The IBA’s response to the war in Ukraine
IBAHRI activities in Ukraine in 2019
‘This is an act of cowardice,’ says the IBAHRI on murder of Ukrainian lawyer
Oleksandr Ivanov, a Ukrainian lawyer, was shot dead outside a pre-trial detention centre in Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine on 22 August 2019. An automatic weapon was fired from a car by a person still known.
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has condemned the abhorrent act on our social media channels. ‘This is an act of cowardice, intended to cause fear to all lawyers and to hinder their pursuit for an effective administration of justice’, says Jurate Guzeviciute, IBAHRI Programme Lawyer for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The IBAHRI has called for the Ukrainian government ‘to guarantee in all circumstances that all lawyers in Ukraine are able to perform their professional duties without fear of reprisal, hinderance, intimidation, or harassment.’
The United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers obliges governments to ensure that lawyers ‘are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference’ (Principle 16) and that ‘[w]here the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities’ (Principle 17).
Training in investigation and documentation of torture in Ukraine begun by IBAHRI
Following several recommendations made by UN bodies, the IBAHRI began trainings for three key national actors in August 2019 aimed at improving standards for the investigation and documentation of allegations of torture in the country. Sixty individuals received the trainings.
In August 2019, following preliminary meetings held in April, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) held trainings on investigation and prevention of torture for three key national actors in Ukraine. These were the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and the Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision.
The SBI was established in 2018, taking over some functions of the Prosecutor’s Office, with a jurisdiction covering judges, law enforcement, high officials and anyone suspected of having committed war crimes. The Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision is the government body in Ukraine responsible for implementing an effective system of free legal aid.
Nils Melzer, United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, reported the persistence of torture allegations across Ukraine following his visit to Ukraine last year. In the report of the Subcommittee on Torture following its State visit to Ukraine in 2016, the Subcommittee had made a number of recommendations, including that:
1. ‘Appropriate training should be provided by independent professional bodies’ to legal aid lawyers,
2. measures should be taken to strengthen the NPM, including regular trainings,
3. the system of investigation for allegations of torture and inhuman treatment must be improved, including through use of ‘the Istanbul Protocol: Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture’.
The IBAHRI has utilised our extensive experience in torture prevention work in Latin America in the new programme in Ukraine. External experts from Latin America and Europe with experience in forensics and the legal mechanisms in torture prevention were brought in to conduct the trainings. A total of 60 participants were trained in identifying physical and psychological signs of torture using real case studies and implementation of the Istanbul Protocol.
The participants were highly engaged and driven to set both intra- and inter-institutional precedents. These measures are fundamental to the achievement of justice for existing victims of torture as well as improving the system of investigation to prevent acts of torture in the future. The IBAHRI has planned follow up consultations to assess the level of knowledge retention and need for further trainings.
Kick-off meetings give Ukrainian training participants opportunity to shape IBAHRI’s work in the country
The preliminary meetings in April 2019 between the IBAHRI and three key actors in Ukraine helped develop the curriculum for the upcoming trainings to maximise their relevance to daily work in the country.
In April 2019, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) held a preliminary meeting with the participants and trainers of our torture prevention programme in Ukraine that will begin later this year. The IBAHRI will be bringing our extensive experience in torture prevention in Latin America to a new domestic context. Participants included members of the National Preventative Mechanism (NPM), the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and the Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision.
The three key actors were selected due to their centrality to the investigation and prevention of torture in Ukraine. National Preventative Mechanisms (NPMs) are created under the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture (OPCAT). They conduct regular visits to places of detention and ensure national and local compliance with the Convention against Torture (UNCAT). Ukraine ratified the UNCAT in 1987 and the OPCAT in 2006. The NPM was established under Ukrainian law in 2012.
The meetings, which took place in Kyiv, Ukraine, provided a fantastic opportunity for those involved to share their opinions on the methods, objectives and priorities of the programme. The IBAHRI was able to gauge what topics were of greater relevance to the work of the participants so that the trainings could be tailored to the aspects that will be most effective.
Those in attendance were keen to take ownership of the programme and maximise its impact on their daily work. Preparations for the trainings will now begin and the IBAHRI looks forward to our continued engagement with all those involved.