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Ukrainian Parliament Passes Judicial Reforms

Parliament in Ukraine has passed judicial reforms that Westerns backers say are needed to fight corruption.

The changes aim to curb influence on the appointment of judges and limit their immunity in case of malpractice.

An entrenched culture of bribery in the court system is seen as a key roadblock to Ukraine's broader reform effort under a $17.5 billion International Monetary Fund bailout program.

The legislation was backed on June 2 by 335 lawmakers, 35 more than the required votes needed for changes to the constitution.

"There is no more important reform than judicial reform," President Petro Poroshenko told parliament. "This is proof that the country is being reformed."

The legislation was opposed by some lawmakers, including the servicewoman Nadia Savchenko, who returned home last week after spending nearly two years in a Russian jail.

Savchenko appealed to the parliament to keep its hands off the constitution, "or else the country will blow up like a hand grenade." She did not take part in the vote.

"Today we have a historic opportunity to carry out this judicial reform, to break the back of the current corrupt judicial system," the head of the opposition Radical Party, Oleh Lyashko, said.

One of the more important changes involves the establishment of an independent anticorruption and intellectual-property body within the next 12 months.

The new system also sets up an independent panel for selecting judges based on their professional merits instead of their political or business ties.

Poroshenko said more than 40 percent of Ukraine's current judges would not qualify under the new ethics system.

In a joint statement, the EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn welcomed the adoption of the constitutional amendments and said they “look forward to the implementation of a comprehensive reform of the judiciary enabled by today's vote.”

Based on reporting by AFP and AP