On 24 June 2015, the EU Project “Support to Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine” joined the Ukrainian National Bar Association, the NGO Association of Advocates of Ukraine, the NGO Ukrainian Bar Association, and the NGO Protection of Human Rights to officially launch the Advocates’ Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights in Criminal Cases.  The Declaration presents the position of advocates, expressed through numerous open and participatory events held all over Ukraine during the past eighteen months, concerning how practice in the criminal justice system deviates from law. Advocates are now joining together to mobilize progressive forces to change how criminal cases are handled in practice. Under the motto “Practice According to Law, Respect the Law” advocates are working together to strengthen the protection of human rights in criminal cases and protect the working privileges of advocates. The Declaration is serving as the centerpiece of outreach and systematic oversight that strengthens the voice of advocates, both inside and outside the criminal justice system.

“I am pleased to see different bar associations around the Declaration. This is proof that change can be done from the inside to make people confident in the judicial system,”said Jan Tombinski, Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine. He noted that implementation of the Advocates’ Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights in Criminal Cases should be a part of a joint commitment of advocates, judges, prosecutors and law enforcement bodies.

“Aside from the legislative norms, there are ethics and moral norms, and the rule of law. Our Declaration demonstrates what the society expects from judges and prosecutors. It is time for advocates to declare that we are not only professional defenders of interests in the courts, but also members of civil society,” said Lidia Izovitova, President of the Ukrainian National Bar Association.

The Declaration is now being used by advocates for outreach to civil society and the media, as a first step before approaching official parties, to mobilize oversight to protect human rights and enhance respect for the work of advocates, and to establish remedies for violations. It contains a concise statement of key principles which need to be enforced, according to Ukrainian law and international standards applicable in Ukraine, and in non-juridical language that everyone can understand.

“Protecting human rights is our responsibility. It is very important for advocates to help the mass media and civil society organizations to understand how legal the legal process works. This is why our colleagues in the regions will be explaining how the Declaration can be used in this regard,” – said Denys Bugay, President of NGO Ukrainian Bar Association.

“The Declaration is a contract on cooperation among advocates. This document will become a tool for enhancing the legal culture of judges, prosecutors and citizens,”- said Oleg Chernobay, President of NGO Ukrainian Advocates’ Association.

Implementation of the Declaration will enable the general public to learn about shortcomings in the criminal justice system, and mobilize in favor of criminal justice reforms, with guidance from advocates.

“The Declaration is an important tool to help advocates change existing judicial practice. Future implementation of this document is mainly the responsibility of advocates. Protecting human rights is our main goal, and this depends upon the rule of law,”- said Mark Segal, Key Expert on Access to Justice and Right to Defense of the EU Project “Support to Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine”.

At the end of the presentation, the leaders of professional associations of advocates signed an open memorandum on consolidation of efforts to implement the Advocates’ Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights in Criminal Cases.

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