Remarks by Ambassador Pyatt at the Conference on “Constitutional Reform: Promoting an Independent, Accountable, Transparent and Efficient Judiciary in Ukraine”
Press Office of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine
Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb 19, 2016
AMBASSADOR PYATT: Dobroho Ranku. Mr. Filatov, Oleksiy, Justice Simonenko, it is my enormous pleasure and honor to be here with you today. I am particularly pleased that the United States, in supporting this conference, is able to partner with our partners in the European Union and the Council of Europe. I’m glad to see my friend and colleague the Lithuanian Ambassador here today. This is a symbol, I think, of our collective support to all of you who are hoping to build in Ukraine the modern, democratic, European future that Ukrainian people deserve.
This week is a time of anniversaries. We are all marking the second anniversary of the Revolution of Dignity, and on this morning in particular I think back to what was happening on the Maidan on the 18th of February. I think back to the extraordinary courage and determination that the Ukrainian people showed throughout those difficult days. But I also think back to what motivated the people who stood on the Maidan over those three long months.
It was, most fundamentally, the desire to build a just, rule-of-law society. So in that regard, there is nothing more urgent, there no challenge more pressing to Ukraine today than the task of building a genuine rule-of-law society, building a judiciary in which the Ukrainian people have pride and confidence, and building a rule-of-law system that can allow the Ukrainian people to build the European future that they have sacrificed so much to achieve.
The fundamental principle of the Ukrainian government over the two years since the Revolution of Dignity has been to advance governmental reform that embraces European values. Those values include rule of law, transparency, accountable government, leaders who are free from corruption, and reform of the judiciary.
These goals reflect the fact that the judicial system is the cornerstone of a democratic society. Establishing trust in the judiciary is a sine qua non for Ukraine to unlock the extraordinary potential of this country’s lands and people. It is a sine qua non for stimulating greater foreign investment, and building the kind of prosperous European future that the Ukrainian people deserve.
A strong judiciary is also the best guarantee of protection of human rights going forward. That is a principle that has proven itself over and over in the United States, in my country, in Europe and far beyond. A rule-of-law society governed by strong judiciary strengthens social development, accelerates and advances economic growth.
In this regard, there are significant steps that the President, the Government, and the Rada have taken that Ukrainians should be proud of. The law on ensuring a fair trial adopted by the Rada in 2015 marked a significant step forward on judicial reform. And yesterday, the High Qualifications Commission of Judges launched the process of evaluation of qualifications of those judges who are being considered for lifetime appointment, as required by the new law. I am very proud that United States, through USAID, has been able to assist in this process.
Another significant accomplishment that I would point to is the success of the Constitutional Commission in drafting amendments to the Ukrainian Constitution to bring that document in line with the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission recommendations.
Obviously, sustainable judicial reform will not be possible without further efforts. But I congratulate President Poroshenko and Speaker Groysman for their support to these important constitutional amendments, and I urge the Verkhovna Rada to consider their final adoption as quickly as possible.
I also want to talk for a minute about a related issue, which is the question of the prosecutorial service, which is obviously critical to the overall health and effectiveness of the rule-of-law system. I commend the courageous decision that President Poroshenko took this week to replace the Prosecutor General. This decision sends a very strong message that Ukraine is serious about implementing reform. Now the challenge will be for the President and the Verkhovna Rada to reach agreement on a new Prosecutor General, and I would identify several key criteria for that next individual.
First, it should be an individual who enjoys the support of the Rada and the trust and confidence of Ukrainian civil society. Ultimately, the success of any prosecutorial and judicial system rests on the respect and confidence it enjoys from the people who are governed.
Second, a new Prosecutor General should be a dedicated individual committed to a reform of the institution of the Prosecutor General. In this regard, Ukraine has a successful model to follow in your new Patrol Police. That institution illustrates how it is possible to radically change a fundamental institution of the rule-of-law system in Ukraine, taking advantage of the good people who live in this country, who are genuinely committed to building a new system and who are ready to make the sacrifices necessary to break with the habits of the past.
My counsel to all of you in the room today who play such a central role in the success of this reform effort is not to waver, but to continue to move steadfastly down the path of reform. In doing so, I promise you, you will have no stronger partner than the United States of America. We know how much you have sacrificed. We know how much you have demonstrated Ukraine’s desire to move toward a new European future, and we know how important your success is to the long-term peace and security of our euro-Atlantic community.
In this regard, I look forward to continued progress in the transformation of the Ukrainian judicial system, the Ukrainian governance and society in general. I wish you the best for fruitful discussions today, and I guarantee that the United States will continue to offer our strongest possible support to those of you who are seeking to build the modern, European institutions that the Ukrainian people have sacrificed so much to achieve.
Thank you very much. Dyakuyu.
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