law on the budget must not make amendments or suspend the force of other laws. The judgments have been ignored.

In July 2007 Prava Ludyny reported that Andriy Stryzhak had reported the Court’s judgment, stressing that according to the Constitution, social rights and guarantees may not be limited and that the State Budget cannot revoke provisions from other laws. The Court had therefore decided that the Verkhovna Rada had not had the authority to stop the force of other laws, including those regarding concessions, guarantees and compensation, when passing the law on the State Budget. The problem is that the same judgment was later reported over the Budget for 2008.  The Court has been ignored.

Judge Stryzhak says that people whose social benefits have been taken away approach the Court hoping for help, yet the Court has no levers of influence.

He also cites the judgment that the President cannot appoint judges to administrative posts, and that this must be set out in law. A year and a half have passed since then, yet the Verkhovna Rada has not yet passed a law. At present the appointments are made by the Council of Judges although this is not regulated by law.

Asked about corruption, Judge Stryzhak named the main problem as being in the lack of a mechanism for checking the moral qualities of a judge. “I, for example, am in favour of abolishing indefinite tenure for judges. Previously they were appointed every 10 years. I think it would be worth returning to this. Indefinite tenure gives a kind of indulgence, weakens responsibility and the procedure for dismissing a judge is pretty complicated.”

Asked whether raising salaries can help fight corruption, Judge Stryzhak acknowledged that some connection did exist:  A judge starting out earns up to 3,000 UAH a month (at the best rate not more than 500 USD), while holding considerable power in his or her hands. He stresses however that you can give a dishonest official even 100 thousand UAH but won’t resolve the problem.

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