President of the Council of Europe's European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) Gianni Buquicchio and President of the Group of States against Corruption (CRECO) Marin Mrčela have addressed Verkhovna Rada Chairman Dmytro Razumkov, speaking up against the draft Law "on renewal of public confidence in constitutional judiciary," which President Volodymyr Zelensky has tabled in Parliament.
An effective fight against corruption and respect for judicial independence and the Rule of Law have to go hand-in-hand, the senior officials noted in a letter, addressing the issue of the legislative initiative that came against the background of the recent ruling by the Constitutional Court relating to Ukraine's anti-corruption framework.
"There can be no effective fight against corruption without an independent judiciary and respect for the Rule of Law. Equally, there can be no independent judiciary and respect for the Rule of Law when corruption is pervasive," the letter reads.
Ukraine anti-corruption efforts, the officials say, need to be continued and stepped up, "in line with the country’s Constitution and international obligations and, notably, the recommendations by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO)."
GRECO recommendations need to be "fully and effectively implemented without delay." They are mostly about the effective implementation of the reforms passed.
"In this context, the independence and impartiality of anti-corruption institutions must be ensured not only in law, but also in practice," the officials wrote.
The Venice Commission also insists on the importance of the fight against corruption in Ukraine, notably in the judiciary.
"The Constitutional Court plays an essential role as gatekeeper of the Constitution and its values and as the arbiter of separation of powers," the letter reads.
The two officials say they "totally agree on the importance of ensuring public confidence in the Constitutional Court," adding that the confidence in the other state institutions "is equally important."
Read alsoHead of EU Delegation Maasikas: Trust in anti-corruption agencies needs to be restored fast"Confidence does not imply lack of independence, on the contrary: the Constitutional Court may only enjoy the trust of the other state institutions and of the public if it is truly independent. Trust needs to be earned. But it can only be earned within a system which respects the constitution and the Rule of Law," reads the letter.
"Terminating the mandate of the judges is in blatant breach of the Constitution and of the fundamental principle of separation of powers. Violating the Constitution, even if for an arguably good cause, cannot lead to a culture of constitutionalism and respect for the rule of law, which the fight against corruption pursues," the officials wrote.
They urged the Parliament Speaker "to consider the adverse, profound and long-term implications for your country of a possible rushed decision to dismiss the constitutional justices" and encouraged him "to explore possible alternative ways of ensuring that the fight against corruption in line with international standards remains a priority for your country."
Constitutional Court's controversial decision on illegal enrichment: Facts
On October 27, the Constitutional Court ruled on a motion filed by 47 legislators to repeal Article 366-1 of the Criminal Code, which provides for criminal liability for inaccurate asset declaration by government officials.
The Constitutional Court also recognized the provisions of laws on the verification of officials' e-declarations as unconstitutional and deprived the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) of the authority to check asset declarations and identify conflicts of interest.
The Constitutional Court, by its decision, blocked the NACP's access to the state registers necessary for conducting special checks on declarations of candidates nominated for top positions in the government. Without such vetting, no head of a government agency could be appointed officially.
On October 28, the NACP closed access to the State E-Declarations Register.
On October 28, the Constitutional Court published the text of the respective decision adopted by its Grand Chamber, composed of 15 judges.
The National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) said that pursuant to the Constitutional Court's decision, all cases of inaccurate declaration of assets would be closed, and government officials convicted of abuse would thus evade liability.
On October 29, President Volodymyr Zelensky gave instructions at a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council to immediately table a bill in parliament that provides for the restoration of the integrity of legal proceedings in the Constitutional Court.