5 Feb 2018 21:31

Reforms in Ukraine result in coexistence of 2 supreme courts

KYIV. Feb 5 (Interfax) - A peculiar 'judicial diarchy' has emerged in Ukraine, a conflict of laws in which two supreme courts have been simultaneously existing in the country for about two months, as the new Supreme Court had been created during the judicial reform, while the old one was not abolished.

"We have not received an executive order, on the basis of which one could say that the Supreme Court was abolished. [...] We must sit down and think how to exit this deadlock," Vasyl Humeniuk, the acting chair of the 'old' Ukrainian Supreme Court, said at a briefing in Kyiv on Monday.

It is necessary to legally entrench the handover of the legacy of the Ukrainian Supreme Court to the newly created Supreme Court, he said. "These issues have been discussed, communication with the authorities [the president, the Verkhovna Rada] is underway in order to fight the legal solution to this situation," Humeniuk said.

The 'old' Ukrainian Supreme Court has requested the Constitutional Court to provide a legal definition of the cessation of its work during the launch of the 'new' Supreme Court, in particular, in terms of reviewing the possibility of abolishing the Ukrainian Supreme Court as a constitutional body without introducing amendments to the Constitution, he said. But the Ukrainian Constitutional Court rendered no decision, Humeniuk said.

The similar situation had happened in Croatia during the reorganization, but the country's Constitutional Court resolved the issue, Humeniuk said, when asked whether two supreme courts have ever existed simultaneously in the world history.

As reported, on October 3, 2017, the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada adopted a bill introducing amendments to a number of the country's legal acts ensuring the conclusion of the judicial reform. One of the innovations of the bill is defining the Supreme Court as the single cassation instance and introducing the new procedure of hearing cases in it.

On November 22, 2017, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed the bill. Prior to that, in early November, Poroshenko signed a decree appointing 114 judges of the new Supreme Court.

The new Supreme Court began its operations on December 15, 2017, it is now the main and only cassation instance, while the old one had ceased operations.

Thus, the old Supreme Court continues working without administering justice, as it is done by the new one, and expects the president and the parliament to decide on its abolition, Humeniuk said.

According to the Constitution, a court may be abolition or reorganized on the basis of the president's decree approved by the Supreme Judicial Council and the Verkhovna Rada, he said. In addition, the constitutional principle of the distribution of power should be taken into consideration, it prevents one branch of the government from destroying another one via an order or decree, he said.

When asked how exactly the Ukrainian Supreme Court could be abolished, Humeniuk said: "I don't know how it should be resolved, but [we] have clearly raised the question in our constitutional request, we see that it cannot be abolished in this case, there should be some other form."

The abolition envisages an institution losing its functions, the destruction of its documents, archives, resolving an issue of ownership of its premises.

"The thing that is scary about the abolition is that it has consequences. [...] The Ukrainian Supreme Court's hard disc and other classified materials are being destroyed during the abolition, we cannot hand over documents to a court for further use," Humeniuk said.

For instance, the abolition means destroying the case on rehabilitation of victims of political repressions in Ukraine which had been head in 1991-1998, he said. "It's about the fates of people. I won't resort to that [the abolition]!" he said.

A total of 13 judges are currently working at the old Supreme Court, he said.

"The judges go to work, study the new legislation. We also work as a post box, people send requests to us regarding rehabilitation cases among other things. We are incapable of hearing cases, but we perform our functions," he said.

The judges of the Supreme Court are currently being paid 'a bare salary' and 'waiting for their fate," he said.

The judges were elected for an indefinite term, Humeniuk said. He said he is unaware whether the judges requested to be transferred to other courts.