Ukraine // Discussing the core values of the judiciary

Themes: ,


By Lino Brosius

In the week of the first ever open testing of candidate judges for positions in the new Ukrainian Supreme Court, a selected group of judges from the Lviv region participated in a workshop on the independence of the judiciary and judicial ethics with their Dutch and Polish colleagues.


On 15 and 16 February 2017, CILC, its partner organisation the Centre for Judicial Studies and the Lviv branch of the National School of Judges of Ukraine linked up Ukrainian judges of the Appellate Court and 14 other district courts in the Lvivskaja Oblast’ with their Dutch and Polish peers. This two-day workshop focused on a range of topics, including challenges to the independence of the judiciary, media pressure on judges, the value system supporting the work of the judiciary, implications of these values, and ways to ensure trust and confidence of society in the judiciary.


Judge Natalia Kuriy of the Appellate Court of Lviv launched the discussion by presenting on the common forms of pressure on judges in the Ukrainian system, which include repeated smear campaigns, corruption allegations and physical threats. Polish judge Dariusz Mazur of the regional court in Cracow added to this discussion by presenting the pressure that the justice sector in Poland is currently facing, as other state powers try to exert undue influence on the administration of justice. Following these introductions, the judges looked at their own positions, assessing what they could do to influence their situation. The group proceeded to discuss the core values of the judiciary as listed in the judicial ethics report 2009-2010 of the European Networks of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ)[1] and the implications of these values for the daily life of judges and their day-to-day practice of administering justice.


Dutch judges Ruth van der Pol and Rutger Wery explained why it is relevant to talk about these core values. As judges have no direct democratic legitimacy – they are appointed for life and are not elected – they have to work hard to deserve the trust and confidence of society. The Dutch colleagues underlined that a good way of trying to earn trust and confidence is showing what the judge is doing and explaining why (s)he is doing what (s)he is doing. In other words: ‘justice must not only be seen to be done, but has to be seen to be believed!’ Openness and transparency are key issues, and integrity both in public and private life is the heart of this exposure. Therefore, judges in Ukraine themselves hold the key to improving their situation. The reliability of judges themselves is directly linked to the public trust in the justice system.


The second part of the workshop focused on discussing several judicial moral dilemmas in two breakout sessions with three groups. The participants were tasked to study the dilemmas in small groups, to indicate which core values of justice were at stake, and to advocate opposing arguments for each judicial moral dilemma. The dilemmas that were formulated included those in which independence, impartiality, competence, equality of treatment and integrity were at stake. This part of the workshop led to a lively debate among all judges, most notably about the issue of being aware of one’s own convictions and prejudices, and the relation with exonerations and recusals.


The active and practical approach in discussing the core values of the judiciary and judicial moral dilemmas proved to be a success. Participants underlined that the work in small groups with group rapporteurs and subsequent plenary sessions ensured that everyone was very involved and that everyone got a chance to share his or her views and experience. The National School of Judges of Ukraine indicated that it would like to apply this training method in other courses of its continuous training programme.


Later this year, in June and September the project team will organise a second and third workshop for new groups of Ukrainian judges in the Lviv region.

These workshops are part of a bilateral Dutch-Ukrainian project that aims to strengthen the rule of law in the Lviv region of Ukraine. This project is funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

[1] Independence, integrity, impartiality, reserve and discretion, diligence, respect and the ability to listen, equality of treatment, competence, transparency. Next to these values the ENCJ report lists a number of qualities and virtues of a judge.

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