EU Rights Court Blasts Lack of Judicial Impartiality in Ukraine

(CN) – The decision by a Ukrainian oversight committee to demote the president of a Kiev court violated rules on judicial impartiality and independence but not the man’s right to a private life, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday.

In 2011, the Ukrainian High Council of Justice removed Anatoliy Denisov from his role as president of the Kiev Administrative Court of Appeal after finding him disorganized and unable to effectively manage the court. An administrative court dismissed his appeal as unsubstantiated.

Denisov remained a judge with the court until 2013, when the Ukrainian Parliament accepted his resignation.

He took his case to the European Court of Human Rights, complaining the committees and courts involved in his defrocking violated his right to a fair trial on the matter and impaired his judicial access. He also said his dismissal as court president interfered with his private life.

In a ruling issued Tuesday by the Strasbourg-based court’s grand chamber, the 17 judges found similarities to another case involving the dismissal of a Ukrainian judge. As in that case, the High Council of Justice lacked impartiality and independence in removing Denisov as court president.

Of the members of the council, judges made up a minority while others weren’t even members of the judiciary branch. Furthermore, the rights court found one of the judges on the panel had chaired the preliminary investigation into Denisov’s conduct.

The court to which Denisov appealed, meanwhile, didn’t properly review the case and made little effort to determine whether the council’s review had been impartial and independent, the rights court found – likely because the appeals court was under the disciplinary jurisdiction of the council just as Denisov was.

As for Denisov’s claim that his removal as court president interfered with his private life, the court acknowledged instances where work disputes can improperly spill into a person’s private life. But the panel found Denisov hadn’t offered any evidence of being harmed privately by the action.

Specifically, the court noted Denisov brought home the same salary after his removal as court president and his professional reputation wasn’t badly damaged as no one questioned his effectiveness as a judge – only his abilities as a manager.

The court ordered Ukraine to pay Denisov $3,500 in general damages and $3,500 in court costs and attorney fees.

All judgments of the grand chamber are final.

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