Civilians in Donbas face challenges in access to justice, says report by OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
KYIV, 24 December 2015 – A new report by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) highlights access to justice challenges faced by people residing in both government and non-government-controlled areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The report, Access to Justice and the Conflict in Ukraine, identifies difficulties in attending court hearings, filing legal claims and gaining access to essential documents including birth and death certificates.
“The ability of all people to access essential justice services is a human right,” said OSCE SMM Chief Monitor Ertugrul Apakan.
The report’s findings are based on meetings with judges, prosecutors, civil society and other actors, and focus on the implications of the seizure of government buildings by armed groups and the subsequent relocation of all Ukrainian justice services from non-government-controlled to government-controlled areas.
The report shows that the administration of justice by Ukrainian authorities has been negatively impacted by the relocation process. For example, courts and prosecution offices in government-controlled areas suffer from shortages in staffing and equipment, and court cases have been forced to be suspended or terminated as essential case materials remain in non-government controlled areas or were destroyed by armed groups.
People residing in non-government controlled areas face additional challenges. Due to the lack of postal services, many are not provided with adequate notice of legal proceedings. Even where people are notified, they are required to undertake difficult journeys to reach courts in government-controlled areas. Moreover, for certain areas of Donbas which lie outside government control, many court decisions cannot be enforced.
Parallel “justice systems” have begun operating outside of the Ukrainian justice system in non-government controlled areas. The SMM, however, found that these are non-transparent, subject to constant change, seriously under-resourced and, in many instances, completely non-functional.
Most alarmingly, the report shows that both the conflict and the relocation of the justice institutions have led to the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of people in both government and non-government controlled areas.
“In light of these concerns, the SMM emphasizes the paramount importance of ensuring access to justice for all,” said Apakan.