Week 7: To Combat Corruption

This week, I was able to sit in and take notes on the Ukraine Task Force’s affinity group on anti-corruption challenges to Ukraine’s judicial reform. For this meeting of experts, international and Ukrainian, I prepared two short research memos of judicial reform needs of the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court of Ukraine, which centered around needs to fight entrenched corruption.

In Ukraine, there is wide public mistrust of the judicial system, known for its lack of independence and integrity. The judicial system also suffers from a lack of well-qualified professionals, as the legal education system is inadequate. It should be said that Ukraine was undergoing a huge reform effort and a kind of overhaul of its judicial system when Russia began the war in 2022, exacerbating the huge strains on the judiciary that comes with the conflict.

When the EU gave Ukraine EU candidacy status back in June 2022, at the top of its list of reforms to make before Ukraine can EU gain membership is reform of its Constitutional Court. The reform must address the Court’s susceptibility to political influence, lack of oversight, the destruction of the asset declaration system for its sitting judges, bribery, and the judges’ ability to refuse to recuse themselves from matters in which they have a personal stake in.

I also sat in and took notes on two more affinity groups this week. The first, in the civilian law enforcement lane of affinity groups, focused on needs specific to the reintegration of de-occupied territories. Experts discussed how best to build trust between community members and local law enforcement officers in newly de-occupied territories.

The second affinity group, back in the justice sector lane of affinity groups which my supervisor heads up, was on ensuring fair trials for alleged war criminals and collaborators. There are two big challenges to this: (1) providing alleged Russian war criminals with impartial and qualified counsel in the face of strong public condemnation and ostracism from the professional community of anyone “defending” Russian war criminals; and (2) finding the capacity and commitment to prosecute Ukrainians accused of collaboration, something EU standards will require of Ukraine for eventual membership.

It's been such an enriching and invaluable experience to be in the (Zoom) room where these pertinent conversations are happening.