Open Statement of the Open Civil Platform for the Development of the Ukrainian Free Legal Aid System as well as public observers for the competitive selection for the position of Director of the Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision

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This statement once again emphasizes how important it is for the legal aid system not to lose its meaning, human rights mission, constitutional content, values and human-centrism.

Legal aid is social responsibility of the state and therefore of each and every taxpayer.

In 2016, the Council of Europe evaluated the legal aid system in Ukraine in the light of standards and best practices of the Council of Europe. In particular, it was noted that the Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision and its Director have an acceptable level of independence and responsibility for the use of its resources and staff with respect to the executive power and the parliament.

However, it was recommended for the Director of the Coordination Centre to be appointed through an individual professional evaluation during an independent selection for public positions and that the period for which the Director is appointed, grounds and procedure of his or her dismissal were fixed in the Law “On Free Legal Aid”.

The competition for the position of Director of the Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision was conducted, in our opinion, with significant procedural and substantive violations and faults, and it calls into question the desire of the Ministry to proceed from the principle of the independence of the system, human rights, interests and freedoms.

We remind that the Minister of Justice agreed to hold the competition under pressure of over twenty reputable human rights organizations and civil society leaders who issued a joint statement.

Unfortunately, we cannot consider this competition valid because of signs of administrative influence of the Ministry on the procedure under which the competition was held as well as in the course of implementation and assessment of results.

In particular, we emphasize on the following:

1. The interview held by the Ministry of Justice violated the basic principles of selection procedures: no equal conditions for candidates provided, subjectivity and distortion of the evaluation due to the lack of clear criteria for assessment and defined competencies;

2. The commission did not provide equal conditions for candidates: subordinate employees of the Ministry of Justice (even indirect) could not objectively assess the Deputy Minister of Justice;

3. The evaluation system – one point from each member - also put one of the candidates in unequal conditions under such circumstances. This was due to an unbalanced composition of the commission: 5 representatives from Ministry of Justice and three from the public, and the decisive vote from the Chairperson of the Commission (First Deputy Minister of Justice).

4. Lack of criteria (defined competencies) and unpreparedness of the Commission allowed for subjective factors to influence the choice of recommended candidates;

5. Lack of criteria absolutely does not relieve the Commission of its responsibility for the choice because they had to justify the recommendation of each candidate;

6. Drastic differences in determining the winner between the employees of the central apparatus of the Ministry of Justice and civil society representatives.

Thus, all flaws and preferences given worked in favor of a candidate who held the position of Deputy Minister of Ukraine at the time of the contest. It is unacceptable coming from the principles of equality and impartiality.

Moreover, in our opinion, the conflict of interests is evident.

We are forced to state that the result is a consequence of the numerical superiority of the Ministry on the Commission rather than teamwork.

This does not correspond to the goals of the competition and makes the evaluation bureaucratic and arithmetical rather than substantial.

Taking the above into account, we believe that the work of the Commission cannot be considered objective and such that provides the selection of the best candidates for the positions who would continue the successful operation of the system.

We think that the competition held in such a way does not only endanger the reputation of the Ministry of Justice, whose step towards requests of the public was welcome and formed expectations for a fair competition, but also casts doubt on all future activities within the framework of such an important reform in justice as promoting the legal aid system.

Consequently, we expect to receive an explanation on this competition from the Ministry of Justice.

This statement puts into question personal political responsibility of Minister of Justice of Ukraine Pavlo Petrenko and First Deputy Minister, Chairperson of the Commission Natalia Sevost’yanova.

We demand the cancellation of the results of work of the Commission and appointment of another commission with participation of various stakeholders, including civil society organizations that have worked with the system and international partners, for evaluation of the Commission’s work and objective decision based on four interviews.

In addition, the competition held for appearance raises the question of strengthening the independence of the legal aid system, thus transforming the system into a separate institution which should be removed from under the administrative control of the Ministry of Justice.

We invite all those unindifferent to law to sign this statement!

Larysa Denysenko
Head of the Open Civil Platform for Development of the Ukrainian Free Legal Aid System

Mykola Sioma
Observer, Director of the Ukrainian Legal Aid Foundation

Maryna Starovoytova
Observer, lawyer, member of NGO “All-Ukrainian Legal Aid”

Arkadiy Bushchenko
Executive Director of Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

Svitlana Matviienko
Chairwoman of the Board of the Agency for Legislative Initiatives, Ukrainian School of Political Studies

Olena Matviychuk
Head of the Board of the Legal Development Network

Oleksandra Dvoretska
Head of the Board of the Charity Foundation “Vostok-SOS”

Vadym Valko
Director of NGO “Donbas SOS”

Tamila Tasheva
Krym-SOS

Oleksandr Pavlichenko
Deputy Director of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

Tetyana Pechonchyk
Head of the Board of the Human Rights Information Center 

Oleksandra Matviychuk
Head of the Board of the Centre for Civic Liberties

Irena Fedorovych
NGO Centre “Social Action”

Inna Borzylo
Executive Director, NGO “Centre UA”

Vitaliy Kasko
Lawyer, Member of the Board of the Transparency International Ukraine

Roman Maselko
Lawyer, member of Public Integrity Council

Sergiy Burov
Head of the Board of the Human Rights Education Center

Anna Lenchovska
Kyiv Education Centre “Space of Tolerance”

Denys Kobzin
Kharkiv Institute of Social Studies

Andriy Chernousov
Kharkiv Institute of Social Studies

Tymur Levchuk
Head of All-Ukrainian Charity Foundation “Tochka Opory” (“Fulcrum”)

Maksym Yeligulashvili
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, “Understand human rights”

Oksana Pokalchuk
Head of Amnesty International Ukraine

Mykola Khavronyuk
Centre of Policy and Legal Reform

Roman Kuybida
Centre of Policy and Legal Reform

Denys Bugay
President of the Ukrainian Bar Association

Khrystyna Kit
NGO Centre “Zhinochi Perspectyvy” (“Women’s Perspectives”)

Andriy Hnyda
Member of the Charity Organization “Tvoye Pravo” (“Your Right”)

Igor Orel
NGO “Vybir” (“Choice”)

“Pro bono” Legal Clinic of the National University “Ostroh Academy”

Already signed:

Adriana Kulchytska, lawyer

Volodymyr Sushchenko, professor of the National University “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”

Maksym Shcherbatyuk, human rights activist

Lesya Hanzha, journalist

Iryna Soloviy, civil activist

Andriy Bondar, writer

Alyona Parfonova, NGO “Batky SOS”

Sergiy Leshchenko, Member of the Parliament of Ukraine

Nazar Martynyuk, lawyer

Valeriya Kolomiets, lawyer

Artem Donets, lawyer

Valeriy Dymov, political analyst

A. Sitnikov, laywer

Olga Zhmurko, civil activist

Iryna Slavinska, journalist

Daria Pysarenko, lawyer, civil activist

Oksana Smolnykova, paralegal, civil activist

Yevheniia Zakrevska, lawyer, activist of EuroMaidan

Andrii Hrynchuk, lawyer

bpd ne movchy

 

   
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