Ukraine: ICJ report calls for urgent measures to protect lawyers under attack

The ICJ called today on the Ukrainian authorities to take urgent measures to ensure that lawyers in Ukraine are able to work in an atmosphere free of threat, harassment or any other improper interference.

An ICJ mission report published today, Between the Rock and the Anvil: Lawyers under Attack in Ukraine, documents an alarming level of violence against Ukrainian lawyers relating to their work, and makes recommendations to the Ukrainian authorities to better uphold the security and independence of lawyers, and ensure that they are able to protect human rights.

“While the ICJ notes repeated attempts to the reform the justice system, it is highly alarming that lawyers continue to be subjected to attacks, including murder and physical abuse,”  said Temur Shakirov, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser for the Europe and Central Asia Programme.

“Lawyers must be able to work in an atmosphere free of fear of reprisal for their work in defence of their clients, as required by international human rights law and international standards on the role of lawyers,” he added.

The ICJ report finds that the security of lawyers and their ability to protect the rights of their clients are under constant threat in Ukraine.

In particular, lawyers who work on politically sensitive cases or in the conflict zone face risks of attacks and harassment.

Lawyers who are subject to such attacks do not have access to effective legal remedies against the interference with their work. Even in case of killings of lawyers, the perpetrators have not been brought to justice.

The report also analyses the institutional organization and self-governance of the legal profession, the disciplinary procedure, the persecution of lawyers through legal mechanisms and the problems lawyers face in protecting human rights.

The report notes some positive developments in Ukraine, including the independence of the Ukrainian National Bar Association, as an important achievement.

“Despite recent reforms Ukraine has not yet become free from the pattern of having ‘good laws and poor practice’, which often renders the justice system dysfunctional, and undermines reforms,” Shakirov said.

“As it is possible that Ukraine may experience another whirlwind of reforms, the risk of the legislative initiatives which may aim or result in undermining the security and independence of the legal profession remains,” he added.

The report makes comprehensive recommendations for addressing the problems of attacks and harassment of lawyers and taking measures as a matter of urgency. Among the measures, the ICJ recommends measures to ensure that:

  • The independence and role of lawyers is respected by all State institutions: the executive, legislative and the judiciary, by all other public authorities including law enforcement authorities, and by all participants in legal proceedings;
  • Sufficient staff with adequate professional training and capacity to be able to ensure safety and security in courts is provided;
  • Relevant law enforcement agencies investigate promptly and effectively all killings and attacks on lawyers with the aim of identifying those responsible and bringing them to justice in proceedings which fully respect international fair trial standards.

Background:

The report is based on research and analysis of Ukrainian law in light of international law and standards as well as the findings and conclusions of an ICJ mission (2019) to Ukraine to assess the situation of security and independence of lawyers. During the mission, the ICJ met with a range of relevant actors-individual lawyers and legal experts, non-governmental and State representatives, human rights defenders and journalists who cover legal issues.

Download:

Ukraine-Between the rock and the anvil-Publications-Reports-Mission report-2020-ENG (Report in English, PDF)

Ukraine-Lawyers under attack report-News-press releases-2020-UKR (News story in Ukrainian, PDF)

Ukraine-Between the rock and the anvil-Publications-Reports-Mission report-2020-UKR (Report in Ukrainian, PDF)

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