Ukraine Lawmakers Cry Foul As Yushchenko Sacks Judges

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko sacked two judges on the country’s high court, a move attacked by the parliament majority as unconstitutional, according to news reports yesterday.

Viktor Yushchenko

Yushchenko waited until early evening to announce he was firing justice Susana Stanik, for “procedural violations ... and questions of possible serious violations of the law”.

Yushchenko in a statement to media accused Stanik of ignoring evidence and witness interview rules in an ongoing case before the high court, pitting the pro-Europe Yushchenko against the country’s pro-Russia parliament majority.

The dispute has left the former Soviet republic in constitutional crisis since April 2, when Yushchenko ordered parliament dissolved, charging MPs switching their support to parties they had opposed during elections violated the constitution.

Parliament, led by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, has defied the order.

Ukraine’s secret police, the SBU, a spy agency thought to be loyal to Yushchenko, in early April sensationally accused Stanik of accepting up to $12mn in bribes, in exchange for her support for Yanukovich’s side in the parliament dissolution dispute.

Stanik has admitted her mother-in-law recently received as gifts a pair of Kiev apartments and other benefits from the Yanukovich government worth millions, but has repeatedly denied the property transfers could affect judgment in the president-parliament dispute.

Ukraine’s prosecutor-general openly supports Yanukovich, and has refused to open a criminal investigation into the SBU allegations against Stanik.

An executive order published on the presidential website on Monday evening relieved a second judge, Valery Pshenichny, “for extensive violations in procedure ... and violation of his oath”.

Pshenichny was appointed in 2003, and Stanik in 2005, by Yushchenko’s predecessor Leonid Kuchma. Both Pshenichny and Stanik are likely supporters of Yanukovich’s pro-Russia policies, Ukrainska Pravda magazine reported.

By constitutional statute the president appoints six members of the court, parliament another six members and an independent judicial council the last six members. Ten justice votes are necessary for the court to make a decision.

Yanukovich criticised Pshenichny’s sacking in a statement yesterday.

“This step by the president has the goal of stopping work of the constitutional court, the only organ capable of resolving the constitutional basis of relations between the branches of power,” Yanukovich said, in a statement published on his party website.

“We resolutely protest ... this illegal measure by the president ... and call on Ukrainian citizens and world society to bring an end to such actions,” the statement said.

There was no early reaction to Stanik’s sacking, coming as it did in the early evening of a national holiday.

Yushchenko’s April 2 order originally set elections only for parliament on May 27, but in a later order the pro-Europe politician changed the date to June 24. He has refused even to consider presidential elections before the end of his five-year term in 2011.

Long accused of doing little to stand up to an increasingly assertive pro-Russia majority in parliament, Yushchenko since the beginning of April has taken the offensive, using presidential orders and frank threats to challenge Yanukovich’s ruling coalition.

The president’s sackings of two high court judges while considering a critical division-of-power case is without precedent in Ukraine’s 16 years as an independent country.

Source: Gulf Times