Today, on March 1, public activists organized the “march of the unknown” near the building of the High Qualification Commission of Judges. Dressed in judges’ long robes and with masks on their faces, they showed how the Commission selects new judges to the Supreme Court out of the pool of “covered-up candidates” whose portfolios have not been made public despite the legal requirement. After the campaign, Serhii Koziakov, head of the High Qualification Commission of Judges, promised to open the portfolios of the candidates at least to the members of the Public Integrity Council and to provide the information included into the portfolios in response to public information requests. In addition, it was promised that everybody interested will be able to access portfolios directly at the Commission using its computers.
According to the Law “On the Judiciary and the Status of Judges”, a portfolio of a candidate to the office of a judge shall be publicly available on the official website of the High Qualification Commission of Judges. However, the Commission has not implemented this legal regulation so far, having claimed that there is a lack of financial and technical resources to launch the automated system of judges’ portfolio management, as required by law. At the same time, using this pretext the Commission has closed the portfolios with the unique information about the candidates both to the members of the Public Integrity Council and the media along with the public.
“Civil movement CHESNO has sent an information request to the High Qualification Commission of Judges to get information about particular candidates to the Supreme Court. Journalist Serhii Andrushko has sent a similar request to the Commission. It has declined both requests. Therefore, the Commission has violated not only the requirement of the law on the judiciary and the status of judges, but also the law on access to public information,” said Taras Shevchenko, co-founder of CHESNO movement.
After the campaign organized by the activists of the Anticorruption Action Center, CHESNO movement, and the Automaidan, the members of the High Qualification Commission of Judges promised to provide information included in the portfolios in response to the information requests, provide the access to candidates’ portfolios from Commissions’ computers, and to open the portfolios of the candidates, shortlisted in the follow up of the written tests and the practical task administered on February 21, to the members of the Public Integrity Council. At the same time, the Commission could not specify the dates, since it is not yet clear when they will finish checking practical tasks completed by the candidates.
Members of the Public Integrity Council expressed their concern with the deadlines for processing the portfolios, as the PIC shall analyze them and issue its opinion on the candidates not later than within 15 days before the start of the interviews. “Opinion of the Council is the only opportunity for the public to influence the selection of judges. Without the analysis of judges’ portfolios, the opinions will be incomplete or even impossible. It is inadmissible when the key agency responsible for the reform of justice violates the law and prevents the PIC from implementing its functions,” said Roman Maselko, activist of the Automaidan and member of the Public Integrity Council.
If the situation does not change, the Public Integrity Council will have too little time to process the portfolios (according to the law, the Supreme Court shall be formed by April 1). However, Serhii Koziakov, head of the High Qualification Commission of Judges, promised to the activists that interviews with the candidates will not start before the Commission gets the opinion of the PIC.
“This claim made by Mr. Koziakov gives a chance to the Public Integrity Council to prepare well-grounded opinions, as it is very hard to assess judges’ integrity using only Google. Therefore, the Commission shall open the portfolios to observe the law and to ensure that the competition is fair, as well as to guarantee public trust,” believes Halyna Chyzhyk, activist of CHESNO movement and member of the Public Integrity Council.
Opinions of the Public Integrity Council are the only instrument for the public to block unworthy Supreme Court candidates. The future Supreme Court will be the last instance of justice in the country. Therefore, it shall be formed in a transparent and public manner. The information about the Supreme Court candidates should be open and accessible both to the members of the Public Integrity Council and to the media and the citizens.
Along with the promises to open the portfolios of the Supreme Court candidates, the High Qualification Commission of Judges assured that there will be a live webcast of all interviews with the candidates when the content of the portfolios will be discussed and the materials included into them will be questioned.