Until May 26, interviews with the candidates for the new Supreme Court are being held; 308 of 382 candidates have already passed this final stage of the competition. Despite the Anti-Rating of the civic movement “CHESNO” that includes 150 candidates with questionable reputation, and 114 negative opinions of the Public Integrity Council, the HQCJ filtered out only 25 candidates during this stage. Therefore, 80% of candidates who received negative opinion from the PIC continue to participate in the competition, while the HQCJ can overcome the public “veto” by holding closed voting in secret and getting 11 of the 16 votes in the plenary session of the HQCJ.
The “CHESNO” movement within the campaign “CHESNO. Filter the Judiciary!” has been monitoring the interviews from their very beginning and observing the behavior of candidates and the HQCJ members.
During the interview, members of the High Qualification Commission should read out information on the candidates and discuss with them their dossiers, professional activity, property, and other issues. A member of the Public Integrity Council, present at the interview, can voice a negative opinion or information provided by the PIC and pose clarifying questions to candidates.
The Public Integrity Council provided 114 negative opinions about the candidates who were interviewed from April 21 to May 19. However, only 23 candidates of those “vetoed” by the PIC dropped out of the competition, and the remaining 91, composing 80%, continued to participate in the competition. The HQCJ will make the final decision on them in its full composition at the plenary session.
“The trends we observed as a result of monitoring indicate that the final decision on the most notorious candidates will be taken secretly, behind closed doors at the plenary session of the HQCJ. Thus, the findings of the Public Integrity Council do not have any tangible effect on the competition and the public mechanism for preventing the admission of villains in the judicial system, as granted by the authorities, is now nullified by the same authorities. The HQCJ can save the situation by disclosing their personal voting results at the plenary session,” said Taras Shevchenko, director of the Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law.
The candidates who received a negative opinion on their integrity included a number of odious personalities, which, however, did not give grounds to the HQCJ to filter them out of the competition. Among them – the current Head of the Supreme Court Yaroslav Romaniuk who received his position at the time of Yanukovych and after the adoption of the dictatorial laws of January 16 summoned a briefing and publicly welcomed their adoption. During the interview Romaniuk admitted that the support of the ‘draconian laws’ of January 16 was a mistake, as well as his deprivation of housing of a 97-year-old pensioner. With regard to the latter case, the ECHR ruled in favor of the pensioner, and recognized the gross arbitrariness and denial of justice in the actions of Ukrainian judges.
Another person that continues the competition is the Chairman of the District Administrative Court of Kyiv Pavlo Vovk. His interview attracted a lot of media attention, but during the most interesting moments sound mysteriously disappeared and activists could not hear all the arguments of the judge concerning his political connections (the judge used to be Kivalov’s assistant and was spotted meeting with the “curator” in the Prosecutor’s office and at the trials of Hranovskyi, MP from the BPP) and his property.
Sound issues are not the only ones recorded by monitors of “CHESNO. Filter the Judiciary!” campaign during the interviews. Volunteers and campaign analysts noted evidence of bias in the HQCJ communication with candidates and members of the Public Integrity Council during 43 interviews. Most of these facts were recorded in panels that conduct interviews with candidates for Criminal Cassation Court (14 facts of bias), Civil (13 facts), and Economic (11 facts) Cassation Courts, the least were detected in the interviews for the Administrative Cassation Court (5 facts).
“The process of rating based on the results of interviews is significantly affected by the subjective factor, since the HQCJ evaluates the candidates according to their personal perception. The interview results account to a lion’s share of the score that a candidate can possibly get during the competition. In combination with the score for psychological testing it is equal to as much as 790 of 1000 points. In this regard, there is a high risk of bias concerning particular candidates on the part of members. Therefore, the Movement CHESNO assigned more than 20 monitors to closely follow each interview, which will subsequently make it possible to compare the scores with their own observations and draw conclusions about the validity of such assessments,” said at a press conference Ivan Pyatak, senior analyst at the “CHESNO. Filter the Judiciary!” campaign.
During all the interviews, the Higher Qualification Commission of Judges did not rate the candidates; it only announced either a candidate’s termination of participation or a break, which means that scores will be provided after all interviews. Thus, the ranking of candidates for the Supreme Court will be formed at the last stage of the competition. It is important that the final ranking of candidates for the Supreme Court, including scores on psychological tests and interviews, should be published prior to the plenary session of the HQCJ, when the public will have the last opportunity to convey evidence of integrity standards violations by candidates to the HQCJ members of the Commission in order to exclude such candidates from the competition.
“High Qualification Commission of Judges, ignoring the bulk of negative findings of the Public Integrity Council, puts itself in a position of high level of distrust. Some members of the Commission during interviews with disreputable candidates actually interviewed PIC members instead of questioning candidates about their property or other issues. Therefore, it is important that key decisions taken by the HQCJ on candidates with negative opinions from the PIC should be adopted by personalized voting, open to the public,” said Halyna Chyzhyk, lawyer of the “CHESNO. Filter the Judiciary!” campaign and coordinator of the Public Integrity Council.
The interviews with all the candidates for the Supreme Court are to be finished in 2 days. According to the CHESNO movement’s calculations, as for the beginning of the last week of interviewing, 91 candidates who received negative opinion of the PIC will be considered at the HQCJ plenary session. In addition, some candidates interviewed during the last days of the final stage of the competition will also join this group.