The bar demands answers about causes of a “shadow” replacement of the draft law

Advocacy 16:04 Wed 21.12.16 183 Reviews Print

Open letter by the Ukrainian National Bar Association to the Association of Lawyers of Ukraine regarding the approval of the draft amendments to the Law "On the Bar and Practice of Law"

On 20 December 2016 it became known from the official website of the Association of Lawyers of Ukraine about the results of the meeting of the Working Group of the Council for Judicial Reform.

On 15 December 2016 the CJR WG examined and approved the draft amendments to the Law "On the Bar and Practice of Law". The ALU website reported that "the mentioned version is significantly different from the version that was posted on the CJR website in April 2016. Fundamental changes were made following a discussion of the draft law with advocates from all over Ukraine, European experts, in particular, at the events conducted by the ALU".

In fact, during these regional discussions conducted by the ALU, a new draft law was presented. This NGO saw that during these round tables regional advocates did not support the provisions of the draft law aimed at the weakening of the bar self-government. Yet, the ALU constantly reported that the proposed changes had received a support from discussants. What made the ALU support the draft law at the final stage?

Regarding substitution of the text of the draft law, the Bar Council of Ukraine made a statement thereby expressing a protest against both the contents of the document and the method of its adoption. On 15 December 2016 the bar was effectively removed from participation in the reform of this constitutional institute. Representation of the bar in the working group has always been a controversial issue that was resolved in a completely discriminatory manner for the bar and only to give the appearance of involvement of the bar in the process.

The Ukrainian National Bar Association which, according to the current law unites the bar self-government bodies, did not have a possibility to participate, through its representatives, at the WG meeting, which approved the relevant draft law. It was because on 15 December 2016 the BCU meeting announced in advance was taking place. In this connection, the WG was requested to put off the meeting to another date so that the UNBA representatives could participate in it. Unfortunately, this request was ignored.

As a result, the relevant law was drafted in a covered way by unknown authors and approved without a participation and without taking into account the position of the UNBA, which by law represents the bar in relations with public authorities, local governments, their officials and employees, enterprises, institutions and organizations regardless of ownership, public associations and international organizations.

Due to this situation, a number of issues arise, including:

1. At the meeting held on 15 December, how much time was devoted and in what way an analysis and discussion of the new text of the draft law was made? Who voted for the approval of this draft law? Did the complete substitution of the representation of the profession, which by law is vested on the UNBA as a professional organization, take place? Indeed, among those present there were a number of advocates from the NGO “Association of Lawyers of Ukraine”. What are the names of those who decided the fate of the bar, having no mandate to represent the entire professional community?

2. Where, in what quantity and with the participation of which persons did the regional discussions of amendments to the Law on the Bar take place? Did the discussions concern the changes in this version of the draft law?

3. Were the results of regional discussions documented in a form of proposals of amendments to the draft law or resolutions?

4. Why were the WG members not informed about the "dramatic changes" that were allegedly proposed by the regions to the text on which the work was carried out within the WG since April 2016? Obviously, the regional discussions were held not on 14 December, but rather were held under a certain timetable and their results could have been reported immediately.

The whole legal profession wishes to receive answers to these questions, because it appears that the approval of the draft law by the WG on which it had never worked makes this body a nominal "facade" or the circus, where some strange tricks are demonstrated. Obviously, there are reasons for which advocates, lawyers, representatives of public and international projects were not informed of the parallel process of preparation of another draft law and essentially put before the fact of the need for its immediate approval.

It will be recalled that the WG members were involved to a democratic and transparent work on the reform of the bar within the Council for Judicial Reform. Yet, this WG has never had an adequate representation of the bar. However, now it looks that this format was cynically used to legitimize those destructive changes that failed to be imposed on the bar. It is shocking that in this process an NGO which agreed to falsify the representation of the bar was involved. It is well known that the ALU members include not only advocates but also a big number of other representatives of legal profession.

We firmly believe that the adoption of such amendments to the version of the special law will have devastating consequences for the bar of Ukraine, which is based on the 2012 Law that was fully harmonized with the European standards. The bar will require a revision of such a decision and adoption of changes to the special law in a transparent manner, taking into account the real needs of the bar community.

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