Continuing its activities with regional change makers, DRI organised “Judiciary reform in action: what changes should citizen, judges, advocates expect?” on 28 November, a public discussion in the eastern city of Dnipro about the current overhaul of Ukraine’s legal system. Officials, experts, and local representatives of the judiciary, bar, media and civil society participated.
“Judiciary reform is a momentous event and a maturity test for Ukrainian society,” said Serhiy Petukhov, Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine on European Integration.
Dmytro Movchan, a judge at the Leninsky District Court of Dnipro agreed and emphasised the importance of renewing the judiciary. “Judges in the Dnipro region are well aware of the current open competition to fill spots in the Supreme Court, and many of my colleagues have expressed their intent to participate,” he said. However, according to Yuliya Kyrychenko, manager of constitutional law projects at the Centre for Political and Legal Reforms, without the active role of civil society and new instruments for public monitoring (Public Council for Integrity) and protection of rights (the Constitutional Complaint), the reform’s success would not be complete.
For their part, representatives of local CSOs explained that despite the emphasis on reform being heard from Kyiv, political and financial controls were still being exercised over Dnipro and the eastern region by political and business forces determined to maintain their power and influence. However, they also noted that political fragmentation in the region had begun and was creating new opportunities to break the political monopoly and lack of transparency.
Kateryna Dvorichenko from “Chesno. Filtruj Sud” (“Fair. Filter the court”.) also emphasised that ecological issues, poverty, and the influx of people displaced by the war in the east of the country had also become pressing problems. She said the situation was even more difficult outside the regional centre in the more remote towns and settlements and they said they felt neglected and frustrated. Representatives of Dnipro’s CSOs requested training and support with self-organisation, working with the media, and sharing experience and know-how with other regions and cities.
Among other issues raised was the monopoly of the bar in representing citizen’s interests in courts and the timing and broader context of the judicial reform. Serhiy Zhukov, member of the High Qualification and Disciplinary Commission of the Bar in Dnipro Oblast argued: “The monopoly of the bar is the general European practice and will be implemented in Ukraine gradually in 2017-19 rather than overnight.” Stanislav Zholudev, Chairman of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine said: “If all the three reforms – decentralisation, law enforcement reform and judicial reform – had been launched simultaneously, the synergy would have been greater.” Nevertheless, in his view, it was essential to have undertaken judicial reform” and not delayed it.
A local TV report on the discussion is available here.
Engaging with Dnipro’s Students
As in other Ukrainian cities, DRI reached out to the youth of Dnipro and conducted trainings and a student debate as well. It was the latest round in a national student debating competition addressing aspects of constitutional reform. The theme selected contested whether or not there should be parliamentary immunity.
Teams were provided by the Oles Honchar Dnipro National University and the Dnipro Youth Council. Students were first coached in public speaking by Deputy Minister of Justice Serhiy Petukhov, while Yuliya Kyrychenko of the Centre for Political and Legal Reforms briefed them on constitutional changes and parliamentary immunity. The jury consisted of two experts and Bohdan Nahajlo, DRI Representative in Ukraine. The Dnipro Youth Council team defending parliamentary immunity won and Alina Bardak from the Oles Honchar University team was chosen the best speaker.