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Council of Europe human rights commissioner: Ukraine's judicial system needs independence

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Feb. 23, 2012, 4:05 p.m. | Ukraine — by Interfax-Ukraine
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg has said that systemic deficiencies in the functioning of the Ukrainian judicial system seriously threaten human rights. In this regard, the commissioner urged the Ukrainian authorities "resolute steps to better address these problems." This is stipulated in a report based on the results of his visit to Ukraine, which took place on Nov. 19-26, 2011, the Council of Europe told Interfax-Ukraine.

In particular, in his report, the commissioner recommended simplifying the overall organization of the judiciary and clarifying fully the respective roles and jurisdiction of various levels of the court system, in particular, at the cassation level.

"Concrete measures are also needed to increase the transparency of the judicial system and make it more open to public scrutiny," Hammarberg said.

The CoE commissioner said that the judicial system "is still vulnerable to external interference, including of a political nature."

"Decisive action is needed on several fronts to remove the factors which render judges vulnerable and weaken their independence. The authorities should carefully look into any allegations of improper political or other influence or interference in the work of judicial institutions and ensure effective remedies," he said.

In this regard, the commissioner called on the Ukrainian authorities to establish fair procedures and criteria related to the appointment and dismissal of judges, as well as the application of disciplinary measures.

He also recommended changes in the composition of the High Council of Justice, which presently does not correspond to international standards, and the provision of the quality of on-going training for judges, including on the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.

The imbalance between the defense and the prosecution remains an issue of serious concern.

The commissioner also said he was concerned by cases of abusive prosecutions, harassment, and other forms of pressure on lawyers.

He stressed that "the ongoing reform of the criminal justice system represents a unique opportunity to address a number of structural problems, including excessively lengthy judicial proceedings, non-enforcement of domestic judicial rulings and the abusive use of remand in custody."

The commissioner made also public a letter addressed to the prime minister of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Anatoliy Mohyliov, in which he recommends concrete measures to better protect the right of ethnic groups living in the republic.
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