IBA, Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice and Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision announce Memorandum of Understanding
Tuesday 29 November 2022
The International Bar Association (IBA), Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision (CCLAP) have announced a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) setting out terms of support for free legal aid provision to ensure the effective representation of cases concerning war crimes.
The MOU, which forms part of the IBA’s continued support for Ukraine following Russia's illegal invasion, was officially signed in a virtual meeting on 25 November 2022 by IBA Executive Director Dr Mark Ellis, Ukraine’s MoJ Deputy Minister Valeria Kolomiets, and CCLAP Director Oleksandr Baranov, with Ukrainian Bar Association (UBA) President Anna Ogrenchuk presiding.
IBA President, Sternford Moyo commented: ‘Part of the International Bar Association’s duty as the global voice of the legal profession is to promote the importance of access to justice for all and to expand and protect avenues to it where possible. We are proud to be partnering with Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice and the Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision to provide, among other things, international expertise and training programmes to ensure that all defendants receive a fair trial. It is imperative that support be given to the system of free legal aid to ensure the right to defence in war crimes.’
Dr Ellis stated: ‘It is important to reiterate that the IBA spoke out on the first day that Russia violated the most sacred principle of international law- violating the sovereign integrity of another country – and we continue to speak out to counter the ongoing aggressive acts being perpetrated by Russia. The IBA has already provided direct assistance to Ukraine – over 136 projects, interventions, and financial support [to date]. At the end of this conflict, the international community will undoubtedly assess Ukraine on its domestic trials, and whether they met international standards of fairness and impartiality. This will be an important part of Ukraine's legacy. I am very pleased that the IBA is partnering with the MoJ and CCLAP in accomplishing this mission.’
Ms Kolomiets remarked: ‘I am very thankful to the IBA, together with the UBA, for developing this MOU and I hope that soon we will be able to implement it. For us it will be a first step towards finding other points of cooperation not just amongst ourselves, but with the professional community of Ukraine, because we all know that the most important thing here is the ordinary citizens whose rights we should defend. One of the aims of this MOU is to enhance lawyers’ skills and qualifications and give them a greater understanding of international humanitarian law, as we know this is a challenge for lawyers who are not experts in this field.’
Mr Baranov commented: ‘On behalf of CCLAP and the system of free legal aid, and as lawyers who cooperate with our system, I believe that it is of vital importance to have the knowledge and skills to protect human rights and ensure justice is served. It is our duty to ensure that defence in court, even if it deals with Russian combatants, is proper. We look at this not only for the present, but also for the future. We hope that our experiences of cooperation with the IBA and MoJ will help lead to a peaceful existence for Ukraine in the future.’
Article 4 of the MOU outlines the specific ways in which the signatory parties will support the representation of war crime cases, including by:
- providing mutual organisational support to ensure sustainability of the agreed initiatives;
- organising and conducting seminars, conferences, business meetings and more;
- developing educational programmes and supporting materials in the field of justice for suspects of war crimes;
- developing methodological recommendations and other informational materials;
- providing the best international expertise on free legal aid in cases concerning war crimes; and
- publishing information on cooperation and implementation of joint initiatives, in particular through posting it on the parties’ official resources and in social media networks.
Ms Ogrenchuk said: ‘More than 40,000 cases have been registered regarding war crimes and this number is increasing every day. Our cooperation, which begins today, will help assist the system of national justice and legal aid to ensure proper quality of investigations and of defence in such cases. The challenges which we are now facing, not just in the legal community, but in the world [...] such a large-scale violation of human rights has not been observed since World War II. At the IBA Annual Conference in Miami, we felt unanimous support for Ukraine from all 5,000 participants. I am confident that with the professionalism and enthusiasm from the MoJ, CCLAP, the IBA and the UBA, we will succeed in building a high-quality system of persecuting criminals and ensure justice to Ukraine and Ukrainians.’
Dr Ellis travelled to Ukraine for a week of high-level meetings in September 2022. In October 2022, the IBA established an MOU with the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Andriy Kostin, on cooperation to ensure accountability for war crimes and other international crimes including the crime of aggression, genocide, and conflict-related sexual violence. The IBA has provided fiscal, humanitarian and technical support to Ukraine including the setting aside of USD 100,000 to support humanitarian initiatives, partnering with legal organisations to deliver training for lawyers, and submitting potential evidence of war crimes to the United Nations mandated International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine via the IBA-founded eyeWitness to Atrocities initiative.