Ukraine's Crucial Judicial Reform Takes Next Step Forward As Western Backers Submit Expert Lists

Ukraine’s closely watched judicial reform inched forward as the nation’s Western backers submitted lists of foreign legal experts who will help Kyiv choose and review judges.

The United States and Europe say judicial reform in Ukraine is key to taming the influence of tycoons, cutting endemic corruption, and opening the country to greater foreign investment.

Washington and Brussels have made its successful implementation a top priority in their relations with Kyiv.

In a step applauded by the West, Ukraine’s parliament in July passed bills that aim to reboot two key pillars of the nation’s judicial system: the High Council of Justice (HCJ), which nominates judges for presidential appointment, and the High Qualification Commission of Judges (HQCJ), the institution empowered to select new judges.

Anti-corruption activists have said that the two bodies are compromised, having repeatedly allowed the appointment of politically controlled and dependent judges.

The new legislation calls for the creation of a six-person panel consisting of three foreigners and three Ukrainians to shortlist 32 candidates for 16 HQCJ seats. It also stipulates the creation of a six-member Ethics Council to assess the members of the HCJ.

In a statement on September 10, Ukraine’s international partners announced that they had submitted their recommended lists of foreign experts for the two panels to Kyiv.

“These nominations reflect our ongoing commitment to support key reforms aimed at strengthening the rule of law, attracting foreign investment for business and economic growth, and advancing Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” said a joint statement by Western backers, including the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.

The next step is for the panels to begin short-listing and reviewing judges. Experts say vested interests oppose judicial reform and seek to undermine it.

Ukraine has a long history of passing reforms but failing to implement them successfully.