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Judge explains the reasons for her ruling which violated the rights of "Chetverta Vlada" editor

14.09.2023, 16:18

Judge Svitlana Shevchuk gave a comment to "Chetverta Vlada" explaining why in 2012 she approved a ruling which stated that disclosing information about the salaries and bonuses received by the employees of the regional state administration would violate the law on the protection of private data, "Chetverta Vlada" reports.

Recently, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the decisions of the Ukrainian courts which ruled that the Rivne Oblast State Administration and the Verkhovna Rada officials had legitimate reasons to withhold public information from the "Chetverta Vlada" chief editor, Volodymyr Torbich, were unlawful. Namely, the ECHR held that the decisions of domestic courts violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Svitlana Shevchuk, who was a judge at the Rivne District Administrative Court at the time, was among those who violated the journalist's rights. Currently, she is a judge at the Administrative Court of Appeal No. 8.

The judge explained to "Chetverta Vlada" that she had made such a decision in 2012 because there had been no stable court practice for similar issues at that time.

"The Law of Ukraine 'On Access to Public Information' entered into force on May 9, 2011, and as of the date the ruling was issued – February 14, 2012 – there had been no clear criteria or judicial practice in the Supreme Court on how to enforce this law, as opposed to other laws and decisions of the Constitutional Court, which are cited in the ruling of the first instance court", answered Svitlana Shevchuk.

She also remarked that the Ukrainian law obliges national courts comply with the decisions of the ECHR. Therefore, she will take Volodymyr Torbich's case into account in the future.

"When ruling in cases of this category, I will certainly take the decision of the European Court mentioned in your request into account," the judge said.

Back in 2011, Volodymyr Torbich sent a request to the Rivne Oblast State Administration, asking for information on the bonuses paid to the administration's staff in 2009–2011. Some of the departments answered the requests properly, but some provided no information at all. Torbich appealed to the court to challenge the refusal. The case was tried in Ukraine in 2012 by judge Svitlana Shevchuk in the Rivne District Administrative Court and by judges Iryna Okhrimchuk, Ihor Bondarchuk, and Bohdan Monich in the Zhytomyr Administrative Court of Appeal.

The editor's complaint was rejected by both courts, and the High Administrative Court refused to open cassation proceedings. Disagreeing with the decisions of the domestic courts, Volodymyr Torbich appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, which finished considerting the case on July 13, 2023.

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