HRW: New Ukraine law threatens judicial independence

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Thursday criticized a law passed by the Ukrainian parliament [official website, in Ukrainian], saying that it violates judicial independence and should be struck down. The law, On Restoring Confidence in the Judiciary, sets forth circumstances [HRW press release] under which a judge could be put through judicial review and face dismissal from holding judicial office. The list includes "politically motivated" decisions, decisions restricting meetings and marches during the country's protests from November 21 through February 21 and decisions that have been challenged by the European Court of Human Rights [official website]. Failure of a review would result in immediate removal from court proceedings, followed by dismissal. Europe and Central Asia director at HRW Hugh Williamson [official profile] called the law "overly broad," and "tainted with political bias," going on to say that it violates the independence of the judiciary which would lead to more mistrust throughout society. HRW asserts that the makeup of the review committee, which is to include members appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers, the parliament, the High Council of Justice and the Supreme Qualification Commission of Ukrainian Courts, politicizes it, and that the law lacks adequate due process for those called forth for review.

The ongoing conflict [BBC timeline] in Ukraine has reinvigorated fears of Cold War Era politics and increased tensions between Russia and the West. Last week an inquiry by the interim Ukrainian government implicated [JURIST report] members of the special Berkut riot police in the deaths of 76 anti-government protesters in Kiev in February. Last month both the US Senate and the House of Representatives approved nearly identical bills [JURIST report] that would send a $1 billion aid package to Ukraine and place new sanctions on Russia. Also last month the UN General Assembly [official website] approved a resolution [JURIST report] declaring the Crimean referendum to secede from Ukraine invalid. The resolution calls upon all UN states, international organizations and specialty agencies not to recognize any change in status of the Crimean region despite the referendum [JURIST report]. Earlier in March the European Union imposed [JURIST report] new sanctions against 11 senior Russian politicians, including Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. The EU imposed the sanctions on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website; JURIST news archive] finalized legislation making Crimea officially part of Russia.

 

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