Report on the needs of UNBA proposes to sidestep the European standards

Advocacy 15:15 Thu 14.12.17 242 Reviews Print

“Assessment of the Needs of Ukrainian National Bar Association” report as of November 2017, prepared within the framework of CoE Project “Consolidation of Justice Sector Policy Development in Ukraine” contains proposal that do not comply with European standards.

It is a statement by President of UNBA/BCU Lidiya Izovitova, made at the presentation of the report before the Head of the Office of the Council of Europe in Ukraine, representatives of international organizations and authorities.

She emphasized that the current law “On the Bar and Practice of Law”, adopted in 2012, fully implements the PACE Opinion from September 26, 1995 and the Joint Opinion of Venice Commission and Directorate of Justice and Human Dignity within the Directorate General of Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe from October 2011. In accordance with these international documents, a unified professional organization of the Bar with mandatory membership should be established in Ukraine.

“There is a PACE Opinion regarding the application of Ukraine for joining the Council of Europe from September 26, 1995. This document obliged Ukraine to create a unified advocate’s association. Is this conclusion no longer valid? Is it still in force? If it is, than who has allowed to cancel out the provisions concerning the unified association? The second document is the Joint Opinion of the Venice Commission and the Directorate of Justice and Human Dignity of the Directorate General for Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe as of October 18, 2011. Precisely these recommendations are the reason for adoption of the current law. It is stated in this Opinion that mere creation of the single association of lawyers of Ukraine is not enough. It should be based on a mandatory membership, and that  conforms with European standards ", - reminded the President of UNBA.

“If the current law “On the Bar and Practice of Law” became the decisive one for European integration, then I have a rhetorical question: are we leaving Europe? We integrated, and now we do not need it anymore? Is it no longer needed to those who made this opinion? Or, is it not necessary for the authors of the draft amending the core law of the legal profession? "- Lidiya Izovitova asked the audience.

She reminded that the Joint Opinion of the Venice Commission was based on the recommendations of Rytis Yokubauskas, who is now co-author of the Report, and then served as an expert at the aforementioned Directorate of the Council of Europe.

The changes proposed in the UNBA needs assessment report will return the legal profession back to Soviet times when regional chambers of the Bar existed. The draft law promoted a similar model, which consists of regional chambers of lawyers and provides for mandatory regional membership therein.

“At the moment, the proposal for dual membership and the elimination of a single association of advocates in Ukraine through certain mechanisms suggests that we have to take a few steps back,’ Lidia Izovitova said.

The UNBA President stressed that the report prepared by the experts does not include analysis of UNBA's needs. No regulatory documents were studied - neither the current law, nor the acts of UNBA, nor international standards.

Also, the way of how experts gathered information on the state of legal profession is highly controversial.

“We did not receive any requests to provide information and/or documents. None. Consequently, no documents reflecting the day-to-day operation of the Bar were analyzed.  However, the report refers to certain ‘stakeholders’. We are interested to know who they are, because there is no word about that in the report, "said Lidiya Izovitova.

She also noted that the assignment of experts to conduct such a study was not set out in any official document, which would indicate their mandate, tasks and objectives of the study.

On December 11, UNBA presented its critical comments on the report to the Council of Europe's Office. However, the final version of the report demonstrated that UNBA’s comments were not taken into account, and detrimental provisions remained untouched.

Therefore, the report cannot be accepted. Basically, it is a tool for lobbying the draft amendments to the core law that the Bar continually opposes.

“Instead of analyzing the needs of UNBA, the report analyzes the upcoming draft law on the Bar, which has not been presented in the Parliament, given extensive ‘behind-the-scenes’ efforts. It was not presented to the UNBA as a finished document. The question is, can the Bar be reformed as a professional institution without the outline of the reform itself? Does comply with European standards or does it not? Bar reform without participation UNBA cannot take place, " emphasized Lidiya Izovitova.

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