President of Ukraine

Speech by the President of Ukraine during the swearing-in ceremony of judges of the new Supreme Court

11 November 2017 - 13:07

Speech by the President of Ukraine during the swearing-in ceremony of judges of the new Supreme Court

Dear judges of the new Supreme Court!

Let me congratulate you on this very exciting, solemn event.

Dear heads of the High Council of Justice, the High Qualification Commission of Judges, members of the High Council of Justice and the High Qualification Commission of Judges, members of the Council of Judges, members of the Supreme Court of Ukraine!

Dear invitees!

Dear Ukrainians, who are currently watching live broadcast of this solemn ceremony.

Today, November 11, is an extremely important day for our country, the birthday of a fundamentally new Supreme Court. For the first time it was formed on the basis of the contest - unprecedentedly open, unique and transparent. The contest, and each of you knows it, with a high level of competition, which was conducted under an extremely vigilant public scrutiny, with a thorough examination of the candidates by all anti-corruption bodies.

Our historic path is measured by different segments of time. Soon, it will be already thousand years since the beginning of the reign of Yaroslav the Wise and the birth of the Rus’ka Pravda, more than three hundred years of Pylyp Orlyk’s Constitution and the 100th anniversary of the Ukrainian People's Republic. And it is the 26th anniversary of our independence. However, I can emphasize that we have never had a truly independent court, which is now being created.

It did not appear after 1991. Presidents, governments and parliaments changed. Jurisdictions were created, instances were added, but the judicial system was not truly independent and therefore did not meet the needs of society.

We took decisive steps last year, when we changed the relevant regulations of the Constitution, laid the foundation for the independence of the entire judicial system and, above all, the Supreme Court, which is already being built on this new foundation.

For the first time, all political bodies, political parties, parliament were removed from the procedure of selection of judges. You remember for how long judges have been waiting in the parliament for their appointment or dismissal, how judges were summoned to give or take some kind of obligations or explanations.

It is very important that my power, as of President, in this issue was also limited.

Throughout a year, the judiciary bodies, the High Qualification Commission of Judges and the High Council of Justice, in full compliance with the rules envisaged by law, independently, through unprecedentedly transparent competitive procedures, with the maximum possible involvement of public opinion in the selection, initially determined 120 winners of the competition. I signed a request for the appointment of 113 of them as judges of the new Supreme Court.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Through changes to the relevant legislation, European standards of legal proceedings are introduced. The law has already been passed that introduces the new wording or amends the procedural codes and establishes other rules of the court process - effective, fast and convenient for all its participants.

New regulations envisaged by the Commercial and Civil Procedural Codes will guarantee the protection of property rights for ordinary citizens, as well as Ukrainian and international investors. The modern provisions of administrative proceedings will simplify the protection of citizens' rights in relations with the state.

Consequently, the rules and people are changed in the judiciary. I want to congratulate the members of the new Supreme Court, fundamentally renewed as compared to the previous one.

You all have a different background. Someone has a great deal of experience in the judicial system. Someone came to the post of judge after many years of legal practice, someone was a human rights activist, an academician or a lecturer. Some of you dreamed of becoming a judge of the Supreme Court all his life and has been climbing up the career ladder for years. For others, the means of social mobility became available only with the judicial reform, including the amendments to the Constitution.

Every fourth judge of the new Supreme Court is a legal practitioner or an academician. I want to inform the society that this is unprecedented, since nobody outside of the judicial system had the right to be a candidate before. Today, these opportunities are available. I want to emphasize that a little bit more than a third is judges of the first or second instance, for whom it was really difficult to become members of the Supreme Court before the reform.

But I am grateful to each of you, because each of you believed in the reform and tried his hand in an honest competition, and made sure that he would have a chance to build a new system guided by Ukrainian laws, European standards and European values.

Could someone imagine such a reboot three years ago? Today, Ukraine is already an example for other states in the implementation of standards and rules, transparency of competitive procedures, openness and involvement of the public.

We are opening a new page in the history of justice in our country. The Supreme Court is the last resort, the last instance where a person will come to protect the violated rights.

On your way to this event, you walked past the monument to Pylyp Orlyk. A few months ago, during my state visit to Sweden, I had a unique opportunity to get to the State Royal Museum. And the officials of the Kingdom of Sweden showed me the original of the Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk. I can say that I was very excited. In fact, let it be just a few pages, this is a Constitution in which The Hetman, the associate of the Great Mazepa, dedicated a separate appeal to the judges. He told “to ensure that ordinary people do not face excessive oppression…”.

The same requirement is put forward by the modern Constitution, just in different wording.

And I, as President, address all of you with the same guideline. A huge request from all of us - return public confidence in justice to people. Help them find the truth. And please always remember the price paid by Ukraine for an independent and fair court, for your ability to work there. Remember that the key value is a person. Remember that during the war, society and the state must be guided by the power of law, not by the power of force.

The Supreme Court is independent and principal in the system. In the further formation of the judicial system, people will look up to you. Other judges will be guided by your decisions. Your legal position will be the impetus for the new development of science of law and jurisprudence. It is a great honor for each of you - to make the final decision in the name of Ukraine. And when you make this decision in the name of Ukraine, please think about the person and his rights, about the independence of the court and the justice that you carry, about honesty and integrity.

This is what the Ukrainian society demands from you. This is what I wanted, as President, starting the judicial reform and deliberately limiting my presidential powers. This will become the basis of a rule-of-law state, a decent life for every citizen of Ukraine. And although decisions will be taken collectively, do not forget about personal responsibility.

It is very important that the contest to the Supreme Court is an extremely important precedent followed by the whole system. The role and the work done by the High Qualification Commission of Judges and the High Council of Justice is very important. The struggle to create a new Supreme Court was not easy. I would like to thank the academicians, attorneys and human rights activists who participated in the work of the Judicial Reform Council. Special thanks to the Members of the Parliament who voted for legislative and constitutional amendments.

The struggle for purification - both its rational component and its overtones - has created thousands of judicial vacancies, which should be filled by new judges who would meet the rigorous demands of modern society. The procedures for the selection of judges of the first-instance courts have already begun. Last week, the High Qualification Commission of Judges selected 700 candidates to study in the National School of Judges. At the same time, the Commission carries out a qualification assessment of current judges and will soon start conducting competitions to courts of appeals instance. It will complete the second stage of the formation of the Supreme Court.

The next step is the adoption of a number of laws on changes in the justice system. Including, the Law on the Anti-Corruption Court. I expect the Verkhovna Rada to submit a draft, on the basis of which I will submit my proposals to the Verkhovna Rada as urgent.

I  would like to say that simultaneously with the Anti-Corruption Court bill, I am planning to introduce a bill on the Military Court. We are waiting for the Law on Bar, Legal Education, etc.

I believe in the new Supreme Court. I believe that we will succeed. I believe you. Of course, it takes a little time and patience for the judicial system to be filled with new people and reach the rated capacity.

I wish each of you success,public trust, inspiration on this path and a long and very fruitful work in building a new Ukraine.

I sincerely believe in our victory.

Glory to Ukraine!