March 15, 2021
Today's issue:
- Congress of Judges appointed dubious HCJ members;
- President Zelenskyi vetoed harmful law on whistleblowers;
- HCJ attempts to hinder audit of asset declaration of judges; 
- Tatarov finally gets away with his criminal prosecution;

- recommended reading
Congress of Judges appointed dubious HCJ members

On March 9-11, the Congress of Judges took place in Kyiv. Judges representing all Ukrainian courts appointed four new members of the High Council of Justice (HCJ). The process was not transparent, grossly  violated the laws and reform commitments made by Ukraine. All four new HCJ members have questionable reputation, names of three appointees were known in advance.

Civil society experts and G7 ambassadors asked the government to postpone the appointment of the HCJ members by the Congress until the full-scale reform is implemented. Nevertheless, the Congress appointed Sergiy Bolotin, Valeriy Sukhovyi, Vitaliy Salikhov, and Inna Plakhtiy as the new HCJ members. Like during the previous Congress in 2018, this time the list of the names of future HCJ members was distributed among the delegates beforehand. The Council of Judges which was in charge of the Congress did not conduct any preliminary assessment of the candidates and did not check candidates` integrity. Neither integrity nor competence of the candidates was actually a matter of discussion during the Congress. All of the appointed nominees are heavily dependent on the so-called "judicial clans" otherwise their names could not have appeared on the list. 
President Zelenskyi vetoed harmful law on whistleblowers
On March 3, President Zelenskiy vetoed draft law No. 3540, which in case of adoption would have significantly harmed the whistleblower protection regime in Ukraine. The law was heavily criticized by civil society organizations as it would transform progressive legislation into a revenge mechanism against whistleblowers. Whistleblowing International Network called the law "the world’s crudest trap for whistleblowers".
HCJ attempts to hinder audit of asset declaration of judges
The High Council of Justice did not to agree on draft procedures for full verification of asset declarations and monitoring of judges 'lifestyles developed by the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NAPC). The need to agree on the procedure for verifying judges' declarations by the HCJ is provided in the law on the restoration of NAPC powers adopted in December 2020 following an arbitrary decision of the Constitutional Court in October 2020.
Thus, the NAPC will conduct an audit of judges' assets according to general procedures. Existing legal regulation of full verification of declarations and monitoring of judges' lifestyles is sufficient to minimize the risks of interference with judicial activity, so that the the decision of the CCU is considered to be properly implemented in accordance with the recommendations of the Venice Commission. However, it is expected that the HCJ will use the lack of their approval to appeal the future NAPC's decisions on specific asset declarations of judges.
Tatarov finally gets away with his criminal prosecution
On March 1, the terms of pre-trial investigation in the case of deputy head of the Office of President Oleg Tatarov expired. It means that from now on it is impossible to prosecute him for alleged facilitation of bribery. This became possible due to severe interference in the case by the Prosecutor General's Office. Back in December the proceeding was specially transferred from the NABU. Then, several courts issued illegal decisions violating the jurisdiction of the High Anti-corruption Court. Instead of indicting Tatarov, prosecutors of PGO just waited for the expiration of pre-trial investigation terms. Even more, there is evidence that they have attempted to put pressure on the HACC to drop the case.
Recommended Reading 
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