On June 1, some 16 members of the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine were selected by the High Council of Justice, after delay of almost four years.

The Commission and the Council has been set up under Ukrainian judicial reform, and is called upon to secure the independence, high professionalism and integrity of Ukrainian judges. The Commission is also responsible for recruiting and transferring judges.

G7 Ambassadors praised the long-awaited appointment of the Commission’s members and expected “transparent and merit-based selection and qualification evaluation of judges.”

The final appointment of the Commission marks the implementation of an important EU recommendation about Ukrainian acquisition of EU membership, as underlined by Denys Maslov, Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Policy.

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In Maslov’s opinion, the Commission faces large-scale tasks. It has to recruit judges for 2,000 vacant positions and complete an evaluation of the integrity and professional merits of 2,000 acting judges (equating to 45 percent of all Ukrainian judges).

While commending the launch, a number of independent anti-corruption and judicial watchdogs regretted that a few genuine “agents of change” had been selected to the Commission.

Not a single representative of civil society was appointed to the Commission, as stated by judiciary watchdog Dejure foundation.

Additionally, the integrity and qualifications of two appointed members appears to be dubious.

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Former judge Volodymyr Luhansky closed 54 cases about drunk driving based on the reason that the statute of limitations had expired, as reported by Dejure.

In 2015, another former judge, Ludmyla Volkova, did not protect judge-whistleblower Bondarenko from Cherkasy Regional Court of Appeals. She sided with the Head of that Court who presumably pressured the whistleblower to approve the decision favoring the interests of Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash.

On June 6, Roman Ihnatov, ex-judge of the Kyiv Court of Appeals, was elected by members of the Commission as its Head. His appointment spurred public controversy regarding his alleged Russian citizenship. In 1995-96, he worked as a prosecutor in Russia’s Petrozavodsk City. During his qualification interview by the High Council of Justice, he declared he had been stateless and had not received Russian citizenship at that time.

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Roman Ihnatov has not provided public comments about this matter.

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