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EU Project “Support to Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine” continues to support Ukrainian counterparts by organizing outreach events for raising awareness on new procedures related to the management of conflict of interest in the work of judges, as well as criminal justice reform. On 12 March 2016, the mentioned topics were in the agenda of III Odesa Regional Justice Council session. More than fifty judges, prosecutors, lawyers and journalists attended the event.

The session started with the presentation of the results of the survey “Criminal justice reform: view of investigators, prosecutors, lawyers and judges”, which was conducted by the EU Project “Support to Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine”. The results are based on the opinions of 5000 respondents interviewed throughout 2014-2015.

According to Grigoriy Kolesnikov, President of the Court of Appeal of Odesa Oblast, lack of independence of the judiciary is a key problem for judges. He stressed that criminal justice reform would not be successful unless courts become truly independent with exclusion of any kind of political pressure.        

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“All the parties in criminal cases should improve a quality of their performance,” believes Iosip Bronz, Chairman of the Odesa Regional Bar Council. He also mentioned that absence of equality of the parties in the adversarial process was among problem issues.

Valentyna Senyk, Head of the Anticorruption Unit at the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, pointed at significance of establishing regular communication channels between courts and media outlets to demonstrate not only the problem issues but also the best practices. “When the parties to the criminal process demonstrate mutual respect, it will be visible and the society will improve its attitude towards judges, prosecutors and lawyers”.

Participants of the session agreed that joint training programs would be instrumental to improvement of knowledge and communication among all parties to the criminal process.

Second panel was dedicated to discussion of the procedures regulating the conflict of interest in the work of judges in Ukraine through application of the most effective models implemented in the EU Member States. On February 04, 2016, the Council of Judges of Ukraine adopted the Procedure for Monitoring Compliance with the Law on Conflict of Interest of Judges, which had been developed with involvement of the experts of the EU Project “Support to Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine”.

 “Such format of discussions can contribute to working out unified position on the issues related to the justice sector reforms and we will further deliver it to the society. We should not permit discreditation of the judiciary,” – noted Oleg Podtserkovny, Member of the Constitutional Commission under the President of Ukraine.

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“It is obvious that lack of credibility to the justice sector in Ukrainian society is a huge problem. This is why we encourage judges, prosecutors and lawyers to cooperate and increase efficiency, professionalism and transparency of entire sector.  We will keep supporting such mutual discussions at the regional level,” – said Virgilijus Valancius, Team Leader of the EU Project “Support to Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine”.

Next session of the Odesa Regional Justice Council will be dedicated to the role of the justice sector institutions in improvement of the investment climate in the region.

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