Last year, a new law on the judiciary substantially reduced the powers of the Supreme Court and high-profile prosecutions of opposition leaders have raised the specter of political persecution. As recently highlighted by Ukrainian lawmaker Hryhoriy Omelchenko, the trend in Ukraine has been to collapse the judiciary into the executive branch and to remove the judiciary’s power. This suppression of the Supreme Court of Ukraine fails to respect the separation of powers. A hobbled judiciary cannot protect citizens’ rights.
Adopted on June 28, 1996, Ukraine’s constitution emphasizes the rule of law. All persons are subject to a universally applicable law. In order to uphold this value, a strong and independent judiciary must exist in a system of separate and co-equal powers. To lead that judiciary, the constitution sets the Supreme Court of Ukraine as the highest judicial body for courts of general jurisdiction.
Since 1996, the Constitutional requirements for the judiciary were enacted into law in 2001, and became effective in 2002. The latest major change to the judiciary, the Law of Ukraine On the Judiciary and the Status of Judges (No.2453-VI) was adopted by Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, on July 7, 2010, and signed into law by the president on July 27, 2010. Although comments on the draft of this new law were submitted by numerous national and international experts, including the Venice Commission and the United States Agency for International Development’s Rule of Law Project, most of these comments were not incorporated into the law that was passed.