EU Project “Support to Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine” and the Council of Judges of Ukraine continue a series of events dedicated to the discussion of the Procedure for Control of Adherence to the Legislation Aimed to Manage the Conflict of Interest in the Work of Judges and Other Representatives of the Judiciary.
On 15 March 2016, the round table “Management of the conflict of interest in the work of judges and other representatives of the judiciary” was held at the Kharkiv Branch of the National School of Judges of Ukraine.
The event started with analysis of regulatory enactments which settle the conflict of interest in the work of judges. Judge Tetyana Chumachenko, Head of the Ethics, Conflict of Interest Regulation and Professional Development Committee of the Council of Judges of Ukraine, spoke about the competences of the Council of Judges with regards to that issue. She stressed that in accordance with the Law of Ukraine “On the Judicial System and the Status of Judges”, non-disclosure or untimely informing of potential conflict by a judge was a subject to disciplinary liability, and acting under evident conflict of interest would result in administrative liability. At the same time, the Article 131 of the law “On the Judicial System and the Status of Judges” authorizes the Council of Judges to control adherence to the legislation regulating the conflict of interest and its settlement beyond the court for judges, the head and the members of the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine, the head and the deputy heads of the State Court Administration of Ukraine.
Yulia Zemlytska, National Expert of the EU Project “Support to Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine”, informed the participants of the event how the conflict of interest was managed in private and public institutions in the EU Member States. She noted that procedure for regulation of the conflict of interest for judges in Ukraine was drafted on the basis of Lithuanian experience. In Lithuania, the law “On the Adjustment of Public and Private Interests” is valid for all public officials, including judges, who are obliged to declare private interests. Register of private interests of judges is open for public access and integrated within the case management system, thus allowing to avoid distribution to a judge of cases related to his/her private interest.
According to Virgilijus Valancius, Team Leader of the EU Project “Support to Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine”: “Declaration of private interests should be based on the principles of rationality and should not be just a formality. It is not necessary to declare all judges, acquaintances, classmates, etc. The declaration should include only most evident private interests which could potentially influence objectivity in a decision making process. Regulation of this issue by the judicial community of Ukraine is an important step for ensuring openness and transparency of the judiciary”. According to him, so far as procedural settlement of conflict of interest, in order to fight against abuse of recusal and self-recusal, the judges are recommended to disclose, within the process and to all parties of the process, information about being acquainted or related to one of the parties or their legal representative. If after disclosure of such information no participant to the process recused a judge, the conflict shall be deemed settled. This rule is supported by the ECHR case law.
The Procedure for Control of Adherence to the Legislation Aimed to Manage the Conflict of Interest in the Work of Judges and Other Representatives of the Judiciary was approved by the Council of Judges on 04 February, 2016. Developed with the support of the EU Project “Support to the Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine”, it determines legal base for the mechanism managing the conflict of interest in the work of judges. Despite the key conflict of interest concepts and settlement methods being already enshrined in the laws, this is the first document in Ukraine to determine the methods of preventing and settling the conflict of interest in the public service in such a detailed manner. The key novelty of this document is that it introduces voluntary declaration of private interests as a way to inform about potential conflict of interest.