Supreme Court makes formal complaint over public statement by Deputy Prosecutor General
The Supreme Court Press Service has made public an appeal from the Court’s Judges to the Prosecutor General and the High Council of Justice.
The judges point out that according to Article 124 § 1 of the Constitution justice n Ukraine is exercised by judges alone. It is admissible for the courts’ functions to be delegated or usurped by any other bodies or public officials.
The appeal is prompted by the briefing reported here on 7 November. Mykhailo Havrylyuk, Deputy Prosecutor General and member of the High Council of Justice, stated at the briefing that the High Council of Justice had opened proceedings into alleged violation by members of the Supreme Court Criminal Chamber. Several judges from the Supreme Court, he claimed, were facing allegations that between 2009 and 2010 they unlawfully changed the sentence from life to 15 years imprisonment with respect to 15 dangerous criminals. According to Mykhailo Havrylyuk, the initiative had been taken by some National Deputies [MPs] who provided information about the alleged breach of oath by the judges. He said that the judges could be dismissed and might face criminal prosecution.
He denied that the probe was in any way linked with the imminent election of a new Head of the Supreme Court. This assertion has been treated with scepticism by most commentators, who have seen pressure on judges to vote for the candidate favoured by those in power.
The very next day the Supreme Court issued a statement dismissing the allegations. It explained that in 2009 a problem had arisen with uneven court practice caused by a Constitutional Court judgement from 29 December 1999 which found the death penalty to be unconstitutional. In implementation of this judgement, a law had been passed on 22 February 2000 which transmuted sentences of death to life imprisonment.
The problem had been with people sentenced between these two days, during which the longest sentence available was 15 years. Some judges had, however, passed life sentences. Later some of those who got the latter appealed, on the grounds that the only available sentence at the time had been 15 years.
In view of this, in 2009 at joint meetings of the Supreme Court’s Criminal Chamber and Military Court Chamber a number of criminal cases were reviewed with the decision being taken to change life imprisonment to a 15 year sentence.
“The review of these cases was carried out with the participation of the Deputy Prosecutor General who found the position of the applicants regarding the need to change the sentence from life imprisonment to 15 years to be legally justified. Furthermore, in a number of cases the grounds for review of the sentences in such a category of cases was put forward by the Prosecutor General’s Office”
The Judges of the Supreme Court believe that Havrylyuk by making such public statements violated the principles enshrined in the Constitution and international law of an independent judiciary, as well as the legally fixed duties, ethical norms and principles of work of employees of the Prosecutor’s Office. They ask the Prosecutor General to take the necessary measures.
More information can be found about Havrylyuk’s briefing here and about reasons why many consider this to be the latest attempt to bring the Supreme Court into line and ensure that Vasyl Onopenko is not re-elected its Head, in Supreme Orchestration and Parliament adopts Law on Loyal Supreme Court.