INL Ukraine Partners with Ministry of Justice on Free Legal Aid Centers

Posted by: Kate McFarland, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs’ Office of Europe and Asia (INL/EA)

Читати українською

3The Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) has been supporting Ukraine’s key criminal justice institutions in line with European and Western standards. One program that INL has been assisting is the Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision (CCLAP) to help reform the Ministry of Justice. The types of things that this INL-supported program is doing for Ukrainians are making changes to the framework of the criminal justice system more transparent and accountable.

One area that has been affected by this is the Free Legal Aid System, where constitutionally provided defense lawyers are better trained to meet the needs of regular Ukrainian citizens. Citizens who are unable to afford legal representation in court are provided free and effective legal assistance by the Government of Ukraine. Prior to the introduction of Free Legal Aid, defense lawyers were often considered informal mediators who negotiated the size of the bribe between judges and defendants, instead of defending their clients. Now, free legal aid lawyers, bolstered by training on the country’s new Criminal Procedure Code, have the professional skillset to appropriately represent their clients. This program is delivering tangible results: of all acquittals last year in Ukraine, nearly two-thirds of the cases were won by free legal aid attorneys. As an example, a free legal aid lawyer in Kherson was appointed to defend a person who was falsely accused of murder and faced a life sentence. The lawyer acted professionally at trial and, as a result, his client was acquitted.

1In support of this Ministry of Justice initiative, INL provides approximately $1 million per year to provide technical assistance to the Free Legal Aid Centers, thereby enabling them to successfully defend their clients in criminal cases. To date, INL has supported CCLAP with two train-the-trainer seminars, where experts present on topics of concern to free legal aid trainers, who in turn relay or “cascade” the training to their regional colleagues. This train-the-trainers format has enabled the delivery of continuing education through 52 trainers, more than 100 trainings, and approximately 2,000 legal aid lawyers throughout Ukraine. Last year, trainings focused on hot topics for legal aid lawyers, including protection in national security and war crimes, as well as protection in illicit drug criminal cases.

For more information about the Free Legal Aid Centers, including news and updates, a list of services they provide, and contact information for Regional and Local Centers, please use the following link: http://legalaid.gov.ua/

 

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