Reminder: Workshop on Specialized Anticorruption Courts Starting Imminently! Join Us on Zoom!

As I mentioned in my announcement last Friday, the Christian Michelsen Institute is hosting hosting a panel today, which I will be moderating. on specialized anticorruption courts, featuring panelists Sofie Schütte, Olha Nikolaieva, Marta Mochulska, and Ivan Gunjic. The panel starts in half an hour (at 8 am US East Coast time/2 pm Bergen time), and it is possible to join by Zoom. I hope some of you out there will join us, as I think, based on the quality of the panelists and the inherent interest of the topic, that it should be a good discussion.

Online Workshop on Specialized Anticorruption Courts

This coming Monday, November 14th, the Christian Michelsen Institute in Bergen, Norway will be hosting a panel on specialized anticorruption courts, which I will be moderating. The outstanding panel includes Sofie Schütte, a Senior Adviser at CMI’s U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Olha Nikolaieva, a Legal and Judicial Adviser for USAID, Professor Marta Mochulska of Lviv National University, and Ivan Gunjic, a PhD Candidate at the University of Zurich. The one-hour panel will start at 8 am US East Coast time (2 pm Bergen time), and it is possible to join by Zoom. The official panel description (also available here) is as follows:

Anti-corruption courts are an increasingly common feature of national anti-corruption reform strategies. By mid-2022 the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre at CMI counted 27 such courts across Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Reasons for their creation include the resolution of backlogs but also concerns about the ability of ordinary courts to handle corruption cases impartially. While there are no definitive best practices for specialised anti-corruption courts, existing models and experience provide some guidance to reformers considering the creation of similar institutions.

In this panel discussion we launch an update of “Specialised anti-corruption courts: A comparative mapping” and discuss experiences with the establishment of anti-corruption courts in Eastern Europe and Ukraine in particular.

Ukraine’s Bold Experiment: The Role of Foreign Experts in Selecting Judges for the New Anticorruption Court

The fight against corruption has been a central focus for Ukraine since the 2014 Maidan Revolution. In the immediate aftermath of Maidan, the country created four new institutions, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) (an investigative body), the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) (with prosecutorial powers), the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption (NAPC) (responsible for administering the e-asset declaration system), and the Asset Recovery and Management Agency (ARMA) (tasked with recovering stolen assets). Yet the problem of impunity for grand corruption has persisted, and many believe that the weak link in the chain has been the Ukrainian judiciary. In addition to familiar problems of delay and inefficiency, Ukrainian judges are widely viewed as susceptible to political influence, and even corrupt themselves. To address this problem, in 2018—thanks to the combined lobbying efforts of Ukraine’s vibrant civil society and pressure from international donors, primarily the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—Ukraine enacted a new law creating a specialized anticorruption court known as the High Anti-Corruption Court (HACC), which began operations this past September.

The most innovative and controversial feature of this new court is the inclusion of foreign experts in the judicial selection process. While many countries have created specialized anticorruption courts, and many of these have special judicial selection systems that differ from the procedures for appointing ordinary judges, the participation of foreign experts in the HACC judicial selection process was unprecedented. Yet both domestic civil society groups and outside actors like the IMF and the Venice Commission (the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal and constitutional matters) came to see foreign participation in the selection of HACC judges as crucial, particularly in light of the controversial selection process for judges to Ukraine’s Supreme Court in 2017. In the selection to the Supreme Court, multiple candidates were approved by Ukraine’s High Council of Justice (HCJ) despite the fact that those candidates were found to be ethically tainted by the Public Integrity Council (PIC), a civil society watchdog that assists the High Qualification Commission of Judges (HQCJ) in assessing the integrity of judicial candidates. Thus, when lobbying for the HACC, civil society and some members of parliament demanded that the law guarantee the presence of foreign experts with the power to veto judicial candidates, in order to ensure that no judges were appointed to the HACC if there was reasonable doubt about their integrity.

As a short-term stopgap, the involvement of foreign experts in the HACC judge selection is promising and may even serve as a useful model for other institutional reforms within Ukraine, and for other countries. But reliance on foreign experts to address concerns about selecting judges (or other officials) of sufficient integrity is probably not a long-term solution. Continue reading