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Ukrainians’ access to justice is limited and inconsistent. On an individual level, without a national system for the provision of legal aid, and due to a lack of a pro bono legal culture among Ukrainian attorneys and law firms, many citizens do not receive information about how they can enforce their legal rights. This is especially true of poor citizens and rural citizens, where legal services are most scarce. Local and regional advocacy organizations have limited resources and capacity to translate their work onto a broader level.
To increase both the availability of legal services and the impact of legal and advocacy organizations in Ukraine, ABA ROLI supported a network of more than 40 legal advocacy NGOs throughout the country, which provided pro bono legal services to socially vulnerable populations by, among other efforts, providing consultations, representation in court, and conducting traveling lawyers programs designed to reach rural areas. In addition to providing direct legal consultations, ABA ROLI’s partner organizations developed issue-based public legal education campaigns that included public service announcements, Know Your Rights brochures and targeted media campaigns that raised awareness of citizens’ legal rights and the mechanisms available to enforce them. Some of the NGOs we supported specialized in protecting the rights of HIV/AIDS patients, environmental, housing, land, economic rights of indigent Ukrainians, as well as human rights.
The environmental law program was especially effective: ABA ROLI supported civil society organizations through three Environmental Protection Advocacy Centers (EPACs) in three cities (Kharkiv, Lviv, and Kyiv). These centers expanded their work over time and established themselves as independent environmental watchdogs. ABA ROLI’s EPACs also supported a working group composed of national environmental organizations that hosted public awareness and training events after Ukraine’s ratification of the Aarhus Convention in 2001, leading up to the Kiev Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers, adopted by members of the European Community in 2003. As part of this effort, ABA ROLI conducted Right to Know seminars on environmental protection laws, citizen complaint mechanisms, and free access to information for more than 200 attendees, and trained judges and developed a benchbook about the Convention mechanisms.
As part of its support to its local partners, ABA ROLI worked with each NGO individually and as a group to provide technical skills trainings, build capacity, and forge partnerships among organizations. Trainings and capacity building included work on technical legal skills relevant to the work of each organization, institution-building trainings on fundraising, public relations and staff management. ABA ROLI also helped build partnerships and communication among its partners to promote a more unified approach to legal reform. ABA ROLI sponsored an online institution-building newsletter, an online communications board, and joint training sessions to bring organizations together. These local partnerships have proved to be one of ABA ROLI’s most enduring legacies; at the close of this program, more than half of ABA ROLI’s local partners were fully self-sustaining, ensuring that much needed reform efforts will continue.
To improve coordination among anti-corruption initiatives in Ukraine, ABA ROLI organized a monthly forum for governmental institutions, donors, national and international organizations, and civil society agencies. In addition, ABA ROLI provided weekly news updates, monthly event calendars, coverage of legislative developments and the Anti-Corruption Resource Center web site. To ensure long-term sustainability and government ownership of this coordination function, ABA ROLI gradually transferred the coordination initiative and all relevant resources to the Governmental Commissioner in Matters of Anti-Corruption Policy of Ukraine.
In an effort to assist the government of Ukraine to draft and enact unified legislation to effectively combat corruption, ABA ROLI worked in partnership with the Parliamentary Committee on Combating Organized Crime and Corruption to provide legal research, comparable regional models, policy recommendations and legislative gap analysis of Ukraine’s current anti-corruption statutes, draft laws and accompanying legislation. In addition, ABA ROLI partnered with the same Committee and the Ministry of Justice in preparing guidelines on the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the Council of Europe Civil Law Convention on Corruption. The efforts were meant to familiarize members of parliament, government officials, international and national anti-corruption organizations, and the general public about commitments made by Ukraine to halt corruption.
In 2006, the Supreme Court of Ukraine endorsed ABA ROLI’s Pilot Pre-Trial Detention Project, in which ABA ROLI representatives worked closely with district and appellate courts in Mykolayiv to analyze existing pre-trial procedures and develop recommendations for improving Ukrainian laws and procedures to increase the application of alternatives to pre-trial detention (such as bail). In 2007, ABA ROLI introduced the findings and recommendations of the Project to law enforcement officials, representatives from the Supreme Court of Ukraine, lawyers’ associations, legal media, and local and international NGOs. The recommendations included legislative amendments and proposed revisions to the Criminal Procedure Code for consideration by the government and Parliament of Ukraine.
From 2007 to 2008, ABA ROLI conducted a comprehensive assessment of the financial and societal impact of unwarranted pre-trial detention. We conducted the assessment as part of a Cost Benefit Analysis to inform the government of Ukraine about ways to utilize alternative measures to incarceration during the pre-trial stages of the criminal proceedings In 2009, as a complement to the Guidelines developed during the Pilot Project, we developed standardized criteria for judges to use in determining the appropriate alternative measure to incarceration. In addition, we developed an accompanying training module for judges, prosecutors and defense advocates on the use of these alternative pre-trial detention mechanisms.
In an effort to promote cross-border law enforcement, ABA ROLI implemented a series of programs to improve the formal exchange of operational and evidential information. The program, which developed cooperative mechanisms, standardized investigation guidelines, investigation tools and a training curriculum, improved the capacity of law enforcement personnel in charge of anti-human trafficking efforts. The program started in 2007 and in 2010 evolved into the current Program to Combat Child Trafficking in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian judiciary has faced significant challenges in assuming its constitutional role as an independent branch of government solely responsible for the administration of justice. In practice, the judiciary has struggled to maintain independence from political considerations, and has lacked the capacity to effectively and fairly ensure access to justice for citizens of Ukraine. ABA ROLI worked to mitigate these problems by providing training to judges on new and unfamiliar legislation, offering analyses and commentary on draft legislation affecting the judiciary, and working to build the capacity of the institutions supporting judges and fostering judicial independence.
ABA ROLI’s judicial reform work initially focused on providing continuing legal education opportunities through practical and technical skills trainings for judges, later tailoring our training approach to focus on recently passed legislation in response to concerns from judges that they lacked the knowledge to properly implement new laws emerging from Parliament. Training topics included human rights, family law, civil procedure, and intellectual property rights. To support judicial independence and self-governance, ABA ROLI provided technical assistance and financial support for the development of the National Independent Judicial Association (NIJA), the first national judges’ association in Ukraine. ABA ROLI also worked with the NIJA to promote increased awareness of the need for judicial reform, which ABA ROLI also supported through legislative review, providing input on key pieces of legislation to ensure that draft laws affecting the judiciary reflected international standards.
With ABA ROLI support, the Ministry of Education established a Working Group that drafted a formal Concept of Legal Education Reform and national legal education standards.
Since 1992, ABA ROLI has supported clinical legal education initiatives throughout Ukraine. Through operational sub-grants and trainings, ABA ROLI supported an expanded network of legal clinics operated in association with their respective universities to foster pro bono legal consultations and practical skills education opportunities for law students. ABA ROLI has supported the establishment of a regional clinical training center in Lutsk to improve and standardize the quality of clinical courses. The center systematically offers professional development opportunities to clinical coordinators and mentors new legal clinics established in the region. ABA ROLI also supported the development of specialized course curricula traditionally unavailable in Ukrainian law schools. Thus, clinics in Uzhgorod, Lviv and Khmel’nyts’ky created specialized courses in refugee and asylum-seeker rights, medical law and legislative drafting.
From 1996 to 2000, ABA ROLI supported the national rounds of Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition and Telders International Law Moot Court Competition. In 2006-2009, in cooperation with the Legal Clinic of Ostroh Academy, we administered the annual client counseling competitions. The goal was to expose law students to a different system of law, foster an interest in human rights and international law, as well as teach them vital lawyering skills, such as client interviewing and counseling, decision-making, fee negotiation, professional ethics and teamwork. The competition also provided law students with a unique opportunity to hold client interviews in front of experienced attorneys and to receive constructive critiques on how to improve their skills. In 1999, the Ukrainian team, four students from the Kiev Institute of International Relations, finished in sixth place in the Jessup International Moot Court Competition, beating teams from more than 55 top U.S. and foreign law schools from over 45 countries. This marked the first time in Jessup’s 40-year history that a team from Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union finished in the top ten.
ABA ROLI also supported innovative internships for law students. Throughout the summer of 2006, ten law students completed an intensive two-week internship program. They received first-hand experience in first-instance and appellate court proceedings, human rights work, law enforcement institutions and advocacy projects. In addition, ABA ROLI sponsored the publication by the Ukrainian Bar Association of guidelines on running a successful internship program. The guidelines were distributed to law schools, legal non-governmental organizations and law firms to promote the importance of these clinical internship programs throughout Ukraine.
ABA ROLI assisted Ukrainian law schools in enhancing professors’ teaching methodology and substantive knowledge. In 2007-2010, ABA ROLI organized multi-day trainings for law professors on methodology, human rights, professional ethics, land law, etc. In addition, training manuals were developed for professors on ethics, legal writing and teaching methodologies. Selected law professors took part in a training-of-trainers methodology course to ensure sustainability of courses and the program.
In anticipation of the 2004 presidential elections, ABA ROLI implemented a project focused on voter advocacy, training for legal professionals and politicians, and public awareness and outreach to help ensure that the elections were free, fair, and accountable to the voter. At the start of the program, ABA ROLI set up a voter hotline and voter advocacy network to answer voters’ questions about the procedures of voting and election law and to provide legal consultations and record citizens’ allegations of elections fraud. ABA ROLI worked with legal professionals to train lawyers, judges and political party representatives in election law and mechanisms for enforcing existing laws and legal protections. ABA ROLI’s voter advocacy network of civil society organizations also published public awareness materials, including posters, pamphlets and brochures, aimed at ensuring that citizens were fully aware of their rights under Ukrainian and international law.
Through its 2004 activities, ABA ROLI provided key resources and training for the NGOs and citizens who successfully demanded a free, fair vote. ABA ROLI continued its voter advocacy network and hotline during both the initial election and the subsequent election after the Supreme Court invalidated the first runoff. In addition to these activities, ABA ROLI took part in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)-sponsored Territorial Election Commission (TEC) and Courts Assistance Project, which placed lawyers at TECs and courts throughout Ukraine to provide assistance to citizens experiencing problems voting because of voter registration lists. ABA ROLI also organized Training of Trainers (ToT) for university students to help mobilize protection for their right to vote.