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Past Rule of Law Work in Ukraine

Click here to learn about our current work in Ukraine.

Combating xenophobia and racism

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) strives to strengthen the prosecution of hate crimes, to increase protection of victims of such crimes and to raise public awareness about and tolerance for ethnic and minority populations. In Ukraine, ABA ROLI works to build the capacity of government and legal actors to respond to xenophobia and racism, and to increase the exposure of the general public to educational and awareness programs on tolerance, diversity and non-discrimination, with a particular focus on youth.

ABA ROLI’s approach to combat xenophobia, racism and hate crime has four components. First, we cooperate with the Ministry of Interior, the General Prosecutor’s Office and their training and research institutions to support the development of standardized investigative guidelines that are in par with international standards. The guidelines will be used as the basis for specialized training modules and materials, which will in turn be used to train trainers.

Second, we are strengthening the capacity of key government actors to monitor and report on racism and xenophobia. We assist an inter-ministerial working group in evaluating the current system for reporting and documenting hate crime. We also help research and analyze comparable international models. Additionally, ABA ROLI is working to establish an advisory council—comprising members of civil society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), religious and ethnic minorities, and governmental bodies—to advise government agencies on policy issues and to address race-based crimes in partnership with the courts and law enforcement agencies.

Third, we are improving the capacity of lawyers to represent hate-crime victims. We are creating substantive law training programs and resource materials on relevant legislation and criminal code provisions, including materials on the preparation of cases for review by the European Court of Human Rights. ABA ROLI is also assisting with the development of national and regional coalitions of advocacy NGOs and legal clinics to assist victims and to advocate against discrimination and xenophobia.

Fourth, ABA ROLI is undertaking public awareness activities to foster cross-cultural exchange and to promote tolerance, diversity and non-discrimination, especially among the youth. We provide financial support to student discussion groups, ethnic campus organizations and campaigns on inter-cultural issues to improve the communication with, and understanding of, ethnic and minority students. Student group subgrantees are required to maintain blogs and encouraged to follow each other’s blogs. ABA ROLI will assist with the development of a page on one of the regionally popular social networking websites (such as,, and to serve as a platform for information on student group projects on issues of hate crime, tolerance and xenophobia. The page will provide guidelines for organizing diversity activities in schools and host related publications. To promote sustainability of the projects, ABA ROLI will develop a mechanism for a permanent liaison or committee comprising representatives of local law enforcement agencies, student associations, and ethnic and minority groups.

In partnership with the International Organization for Migration, ABA ROLI will also develop and implement a high-profile public awareness campaign, incorporating images of key Ukrainian sports and cultural icons to be displayed on billboards in five cities. These will be supplemented by public service announcements on diversity and hate crime. Furthermore, ABA ROLI will support a student-created play based on several real-life stories of ethnic minorities. The play—which will be available in Ukrainian, Russian and English—will be broadcast on regional and national TV channels. It will also be performed at universities, schools, city councils and embassies, and made available on the Diversity Initiative website. Finally, we are developing a YouTube video essay competition on discrimination and intolerance to encourage technology savvy youth to reflect on diversity in their own communities.

Developing defense bar

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI’s) Defense Bar Development Program in Ukraine supports justice sector reform through technical legal assistance. As part of the program, ABA ROLI trains defense attorneys through regional defense advocacy schools; supports efforts to create a unified national bar; offers expert opinion and legislative review on pressing criminal justice matters; and helps establish continuing legal education (CLE) for defense attorneys.

The legal profession in Ukraine comprises two large groups of lawyers: (i) advocates whose status and activities are regulated by the Law on the Bar and (ii) entrepreneur lawyers whose status and activities were previously regulated by the Law on Entrepreneurship and are now regulated by the Commercial Code. Currently, there are approximately 30,000 advocates and 40,000 entrepreneur lawyers in the country. While advocates are allowed to represent clients in court in criminal matters, entrepreneur lawyers may not. Under the current system, advocates are supervised by regional qualification disciplinary commissions (RQDCs). Under the guidance of the High Qualifications Commission of Advocates of Ukraine (HQCA), the RQDCs control entry into the profession, enforce ethical standards and disciplinary procedures and support the professional development of advocates. At least 20 percent of the advocates are members of a self-governing organization, such as the Union of Advocates of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Bar Association, the Union of Lawyers of Ukraine and the Association of Advocates of Ukraine.

While stakeholders have always expected advocates to constantly upgrade their professional skills, until 2011, advocates were not required by law to take continuing legal education. In 2010, the HQCA passed the Regulations for Continuing Legal Education of Advocates, developed with ABA ROLI’s assistance. The regulations, which went into effect in January 2011, oblige all advocates to improve their skills by participating in CLE programs at accredited higher educational institutions, by studying at defense advocacy schools and CLE centers or through distance learning.

ABA ROLI—utilizing Ukrainian and international experts—continues to help the HQCA develop courses to be offered in the five CLE centers in Kyiv, Rivne, Donetsk, Kharkiv and Odessa. ABA ROLI is also working to improve the institutional capacity of the HQCA and of each of the CLE centers. To strengthen CLE, ABA ROLI trains trainers, who then train defense advocates in their respective regions. Trainings cover specialized topics, such as professional ethics, human rights, land law, mediation/restorative justice and criminal procedure.

To further expand CLE opportunities, ABA ROLI created a pilot ethics course to be offered through distance education. ABA ROLI will develop more distance education courses to strengthen the program.

Combating child trafficking

Ukraine is a source, transit and destination country for children trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor. The International Organization for Migration reports that four percent of reported trafficking victims in Ukraine are minors. Child trafficking, which reportedly is on the rise, presents special challenges to detectives, investigators and prosecutors. Working with child victims requires specialized training, procedures and tactics, which need to be developmentally appropriate for the ages of the children involved and sensitive to the physical and psychological trauma caused by sexual exploitation and abuse.

To strengthen Ukraine’s limited capacity for handling child trafficking cases, ABA ROLI works with leading academics, governmental and non-governmental stakeholders to identify components missing from currently available law enforcement training, and it created an expert working group to develop a specialized training curriculum, specialized courses and a guidebook on investigating child trafficking. Using the new course materials, ABA ROLI is organizing trainings for trainers, who will later train investigators in three regions.

Combating cyber crime

ABA ROLI is working to strengthen the capacity of existing Ministry of Interior (MOI) cyber crime investigative units by developing a training manual that will be used by the MOI’s training institutions. ABA ROLI will also help consolidate and formalize existing cyber crime trainings.

ABA ROLI is cooperating with Microsoft Corporation to produce a cyber crime glossary, with definitions for technical terms cyber criminals use, and to help justice sector actors utilize cyber crime technology. The glossary will be distributed to investigators, judges and prosecutors, and will be updated periodically.

ABA ROLI is also developing and piloting cyber crime courses for current MOI investigators. The courses will reflect international standards and will cover several areas, such as money laundering, software infringement, child-pornography distribution and bank fraud. To help enhance the MOI cyber crime units’ effectiveness, ABA ROLI will also supply the MOI with computers.

Reforming law enforcement

Our Law Enforcement Reform Program supports efforts to bring the law enforcement system into compliance with European and international standards. We have supported various stakeholders, including the MOI, the Prosecutor General’s Office, Defense Counsel and National Security, customs, tax and border control agencies to enhance their competence and effectiveness.

In 2008, Ukraine adopted an action plan for comprehensive reforms of its criminal justice and law enforcement systems. To assist with its implementation, we supported reform efforts by MOI bodies and the Pre-Trial Investigative Services. In 2010, ABA ROLI helped establish an inter-ministerial working group to draft a law on pre-trial investigation bodies and the status of investigators. ABA ROLI also drew upon national and international experts to compile supplemental green book and white book on pre-trial investigation—the former outlining problems the working group identified, the latter detailing recommended solutions.

Legal profession and public advocacy

Through tenders and sub-grant competitions, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) provides operational sub-grants to Ukrainian advocacy non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and university legal clinics, which offer pro bono legal services to the disadvantaged and underserved populations. Currently, ABA ROLI supports and maintains an expanding network of 32 legal consultation centers. The centers serve vulnerable groups, such as the disabled, homeless, elderly, incarcerated, HIV-positive and rural poor.

Additionally, through roundtables, workshop trainings and media campaigns, ABA ROLI’s partners engage in advocacy and public awareness efforts, including the reform of the communal housing management system, improvement of conditions in detention facilities, elimination of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS and the wider application of mediation in criminal cases involving minors. Also, with the goal of promoting public legal awareness, ABA ROLI has supported initiatives of the Ostroh and Donetsk legal clinics to provide trainings for high school teachers on using interactive teaching methodologies to teach the basics of law to high school students.

To ensure quality of legal services rendered by partner NGOs and legal clinics, ABA ROLI continues to provide systematic bi-monthly professional development trainings to its partners’ lawyers on the most relevant issues of substantive and procedural law, as well as on practical legal skills.

Institution building

An important component of ABA ROLI’s efforts is providing technical assistance for institutional capacity-building to promote long-term stability and sustainability of its legal aid clinics and NGO advocacy partner organizations.

An institution-building advisor (IBA) assists organizations by providing long-range strategic planning and project management techniques, models and materials. The IBA works with an organization both individually and through combined workshops on various elements including organizational assessment, development and evaluation. The IBA may also be used as a neutral facilitator for internal meetings and sessions aimed at planning future activities or solving institutional problems. Services provided through the IBA include organizational assessments, strategic planning, best practices and good governance, project design and implementation, financial planning and management, human resource management, operational and systems management, fundraising, media  and public relations, marketing, advocacy and constituency-building, monitoring and evaluation techniques, individual mentorship and training-for-trainers.

Among the methods and approaches utilized by the IBA are trainings, seminars and workshops, facilitation of meetings and/or planning sessions, tailored individual consultations or group work, mentoring, provision of materials and practical examples, and promoting networking and coalitions of specialized topical or regional interests among ABA ROLI partners.

In addition, ABA ROLI disseminates to its partners a bi-monthly newsletter covering pertinent issues of organizational development, upcoming training events, relevant articles, and links to funding opportunities. ABA ROLI also conducts bi-monthly organizational development trainings for managers of its past and present sub-grantee partners. Since November 2006, the institution building program has conducted regular trainings on important topics, such as strategic project management, monitoring and evaluation, financial management, and human resource management for NGOs. The topics for organizational development trainings are selected based on needs assessment through the Sustainability Index, which is periodically conducted and updated by the IBA.

Access to Justice and Human Rights (1992–2010)

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.

Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity (1999–2010)

Improving coordination on anti-corruption efforts

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.

Anti-corruption legislative analysis and popularization of conventions

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.

Criminal Law Reform and Anti-Human Trafficking

Pre-trial reform (2006–2010)

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.

Increasing capacity to fight human trafficking

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.

Judicial Reform (1992–2006)

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.

Legal Education Reform and Civic Education (1992–2010)

Supporting legal education reforms

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.

Legal clinics

 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.

International moot court and client counseling competitions

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.

Law student internship programs

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.

Improving law professors’ competence

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.

Election Reform (2004–2006)

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.