Yushchenko Names Replacement High Court Judge, Sacked Justice Sues

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's swirling constitutional crisis intensified on Thursday, with President Viktor Yushchenko naming a new judge to the supreme court, and the justice that Yushchenko was trying to replace suing the president on the grounds that he was fired illegally.

Newly appointed Constitutional Court Judge Stepan Havrish

Yushchenko, a pro-Europe politician supporting market reforms, named Stepan Havrish, a legal advisor with long experience in Ukrainian jurisprudence, to replace Valery Pshenichny on the bench of the supreme constitutional court.

The high court since mid-April has been considering a dispute between Yushchenko and parliament over whether or not Yushchenko's dissolution of parliament earlier in the month to call new elections was legal.

Yushchenko sacked Pshenichny on Monday, citing alleged procedural and ethics violations by the judge. He sacked a second justice, Susana Stanik, on Tuesday on similar grounds.

Pshenichny challenged the decision on Thursday, filing a brief in a Kiev court arguing Yushchenko lacked grounds to sack him, and requested he be reinstated in the case.

"I expect to be reinstated," he told the Interfax news agency. Both Pshenichny and Stanik took part in court proceedings on Wednesday, despite Yushchenko's having handed them the sack earlier in the week.

Ukrainian constitutional statute is not precise on when a president may sack a supreme court justice. Precedent however would appear to be on Yushchenko's side, as Ukrainian presidents in the past have selected and sacked high court justices without difficulty.

Havrish served as a constitutional court justice during 2005, before being dismissed by former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma.

A replacement for Stanik will be named "in the near future," said Volodymyr Shapoval, a Yushchenko spokesman.

Ukraine's constitutional court has eighteen justices, of whom six are appointed by the president, six by parliament, and six by an independent judicial council. Stanik and Pshenichny were appointed by Yushchenko's predecessor, Kuchma, in 2003 and 2005 respectively.

Viktor Yanukovich, Prime Minister and the leader of the parliament majority opposing Yushchenko, on Thursday repeated calls for talks and even mediation in the dispute, saying "we all must sit down at the table and talk. "

Yanukovich on Tuesday suggested "foreign intervention" to resolve the dispute. Yushchenko on Thursday in an interview on RIA television said "we will show the world how we can resolve our differences peacefully, democratically, and without violence. "

A group of observers from the European Union will visit Ukraine at the end of May, but Brussels thus far is taking a "hands-off" attitude towards the Ukrainian political row, said Adrian Severin, a Ukrainian diplomat.

Yushchenko declared parliament dissolved April 2, arguing members of parliament (MPs) had violated constitutional statute and betrayed their obligations to voters by standing for election and winning seats for one political party, and then switching loyalty to another party once actually inside the legislature.

Ukrainian media for months have catalogued the names of dozens of MPs elected on a reform pro-Yushchenko ticket in March 2006, and then switching to the Yanukovich faction in exchange for bribes, or government preferences to their businesses.

Tacit acceptance that new elections would in fact take place, and that Yushchenko's call for changes in coalition formation law held some substance, was clear from Yanukovich's Thursday statement, the pro-Russia politician saying: "If we in fact have a consensus on holding new elections . we have no choice but to discuss the laws we need to do that, set a time frame, and only afterwards come to a political agreement. "

When the crisis broke one month ago Yanukovich argued Yushchenko's order violated the constitution and was an impeachable offence, that talks with Yushchenko were pointless, and that new elections could not legally take place.

Yushchenko thus far has taken a hard line in the row, in a national televised address on Wednesday saying he has no intention of "compromising on the constitution's principles," and "a presidential order is the law and every one must obey the law. "

Source: Jurnalo