Severinsen: Yanukovych’s proposals need Venice Commission analysis


The former Co-Rapporteur on Ukraine (from 1996-2007) for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE] Hanne Severinsen has issued a statement saying that the draft law on judicial reform proposed by President Yanukovych should receive an expert assessment from the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.

“I have read the proposals on judicial reform put forward by President Yanukovych. Reforms have long been needed however most unfortunately there are a number of issues which arouse serious concern.

First and foremost, the reforms are restricted to amendments to legislation and do not address norms in the Constitution despite numerous recommendations from PACE and the Venice Commission. Any reform without changes to the Constitution will, from the point of view of the judicial system, be incomplete and inadequate.

Secondly, the draft law proposes further broadening of the powers of the High Council of Justice, by allowing it to appoint and dismiss the heads of courts.  With the present makeup of the High Council of Justice, this could destroy court independence.

Thirdly, the draft law suggests establishing a small number of members of the Council of Judges yet with these having wide powers including the appointment of the Head of the State Judicial Administration. This could lead to control being obtained over the Council of Judges through manipulations over the selection of its members.

Fourthly, the issue of further specialization of the court system needs to be studied, as well as the radical reduction in the powers of the Supreme Court which was not supported in the opinions of the Venice Commission with regard to the previous draft law on court reform in March 2010.

Ms Severinsen believes that “the main thing is that the draft law proposed by the President should undergo the full procedure for review by parliament and not be adopted hastily as was the case recently with the amendments to the law on the High Court of Justice. Before final approval by parliament the law should be presented for review to the Venice Commission and its recommendations should be taken into consideration.”

On 31 May 2010 the Verkhovna Rada registered a draft law on the judicial system and status of judges put forward by the President.

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