Klov Palace, seat of Supreme Court of the Ukraine
The International Legal Foundation continues its work to address the global crisis in access to counsel for the poor, with the help of your donation through Global Giving. This year, our supporters’ donations have helped fund initial assessments of Liberia and Myanmar, allowing us to study the countries’ justice sectors and the current status of legal aid in both countries; in addition, our visits allowed us to make initial inroads with justice sector actors. Now that this groundwork has been laid, both projects have continued to progress. We’re currently focusing our efforts on developing a more comprehensive assessment of the needs of Myanmar’s justice system, based on the initial one funded by our supporters; in Liberia, we’re discussing the recommendations from our Liberia assessment with the Liberian Supreme Court and Public Defender Office as we develop plans for a full project there as well.
As these projects progress, we’ll share more details here on GlobalGiving. For more regular updates, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
The ILF is now preparing plans to conduct an assessment of the Ukraine’s legal aid system, funded in part by your donations. We’ve been invited to the Ukraine by the Director of the National Legal Aid Coordination Center, the government agency responsible for providing legal aid in the Ukraine. The ILF’s intervention is of particular importance given the still fragile ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, a perceived weak rule of law, and widespread corruption.
The right to free counsel for poor persons accused of a crime is enshrined in law in the Ukraine, yet many indigent accused are denied access to effective legal representation. There has been no comprehensive qualitative evaluation of Ukraine’s legal aid system; however, existing studies and reports reveal that poor and vulnerable persons charged with crimes in the Ukraine are systematically being deprived of adequate, effective representation. As a result of these deficiencies, indigent defendants suffer substantial harm to their constitutional rights. Complicating the matter, the head of the Ukraine’s legal aid agency is under attack from the Ukrainian Bar Association for attempting to challenge corruption and lack of independence of so-called “pocket” lawyers who work not in the interests of their clients, but in the interests of the police or prosecutors.
The ILF’s planned assessment of the current state of legal aid in Ukraine will be the first step in recommending reforms. It is only by understanding the current level of need for legal aid and assessing existing services that the Ukraine can remedy gaps in its legal aid system. The ILF will focus this assessment on practical reforms that the Government of the Ukraine can make to improve the accessibility, effectiveness, sustainability, and credibility of legal aid services in the Ukraine.
Photo credit: Klov Palace, seat of the Supreme Court of the Ukraine in Kiev. Photo by Jacek Halicki. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0