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Reinstatement of judge said to be the victim of political corruption

Oleksandr Volkov v. Ukraine   | 2013

Reinstatement of judge said to be the victim of political corruption

One of the most important judgments against Ukraine was the recent case of Oleksandr Volkov v. Ukraine, as it touched upon the central issue of the whole system of human rights protection – independence of the judiciary.

Ganna Yudkivska, Ukrainian Judge at the European Court of Human Rights
© Photo Newspaper Cудебно-юридическая газета «Суд инфо»

 

Background

Oleksandr Volkov was a Supreme Court judge. Members of the High Council of Justice applied to Parliament to have him sacked. Mr Volkov said he had done nothing wrong, and the case against him had been rigged.  His legal representative argued that Mr Volkov had been the victim of political corruption, which sought to undermine judicial independence. 

Parliament voted for his dismissal, and Mr Volkov was removed from office in 2010.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The Strasbourg court ruled that the dismissal of Mr Volkov had been biased and manipulated. Neither the High Council of Justice nor the relevant Parliamentary committee had been impartial, and a number of their members had been personally biased against Mr Volkov. During the vote on his dismissal in Parliament, certain members had illegally voted in the place of others who were absent. When the dismissal was reviewed in court, the judges were unable to take an impartial position, properly review the case or take any meaningful action in response to it.

Mr Volkov’s dismissal had breached his right to a fair trial, and his right to private and family life.

The court holds that the respondent State shall secure the applicant’s reinstatement to the post of judge of the Supreme Court at the earliest possible date.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, 9th January 2013

Follow-up

Mr Volkov was reinstated as a Supreme Court judge on 2 February 2015. Following the case, the Ukrainian government has also carried out substantial legislative and institutional reforms in order to improve the independence and impartiality of the judiciary:

  • Changes to the constitution and the adoption of two major laws in order to improve structural protections of judicial independence;
  • Re-organisation of the High Council of Justice, the body in charge of administering the Ukrainian justice system to reduce the possibility of any political influence;
  • Parliament no longer has any influence on judicial discipline and careers of judges;
  • Creation of objective procedures for evaluating judges and disciplinary sanctions;
  • Restrictions on the powers of prosecutors to discipline judges; and
  • Effective judicial review and appeals procedure against decisions to remove or discipline judges.

The Council of Europe continues to monitor efforts in support of an independent and impartial judiciary in Ukraine.

Additional information