Amendments to the Law on free legal aid without consulting with an advocacy violate European standards – Lydia Izovitova

Advocacy 13:15 Wed 26.05.21 44 Reviews Print

If there is a professional independent organization in the state, namely the bar, the executive power must coordinate with it all issues related to the organization of free legal aid.

Otherwise, it is a violation of European standards.

This was emphasized by the Head of UNBA, Bar Council of Ukraine Lydia Izovitova during the round table "Improvement of Legislation on Free Legal Aid in Ukraine”, which took place online.

The event was organized by the Council of Europe Project "Support to the Judiciary of Ukraine in Ensuring Better Access to Justice" jointly with the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Legal Policy.

During the round table an analysis of the compliance of the draft law №5107 "On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine on Facilitating Access to Free Legal Aid and Improving the Quality of Its Provision" to Council of Europe standards, prepared by international experts of the Council of Europe, was presented.

In introductory speech Lydia Izovitova stressed that this bill, like the previous one on simplifying access to the free legal aid, was re-submitted to parliament without discussion with the bar, which is a gross violation of European standards.

"Finally, the Bar thanks that Deputy Minister of Justice Valeria Kolomiets has appeared before us and finally we have the opportunity to take part in the discussion not only of the report, but also of the Bill №5107, which appeared in the Parliament on February 19, 2021 without discussion with the bar community. That is, in violation of the existing European standard: if there is a professional independent organization of attorneys, the executive power should coordinate the issues of the bar with it, with attorneys, if they provide any legal positions, "- said the Head of UNBA, Bar Council of Ukraine.

The bar community also emphasizes the violation of the procedure for submitting the bill №5107 to the parliament.

“If the draft law is based on the expert opinion of the Council of Europe "Support to the Judiciary of Ukraine in Ensuring Better Access to Justice", then, perhaps, this is us who should firstly discuss this report, talk it over, take the best from it, and only then resolve the issue of submission of this bill to parliament. Especially as we are in a position not to rewrite the established rules of the game, but to develop our legislation on the established rules," - Lydia Izovitova said.

The Head of UNBA, Bar Council of Ukraine reminded that these rules were outlined in the joint program of the Council of Europe and the European Commission "Transparency and efficiency of the judicial system of Ukraine" in particular and in the relevant expert opinion. She stressed that Ukraine developed and adopted legislation on free legal aid in 2012 in order to fulfil its obligations to the Council of Europe.

These rules are based on the division of functions between government bodies and the bar. In fact, it is stipulated that government bodies must provide funding or organize free legal aid. Such free legal aid should be provided only by independent attorneys. And this standard of the joint program of the Council of Europe and the European Commission for the Bar that has become a guideline for the development of the free legal aid system in the country.

"It is this standard that we, the bar, focus on. And we are very critical of any deviations from this standard. We consider such deviation as a violation. Even when it came to some deviations, we said that in our poor country we should not spend our budgets thoughtlessly. We have self-government bodies and the state could only finance the free legal aid system and its organization. We could take over its provision as bar self-government bodies. That is why today we take with great caution, and sometimes with criticism, the report prepared in February-June 2016 on "Supporting the Judiciary in Ukraine in Ensuring Better Access to Justice" in the part that does not meet the proclaimed standard regarding the division of functions between the government and advocacy," -Lydia Izovitova said.

It will be recalled that in April the Bar Council of Ukraine called for the draft laws "On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine on Facilitating Access to Free Legal Aid and Improving the Quality of Its Provision" dated February 19, 2021, №5107 and "On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine on Facilitating Access to Free Legal Aid and Improving the Quality of Its Provision"  dated March, 09, 2021,  №5107-1 to be sent for revision, as they were prepared and registered without the participation of the bar community.

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