Lynn Sheehan, Kyiv, September 26, 2019
Corruption is still a challenge in Ukraine
Since the Maidan uprising, the so-called “Revolution of Dignity” in 2013/2014, Ukraine has undertaken reform initiatives in a range of areas. The overall aim has been to improve democratic development and enhance connections with the European Union/western partners. However, endemic corruption continues to remain an impediment to democratization and to the economic growth of the country.
‘…approximately 30% of the judges appointed to the High Anti-Corruption Court were selected from outside the judicial system with no judicial background’
Ukraine now has new institutions aimed at preventing and combatting corruption
With an ambitious approach towards reform, Ukraine introduced a new anti-corruption architecture which not only provided for new anti-corruption laws/policies but also established new institutions aimed at preventing and combating corruption. To this end, the High Anti-Corruption Court was established with the adoption of the Law on the High Anti-Corruption Court (HACC) in June 2018, thus completing the constellation of specialized anti-corruption bodies in the criminal justice chain.
The Venice Commission assisted with an important opinion on the design of the new court. For a primer on judicial independence, check out this post.
The HACC is a permanent specialized court, based in Kyiv, comprised currently of 38 Ukrainian judges. It is mandated to adjudicate high-level corruption cases investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine and prosecuted by the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office.
Based on an opinion of the Venice Commission and demands by civil society in Ukraine, judges were selected with the assistance of the Public Council of International Experts. The Council, comprised of 6 high-level international judicial experts, is vested with the power to exclude candidates from the competition in the event of reasonable doubts as to their integrity and professionalism. The Court administers justice at the trial and appeals stage, the latter being performed by the Appeals Chamber of the HACC.
In addition, a special chamber at the Cassation Criminal Court of the Supreme Court was formed to adjudicate cases at cassation level. Due to the features of the judicial reform process in Ukraine, approximately 30% of the judges appointed to the HACC were selected from outside the judicial system with no judicial background. The Court is expected to be operational in September 2019.
Anti-Corruption Courts: A New Best Practice?
The establishment of anti-corruption courts is becoming increasingly attractive for States when fighting corruption and so as to ensure efficiency and specialization in resolving corruption cases.