Constitutional Court judges make statement on Zelensky's decree.

Judges of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine have adopted a statement on the situation with the issuance by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on December 29, 2020 of a decree "On the suspension from office of a judge of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine," the court's press service has reported.

"The Assembly of Judges of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine draws attention to the unacceptability of non-compliance by government agencies and officials with the provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine, which may lead to blocking the work of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine and will make it impossible to exercise constitutional control with a view to ensuring the supremacy of the Constitution of Ukraine and asserting human rights and freedoms," the statement reads.

It says the judges of the Constitutional Court are concerned about the situation that has arisen in connection with the issuance of the decree.

The statement says that the Constitution of Ukraine has the highest legal force. Laws and other normative legal acts are adopted on the basis of the Constitution of Ukraine and shall conform to it (Article 8.2 of the Constitution of Ukraine).

In addition, Constitutional Court judges emphasized that government agencies and their officials are obliged to strictly comply with the requirements of the Constitution, including those that guarantee the independence of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, independence and inviolability of Constitutional Court judges (Articles 147, 149 of the Constitution).

The court's press service also reported that the Constitutional Court had received a research opinion, prepared by members of the Research and Consultative Council of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, on the suspension from office of a judge of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine in criminal proceedings.

It states that the special status of judges of the Constitutional Court provides special legislative guarantees for their independence, particularly with regard to the dismissal or suspension from office of a Constitutional Court judge in criminal proceedings, taking into account the rule of law, international standards and current constitutional norms, when applying due process to these persons.

It also notes that the Constitution and relevant international documents enshrine the same legal status of all judges of the Constitutional Court, regardless of the subject of their appointment, through a system of guarantees to ensure their independence. The Constitutional Court is independent of other branches of government, which is also a fundamental basis for the balance of branches of government.

The research opinion states that international legal acts, the Constitution, and the official constitutional doctrine of Ukraine recognize that the independence and immunity of judges of the Constitutional Court, which is an integral part of their status, must be equal to the independence and immunity of other judges.

On December 29, Zelensky signed a decree suspending Oleksandr Tupytskyi as a judge of the Constitutional Court for two months.

The Constitutional Court said the decision to dismiss a judge could be made exclusively by the Constitutional Court at a special plenary session, and no other body or official could make such a decision in its place.

On December 30, the Constitutional Court said the decree on Tupytskyi's suspension from office was "legally null and void" and called for its cancellation.

On December 28, Tupytskyi was declared a suspect in influencing a witness through bribery, as well as giving knowingly false testimony as a witness. The case concerns the privatization of the Zuivsky Energy and Mechanical Plant in Donetsk region.

Tupytskyi did not show up at the Prosecutor General's Office on December 28 to be handed a suspicion notice. He said he could not come for family circumstances and asked for his visit to the prosecutor's office to be postponed until another day.

The Prosecutor General's Office, in turn, prepared a petition to the President's Office, which concerned permission to suspend Tupytskyi as head of the Constitutional Court.

On October 27, the Constitutional Court repealed Article 366-1 of the Criminal Code on penalties for lies in asset declarations and some provisions of the law "On Corruption Prevention." In particular, the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional the powers of the National Agency on Corruption Prevention to verify officials' asset declarations, monitor the lifestyle of those who submit asset declarations, establish the timeliness of submission of asset declarations, as well as provisions on open access to declarations in the unified state register.

On November 25, the president addressed the Venice Commission with an urgent request to assess the constitutional situation in Ukraine following the Constitutional Court judgment of October 27.

The Venice Commission stated in its opinion that the Constitutional Court of Ukraine needs to be reformed and depoliticized.

Zelensky promised to take into account the position of the Venice Commission in carrying out judicial reform.

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