UBA Accentuates the Unacceptability of Pressure on Judges

2018-03-14

KYIV - March 14, 2018. The Ukrainian Bar Association (UBA) calls for a public discussion on the expediency of preserving Article 375 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, which in the Ukrainian realities has turned into a way of pressure on judges by the prosecutor's office, and asks the High Council of Justice to hold public hearings on this issue.

Below is the outline of the UBA Open Appeal on the independence of judges:

The Ukrainian Bar Association is a leading legal community aimed at implementing the rule of law and raising the legal awareness in the society.

On March 1, 2018, the judge of the Kyiv district court of Kharkiv Denys Neviadomsky made a ruling on the return of the indictment to the prosecutor because of the violation of the constitutional right of the accused to defense, as well as the decision to refuse to comply with the prosecutor's request to extend the term of detention of the accused.

In response to such judgments, the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor's Office initiated criminal proceedings against a judge on the basis of Article 375 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (a ruling against a judge (judges) for a knowingly unlawful sentence, decision, order or ruling).

Such actions, in our opinion, violate Article 126 of the Constitution of Ukraine, which guarantees the independence and integrity of judges, as well as prohibits any influence on them.

In accordance with Part III of Article 6 of the Law of Ukraine "On the Judiciary and the Status of Judges", interference with the administration of justice, the influence on judges in any way, disrespect for the court or judges is prohibited and result in liability established by law.

In the Annual Report on the Status of Independence of Judges in Ukraine, the High Council of Justice noted that the submission by the party to the court proceedings of an application for inclusion in the Unified Register of Pre-trial Investigations of information on the commission of a criminal offense by a judge before the end of court proceedings has indications of influence on the court, which provides for criminal liability under Article 376 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Bar Association expresses concern with regard to the abovementioned actions of the prosecutor's office and considers it inadmissible to apply Article 375 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine as a means of influence and pressure on a judge and once again emphasizes the need to ensure the professional rights and guarantees of judges provided for by international instruments and national legislation.

The Association considers it necessary to launch a public discussion on the appropriateness of preserving Article 375 in the Criminal Code of Ukraine, which in Ukrainian realities has turned into a way of pressure on judges by the prosecutor's office and has become one of the threats to the independence of the court. Moreover, the composition of the crime envisaged by this article covers, on the one hand, the composition of offenses in the field of service activities and professional activities related to the provision of public services, and the grounds for the disciplinary liability of judges on the other hand.

The Ukrainian Bar Association calls on the High Council of Justice to hold public hearings with the participation of the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine and other stakeholders  on the application of Article 375 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine in the light of the elimination of the threat of the independence of judges in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Bar Association appeals to the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine to conduct an investigation, to evaluate the actions of the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor's Office, and to take urgent measures to prevent prosecutors from exercising pressure on judges.

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