Kyiv, 16 September 2021 – More than a hundred representatives of the judiciary from various institutions and jurisdictions, together with national and international legal experts, took part in the IV Forum of Judges in Kyiv today.
The forum was held with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Ukraine.
This year, discussions highlighted key issues concerning the administration of justice amid the long-lasting armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. Particular attention was also focused on the difficulties in accessing justice caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The forum’s aim is to jointly develop a holistic vision to enhance the effectiveness of justice under the current conditions, and to provide support to vulnerable populations with regard to accessibility and quality of justice.
UNDP Resident Representative to Ukraine, Dafina Gercheva, noted at the forum that the ongoing pandemic and the quarantine restrictions that were introduced to slow the spread of the coronavirus had created additional challenges for justice and the rule of law. These had limited access to courts, and hindered the movement of the people who cross the ‘contact line’ seeking justice and protection, she said.
“Justice and rule of law will prevail across the country only if people have trust in institutions. This trust cannot be taken for granted. It has to be earned,” Gercheva said.
“In Ukraine, according to the UNDP-supported Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Index, only 12.4 percent of Ukrainians trust courts and judges, which is rather worrisome and calls for urgent and decisive actions spearheaded by the 3 brunches of power and supported by the civil society and the private sector.”
The head of the State Judicial Administration of Ukraine a.i., Oleksii Salnikov, stressed that access to justice for all is the highest measure of the rule of law, so the administration of justice during the armed conflict in Ukraine is an extremely important issue.
“The State Judicial Administration of Ukraine and other judicial bodies have taken all possible measures to move the courts from the armed conflict to safe government-controlled territories, and to resume their full operation at their new locations,” Salnikov said.
“We will continue to make every effort to restore the work of Ukrainian courts in eastern Ukraine. The issues of finding new ways and solutions to improve access to justice and finding mechanisms to improve the efficiency of judicial administration, are key topics for discussion at the forum and further tasks for us.”
During fruitful expert discussions, special attention was also paid to the issues of effective protection of human rights amid the long-standing armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, how civilians can receive compensation for being unable to use private property they own, and how to protect domestic and gender violence survivors amid the armed conflict and the pandemic.
The representative of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine’s Commissioner for Human Rights for Observance of the Right to Information and Representation to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, Viktor Barvytskyi, stressed that Ukrainian citizens currently serving sentences in non-government controlled areas are failing to obtain their right to a fair trial, and there are constant blockages of the transfer of legal cases from these territories.
“The joint discussion we started today at the forum aims to refocus on the administration of justice in the context of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, identifying key issues that still hinder the proper administration of justice, and helping us to work on possible solutions," Barvytskyi said.
The forum was held under the UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, with financial support from the governments of Denmark, Switzerland and Sweden. Around 70 experts attended the event on site, and more than 40 professionals participated online as a measure to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP) is being implemented by four United Nations agencies: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
Twelve international partners support the Programme: the European Union (EU), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, and the governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland.
Maksym Kytsiuk, Communications Specialist, UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, firstname.lastname@example.org, +380 63 576 1839