Ukraine’s President, Viktor Yushchenko, in a highly controversial act, removed from office one of Ukraine’s Constitutional Court Judges.
The Constitutional Court is currently considering an appeal against the President’s decree dismissing Ukraine’s democratically elected parliament.
The President’s removal from office of one of the judges reviewing his decree raises serious concerns of possible corruption and subjects the Office of the President to allegations that the President’s actions were politically motivated and direct interference in the decision and determination of Ukraine’s Constitutional Court.
One of the identified problems with Ukraine’s judicial system is the concern that Constitutional Court Judges are paid monthly 60000 UAH (Approximately US$12,000) substantially large salaries by Ukrainian standards. The ability for a Judge to be replaced at will subjects the court to undue political pressure and leaves the court open to allegations of political corruption. This situation would not be allowed or tolerated in any other western democracy.
Constitutional Court judges are appointed for a nine year term of office and are protected from unfair dismissal by the provisions of Ukraine’s Constitution Chapter VIII Articles 126, 127 and Chapter XII)
The President’s decision to remove one of the judges has the potential of influencing the outcome of the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the President’s decree and the appeal by the Parliamentary majority and seriously undermines confidence in Ukraine’s judicial system and the Office of the President.
Update: UNIAN 2nd May, 2007
Syuzanna Stanik: The president`s decree of 1 May dismissing her lacks the observance of a necessary procedure, according to the law on the Constitutional Court and the court`s procedures, the issue of breaching the oath should first be considered by a special commission which should forward its conclusions to the Supreme Council.
Ukraine parliament cries foul as Yushchenko sacks high court judge
Tuesday 01 May 2007
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko sacked a judge on the country’s high court, a move attacked by the parliament majority as unconstitutional, according to Tuesday news reports.An executive order published on the presidential website Monday evening relieved judge Valery Pshenichny, a justice on the 18-member supreme constitutional court, from his court position “for extensive violations in procedure . and violation of his oath. “
The constitutional court currently is reviewing the legality of Yuschenko’s April 2 order dissolving parliament. The legislature, led by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, has continued to meet in defiance of the order.
Legal officials in the Yushchenko administration criticised Pshenichny earlier this month for talking to media about the case.
Political analysts believe the court to be closely balanced between supporters of Yushchenko and Yanukovich. By constitutional statute the President appoints six members of the court, parliament another six members and an independent judicial council the last six members.
Pshenichny was appointed in 2003 by Yushchenko’s predecessor Leonid Kuchma and is a likely supporter of Yanukovich’s pro-Russia policies, Ukrainska Pravda magazine reported.
“This step by the president has the goal of stopping work of the constitutional court, the only organ capable of resolving the constitutional basis of relations between the branches of power,” Yanukovich said, in a statement published on his party web site.
“We resolutely protest . this illegal measure by the president . and call on Ukrainian citizens and world society to bring an end to such actions,” the statement said.
Reaction by parliament on Tuesday was slow in coming, in part, because May 1 is a national holiday on Ukraine.
Ukrainan legal authorities were divided on whether the president could sack a high court deputy and appoint another to a particular case. Yushchenko’s office was on Tuesday not commenting on possible nominees to replace Pshenichny.
Parliament on Monday muddied the constitutional waters as well, passing a law scheduling parliamentary and Presidential elections for December.
Yushchenko’s April 2 order originally set elections only for parliament on May 27, but in a later order the pro-Europe politician changed the date to June 24. He has refused even to consider Presidential elections before the end of his five-year term in 2009.
Long accused of doing little to stand up to an increasingly assertive pro-Russia majority in parliament, Yushchenko since the beginnning of April has taken the offensive, using presidential order and frank threat to challenge Yanukovich’s ruling coalition.
Ukraine’s secret police, the SBU, a spy agency thought to be loyal to Yushchenko, in early April sensationally accused constitutional court justice Susana Stanik of accepting up to 12 million dollars in bribes, in exchange for her support to Yanukovich’s side in the parliament dissolution dispute.
Stanik, while admitting her mother-in-law recently received as gifts a pair of Kiev apartments and other benefits from the Yanukovich government worth millions, has repeatedly denied the property transfers would have an effect on her fair judgement of the president-parliament dispute.
Mykola Poludeny, a top Yushchenko legal advisor, in a Monday evening interview on the Channel Five television station repeated the allegations against Stanik, telling viewers Yushchenko was preparing to remove her from the court as well.
Stanik, like the sacked Pshenichny, was appointed to the high court by Yushchenko’s predecessor.