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Memo with IMF declares HCJ reform, judicial selection processes consistent with European standards

KYIV. Nov 25 (Interfax-Ukraine) – The updated Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies of Ukraine signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) contains an obligation to implement effective and transparent judicial reform consistent with European judicial standards

"We will strengthen the rule of law by ensuring the independence, integrity, and accountability of the judiciary. We will ensure that the judicial selection processes and disciplinary mechanisms are managed and implemented by persons with high competence, trustworthiness, and integrity consistent with European judicial standards and Venice Commission opinions," the government said in the memorandum published by the IMF on Wednesday.

Ukraine will strengthen the administrative procedures to give sufficiently superior level of judicial consideration to cases challenging the decisions of national state agencies and provide proper safeguards against undue influence on decision-making.

Ukraine amended the Law on the High Council of Justice (HCJ) to enhance the selection process ensuring that its members have impeccable reputation and integrity. "Consistent with the recommendations… of the Venice Commission, the first composition of the six-member Ethics Council will have three independent experts with international judicial experience and will be given a decisive vote [the first composition of the Ethics Council has been approved]," the government said in the document.

According to the memo, the Ethics Council will forward those candidates that have passed the pre-screening to the respective appointing authorities as designated by the Constitution for final selection and approval. In case of negative assessment by the commission of an existing HCJ member, the Ethics Council will send and publish a recommendation for dismissal to the relevant appointing authority.

In addition, the one-off integrity check of existing HCJ members would be completed within the six-month period from the establishment of the Ethics Council as provided under the law. The HCJ permanent Disciplinary Inspectorate Service responsible for investigating disciplinary cases against judges and submitting recommendations to the HCJ for disciplinary actions and sanctions is also mentioned in the memo.

In addition, Ukraine will amend the procedural codes to transfer the judicial review of exemplary administrative cases against national state agencies to the Supreme Court, as a court of first instance, and to the Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court, as an appellate court.

"In further consultation with stakeholders and agreement with IMF staff, the criteria for determining exemplary administrative cases to be transferred to the Supreme Court will be finalized by end-December 2021," the government said in the document.

The criteria will include such factors as cases of national importance, cases above a pre-determined threshold amount, or having significant impact or damage to the country, and will cover the decisions, acts, or omissions of specific national state agencies (such as Cabinet of Ministers, Ministries, National Bank of Ukraine, Anti-Monopoly Committee, HCJ, NABU, NACP, HACC).