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HCJ approved public appeal on inadmissibility of statements by representatives of the executive branch aimed at undermining the authority of justice

22.09.2020

Public authorities and their officials should refrain from information and political campaigns, statements and actions that could affect the independence of the judiciary and undermine the authority of the judiciary as a whole. This was emphasized in the HCJ's public address on the statements of Olha Stefanishyna, the Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine. As it is known, in an interview with RBC-Ukraine, the official assessed the judicial system of Ukraine, noting the "lack of confidence in judges and their decisions."  

The High Council of Justice emphasizes that respect the authority of the courts is a requirement of European standards for democratic states, an integral condition of public trust in the judiciary, and in a broader sense - trust in the rule of law and the state in general.

According to Article 126 of the Constitution of Ukraine independence and inviolability of a judge are guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of Ukraine, notes the HCJ. Interference with the administration of justice, influence on a court or judges in any manner, contempt of court or judges, collection, storage, use and dissemination of information orally, in writing or otherwise in order to discredit court or influence the impartiality of the court, calls to non-enforcement of court decisions shall be prohibited and entail liability as stipulated by the law (part three of Article 6 of the Law of Ukraine “On the Judiciary and the Status of Judges”).

On the place of the judiciary and its relations with other branches of government in modern democracies, reminds the HCJ, is stated in the Opinion No. 18 of the CCJE. It states that the provision of unbalanced critical comments by politicians is irresponsible and poses a serious problem, as it may inadvertently or intentionally undermine public confidence and confidence in the justice system. In such cases, the judiciary must state that this behavior is an attack on the constitution of a democratic state, as well as an encroachment on the legal status of other branches of government. Such behavior also violates international standards.

Assessing the level of trust in the judiciary, the Vice Prime Minister referred to the fact that most court decisions of the first instance "go on appeal". In this connection, the HCJ draws attention to the fact that the annulment of the decision should be perceived as a normal result of the appeal procedure, and not as the fault of the judge of the first instance (Opinion No. 6 of the CCJE to the attention of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on fair trial within a reasonable time and judge’s role in trials taking into account alternative means of dispute settlement from November 24, 2004). Participants in the case, which is the subject of the trial, and other persons have the right to an appellate review of the case and in cases specified by law - to cassation appeal of a court decision (Article 14 of the Law of Ukraine “On the Judiciary and the Status of Judges”). Therefore, the exercise of such a right by a person is not a factor of trust in the judiciary.

The High Council of Justice considers inadmissible political comments of public figures and representatives of executive bodies, who in their speeches, in the absence of objective and specific information on the level of trust in the judiciary and the impact of judicial reforms on it, form a misconception in society about the activities of judges and the judiciary in general.

“The level of trust in the judiciary is affected, inter alia, by unsubstantiated statements by politicians and statesmen that threaten the authority of the judiciary”, – it is said in the public address of the High Council of Justice and emphasizes that representatives of other branches of power should refrain from any action or statement which may be perceived as a tool to put pressure on the judiciary or to call into question their ability to carry out their duties effectively.

Decision of the High Council of Justice from September 17, 2020,                                       No. 2657/0/15-20: https://hcj.gov.ua/doc/doc/4227