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Speeches and Interviews

Opening Remarks at Roundtable on Judicial Reform in Ukraine and International Standards for Judicial Independence

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft addresses leading policymakers and legal experts on Oct. 26 in Kyiv

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft addresses leading policymakers and legal experts on Oct. 26 in Kyiv

October 26, 2010

Good Morning. Honorable justices, judicial experts and distinguished guests, I am delighted to be with you today at this very timely and important event.

A fair judicial system based on the principles of judicial independence and accountability is the cornerstone of a democratic society. It promotes investment and economic growth, plays a critical role in effectively combating corruption, and can serve as a check on legislative and executive authority in a constitutional democracy.

Very important steps have already been undertaken by Ukrainian political leaders and society. I am pleased that with the support of USAID’s Ukraine Rule of Law Project and other partners, Ukraine has adopted the new Law on the Judiciary and Status of Judges, which encourages fair, transparent and merit-based judicial selection and disciplinary procedures. Examples of these new procedures include the introduction of judicial testing and posting of disciplinary decisions on the Web. The new law also establishes greater citizen access to court information and requires automated case assignment and management. 

Six pilot courts in three regions of Ukraine have been automated with support from USAID, and these efforts are to be rolled out to other courts as part of a national strategy adopted by the Council of Judges in May 2010. This initiative directly supports implementation of a positive aspect of the new Law on the Judiciary.

Together with these successes, a few challenges still remain with Ukraine’s Law on the Judiciary. In its recent opinion on the law, the Venice Commission noted that there are a number of issues that need to be addressed by policymakers, including problems related to the new status of the Supreme Court and the increased role of the High Council of Justice in the appointment, discipline and dismissal of judges. We are pleased to learn that the Ukrainian government supports the Commission’s opinion, and is dedicated to improving the law and continuing the judicial reform process.

The United States is deeply committed to Ukraine’s democratic and economic development. We recognize the importance of strengthening the rule of law in this process. The U.S. Government stands ready to continue its support of Ukrainian-led efforts at open and transparent judicial reform, building on past successes and the promises of Ukrainian leadership on this critically important issue.

We commend you for your continued efforts to strengthen the judiciary in line with international and European standards. I wish you a fruitful exchange of experience and success in advancing the further development of Ukraine’s judiciary in the coming months. 

Thank you for your attention and partnership.