A third of candidates running for the position of judges of the High Council of Justice are not that high-principled. These were the results of the analysis of candidates’ dossiers conducted by the movement “CHESNO” in cooperation with the Anti Corruption Action Centre and “Automaidan” within the campaign “CHESNO. Filter the court!” Candidates were checked for non-participation in dubious decisions, human rights violations, transparency of wealth and compliance of the lifestyle with the declared property, professional competence, noninvolvement in corruption and judicial ethics violations. “We have analyzed all 44 candidates for the position of the High Council of Justice and found 16 violations of these criteria,” said Ivan Piatak, senior analyst of the campaign “CHESNO. Filter the court!” during a press briefing held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. Activists collected the information only from open sources: registers of court decisions, legal property, registers of declarations and reputable media.
The lifestyle of 8 of the 16 judges does not match the declared wealth
As it turned out, 20 judges, who are candidates, are participating in the competition for a position of judge in the Supreme Court, and there are persons who have failed the first exam among them. “Two failed to get the minimum passing score in the first written test, while 80% went to the next stage. We believe that this is evidence of professional incompetence and such candidates should not become HCJ members,” noted Taras Shevchenko, director of the Center for democracy and the rule of law, co-founder of the movement “CHESNO”.
Seven candidates have previously taken dubious decisions; two were involved in human rights violations. Among them is Olena Pervushyna, head of Holosiivskyi district court, which passed a lot of decisions against Euromaidan activists, and Ruslan Arsiriy, judge of the County administrative court in Kyiv, whose decision permitted not to return gas deposits that were transferred to private ownership of Yanukovych’s people, to state ownership. “According to previous journalists’ investigations, Mr. Arsiriy made the decisions when being abroad,” noted Kateryna Budko, “Automaidan” activist, “Prosud” project.
The investigations conducted by activists and journalists revealed that the lifestyle of 8 of the 16 judges does not match the declared wealth, or their declarations are non-transparent. For example, it revealed that Oksana Epel has many expensive cars; Arsiriy’s mother, who is a pensioner, has a luxury house in Koncha Zaspa, (its photos and videos will be published soon). Judge Kostiantyn Babenko has not undergone a background check to compete for a position of judge in the Supreme Court because of his undeclared car. “We also found that Mr. Babenko’s underage daughter has many valuable luxury apartments in Pechersky city district, one of which is 200 m² large; moreover, his wife has undeclared elite companies in Crimea,” added Mrs. Budko.
The black list also includes Vitaliy Snyiegiriov, judge of Bryanka municipal court (Luhansk region), whom the High Council of Justice tried to dismiss for oath violation in 2013. By the results of the background check he was not allowed to participate in the competition for a position of judge in the Supreme Court; that is why he sued the Higher Qualification Commission of Judges.
Election of questionable candidates to the High Council of Justice is a threat to judicial reform
Activists noted that six candidates, who on March 14-15 will be elected to the High Council of Justice, comprise about a third of its members. If dishonest judges are elected to the High Council of Justice, the judicial reform in general will be jeopardized. “Even if the High Qualification Commission, which is organizing a competition for the renewal of the Supreme Court, will continue to renew the entire judicial system, fulfills the rule of law and all public promises about competition transparency, publication of judges’ papers, live broadcast, etc., and good judges are elected, the High Council of Justice may take a decision to exclude any of them from the competition,” stressed Vitaliy Shabunin, chairman of the Anti Corruption Action Centre. He urged the judges to be conscious of the responsibility for their choice. “We, activists, understand that the judicial system cannot clean itself independently. The Nasirov’s case has shown that we may be wrong. But the election of any of these 16 candidates presents an argument for the fact that legitimate ways of the judicial system cleaning have been exhausted. This is very dangerous to the country, especially to the country at war,” he emphasized.
Taras Shevchenko reminded that these dishonest judges-candidates are still the judges in their courts, and this issue should also be raised.