Ukraine’s Congress of Judges elects eight HCJ members, activists criticize picks

12 January, 05:00 PM
Serhiy Burlakov is one of the newly elected representatives of the Ukraine’s Congress of Judges (Photo:rsu.gov.ua)

Serhiy Burlakov is one of the newly elected representatives of the Ukraine’s Congress of Judges (Photo:rsu.gov.ua)

The delegates of the 19th Extraordinary Congress of Judges of Ukraine on Jan. 12 elected all eight members of the High Council of Justice (HCJ) according to their quota, but some of the picks have come in for criticism from anti-corruption activists.

Five members of the HCJ were elected on Jan. 11, while another three were elected on Jan. 12.

According to the results of the second round of secret voting, the following judges were elected:

  • judge of the Civil Court of Cassation under the Supreme Court of Ukraine, Serhiy Burlakov;
  • judge of the Mykolayiv Court of Appeal Tetiana Bondarenko;
  • judge of the Kherson district administrative court Olena Kovbiy;
  • judge of the Economic Court of Donetsk Oblast Yuliia Bokova;
  • judge of the Kharkiv Court of Appeal Alla Kotelevets;
  • judge of the Northern Court of Appeal Olha Popikova;
  • judge of the Lviv district administrative court Oleksandr Sasevych;
  • judge of the Supreme Court of Ukraine Hryhoriy Usyk.

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The election of members of the HCJ according to the quota of the Congress of Judges will allow unblocking the work of the judicial self-government body, many processes in the judiciary related to the work of courts and personnel issues, as well as continuing the implementation of judicial reform.

At the same time, the Anti-Corruption Action Center and head of its executive board, Vitaliy Shabunin, have already criticized most of the choices of judges to sit on the HCJ.

Shabunin said in a Telegram messenger post that “there are very serious questions” about seven out of eight judges.

He noted that Burlakov and Bokova visited Russia and Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Crimea, Bondarenko hid the facts of traffic violations, and Kotelevets did not take into account the results of the forensic examination during the consideration of the case about a road accident and reduced the compensation to the victim.

Popikova has omitted some real estate in her income declarations for several years, while Usyk privatized an office apartment in Kyiv, having previously transferred two of his own apartments to his sons.

“All of them will cover for judges who commit the same actions,” Shabunin said.

“They have connections with Russia, lie in their income declarations, make decisions outside of the workplace, and tell tales about winnings worth millions, and gifts. It is especially sad that the ‘Moscow patriarchate in gowns’ is elected to key positions at a time when Ukraine is waging an exhausting war for freedom and independence.”

The Center confirmed that Burlakov and his relatives had visited Russia after the start of the Russian occupation of Crimea.

As of 2018, the judge’s father lived in Russia and was a Russian citizen.

Bondarenko also has connections with Russia. Her brother is a citizen of Russia, and her sister periodically travels there.

Ten HCJ members submitted letters of resignation ahead of time on Feb. 22. It was explained by the fact that the Ethics Council had started evaluation procedures for all members of the Council, except for the head of the Supreme Court.

This made the possibility of further work of the HCJ “directly dependent on the decisions and actions of the Ethics Council,” while the Council’s work in conditions of such dependence violated the guarantees of the independent activities of its members, according to the HCJ.

In late May, the Ethics Council resumed conducting interviews for the High Council of Justice, which began in February. However, non-government organizations criticized it for its decision to hold the interviews with the candidates behind closed doors and to conduct them without online broadcasting – this was explained by martial law.

The High Council of Justice submits applications for the appointment of judges, makes decisions on violations by judges or prosecutors, may dismiss judges from their positions, and gives consent to their detention.

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