Ukraine Receives European Court's Partial Ruling on Criminal Procedure, Says New Judicial Reform Laws Conform to European Rules

KYIV, Ukraine, April 30, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

The Government of Ukraine has taken note of a ruling issued today by the European Court of Human Rights in regards to the first of two appeals filed by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.  The first appeal involved a criminal procedure issue relating to pre-trial detention.  No ruling has been announced on the second appeal.

While the Court ruled that Ukraine had violated sections of the European Convention on Human Rights, it also found that Ukraine had not violated a prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as Tymoshenko had claimed.

Commenting on the ruling, Ukraine's Minister of Justice, Oleksandr Lavrynovych, said, "The preliminary review of the ECHR ruling showed that the court, after reviewing all complaints of Yulia Tymoshenko, has identified most of them as unacceptable."

While acknowledging the ruling on the violation of pre-trial detention, he said it should be noted "that the judgment of the court acknowledged the absence of violations of ill-treatment during the transportation to the hospital, about which Yulia Tymoshenko complained to the ECHR." He added that "the Court also pointed to the lack of violations in consideration of appeals against inefficient investigation of Yulia Tymoshenko's complaints about abuse."

According to Kiev's envoy for ECHR affairs, Nazar Kulchytsky, Ukrainian authorities will study the ECHR ruling before announcing a position. "First we need to receive this resolution," he said. "We will analyze it."

However, Kulchytsky also said he did not rule out that the Ukrainian government would appeal the ECHR ruling.

Under articles 43 and 44 of the ECHR convention, any such lower chamber ruling can be appealed - by either side - at the Grand Chamber of the ECHR in Strasbourg.

Meanwhile, the General Prosecutors Office (PGO) of Ukraine stressed that the preventative measures of the arrest of Tymoshenko were chosen under the old Code of Criminal Procedure, which was legal at the time

"The court's decision regarding a preventive measure for Tymoshenko in the summer of 2011 was completely legal because the old Soviet-era Criminal Procedure Code was in force, which envisaged the application of preventive measures in the form of arrest in the case of suspicion that the accused may escape justice or prevent it," said the Head of the PGO Department Mikhail Shorin.

He stressed that now the new Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) is in force, and it "provides alternative measures of restraint and the use of detention only in exceptional cases."

Ukraine's newly enacted CPC has dealt with many of the criticisms implicit in the ruling by the ECHR, by updating pre-trial investigation procedures, expanding judicial oversight for pre-trial investigations, and improving the system of preventive measures (including reducing the use of detention).

The new CPC legislation, prepared by Ukraine with the advice of the Venice Commission and other European institutions, has dramatically improved the protection of suspects in pre-detention situations, and is part of a broader effort to meet European standards on a number of judicial reform matters.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities are still awaiting the full and complete decision by the ECHR, including an additional ruling on the nature of the charges and conviction of Tymoshenko.

The Presidential Pardon Commission, which recently recommended the pardon and release of key Tymoshenko allies including Yuriy Lutsenko, has confirmed that it cannot make the same in Mrs. Tymoshenko's case until all legal procedures have been exhausted.  This includes not only the second part of the ECHR decision, but also pending cases in Ukraine, including tax evasion charges.

Ukraine has been striving to complete a raft of legislative reforms in order to conform to European norms and practices ahead of the expected signing later this year of a wide-ranging Association Agreement with the European Union.

In recent months the Government of Ukraine has worked effectively to introduce several reforms needed to modernize the country. The criminal justice code, signed into law December 2012 by the President, was the first major reform of the law since the time of the Soviet-era but is now in line with Western standards.

The new Criminal Procedure Code improves victim protections, strengthens the role and guarantees the independence of the defense counsel, increases the accountability of the prosecutor, introduces jury trials, reduces the duration of criminal proceedings, and modernizes procedures, to include the creation of a record of each proceeding.

SOURCE Ukraine Monitor

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