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President submits key judicial reform bill to parliament

The judiciary of Ukraine in for landslide change.

President submits key judicial reform bill to parliament
Petro Poroshenko
Photo: Photo: Max Trebukhov

President Petro Poroshenko introduced to the Verkhovna Rada a bill on judicial system and status of judges, which is a key element of the long-overdue judicial reform. The draft bill №4734 of May 30 is registered on the Rada website on Tuesday morning and is marked as urgent.

The new law consists of 12 chapters and 160 articles. It lays down the basis for the organization of the judiciary, the judicial system of Ukraine, judicial self-government, regulates the work of judges and juries and their work remuneration, the procedure of appointment of judges, determines the criteria for the appointment and dismissal of judges, disciplinary responsibility of judges, etc.

President Poroshenko notes in the explanatory memo that the bill is one of the key element of the judicial reform and will allow to transform the judiciary system and upgrade the judiciary, to create a model for the functioning of the judiciary, which would satisfy the public demand for a fair trial.

Main provisions of the draft bill:

  • The bill cancels the institute of the "initial appointment" of a judge (for a five-year "trial" period); hereinafter the judge would be appointed only indefinitely;
  • creation, reorganization and liquidation of courts will be the sole prerogative of Verkhovna Rada. The President will lose these powers;
  • The Verkhovna Rada, in turn, will lose the powers to decide issues of arrest or detention of judges, these powers are transferred to the Supreme Council of Justice;
  • The bill increases the age and professional qualifications requirements for judges. Hereinafter, a judge must be citizen of Ukraine aged 30 to 65 years with a higher legal education and at least five years of experience in the field of law;
  • cancels the absolute immunity of a judge, a judge still cannot be held criminally liable for a decision in court, but can be drawn to responsibility, e.g., for a bribe;
  • The judiciary system is simplified: it will consist of local courts, courts of appeal and the Supreme Court;
  • The Supreme Economic Court, the Supreme Administrative Court and the High Specialized Court for Civil and Criminal Cases are liquidated;
  • The highest court of Ukraine will be the newly created Supreme Court, embracing maximum 200 judges, which is twice less than at present; the top court will have five divisions: the Grand Chamber, Appeal Administrative Court, the Economic Court of Cassation, Criminal Cassation Court and the Civil Court of Cassation;
  • The bill provides for the establishment of specialized courts - the Supreme Court on Intellectual Property and the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court;
  • Envisages creation of the Supreme Council of Justice, which will consider disciplinary proceedings against judges;
  • assessment and qualification evaluation and competitions for vacant positions of judges will be conducted by the Higher Qualification Commission of Judges;
  •  the bill provides for a gradual increase of salaries of judges in order to attract professionals.

Amendments to the Constitution related to the issues of justice should be voted along with this bill.

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