On October 1, 2014 the Cabinet of Ministers passed to the Parliament a Draft Law No. 5185 by which the introduction of legal aid in non-criminal cases was postponed until January 1, 2017.
This initiative of the Government appeared almost simultaneously with the promulgation of a new Law “On Prosecutor’s Office”, by which starting from on April 24, 2015 the powers of prosecutors to represent the citizens’ interests in court are cancelled with several exceptions.
Thus, from April 24, 2015 until January 1, 2017 that is during more than a year and a half people who need legal assistance and have no money to pay for it will be left without adequate representation of their interests in the courts. In addition, in 2014 a separate category of people who need immediate introduction of the legal aid system – internally displaced persons, appeared.
It is clear that the system of free legal aid in non-criminal cases require considerable resources. But the Government’s desire to save money cannot justify discrimination against an access of millions of people to justice and high quality legal services.
Furthermore, in terms of a reform the prosecutors have found these funds easier than ever. In past years the Government did not hesitate to allocate vast amounts of money to maintain the prosecutors. In 2014 the total budget of the prosecution authorities amounted to almost 3 billion UAH. Based on the information available in the open source it is hard to figure out which part was directed for the overall supervision and litigation in non-criminal cases, but we can assume that it is not less than a half of the budget.
In 2014 the budget of the system of free legal aid in criminal cases was about 100 million UAH. Therefore, reduction of funding of cancelled prosecution functions should yield savings that will cover the needs of the system of free legal aid, even if its funding is increased by several times.
We are concerned about the possible adoption of a law that would leave millions of people in need of legal assistance vulnerable during 2015-2016.
We urge the Verkhovna Rada not to adopt the Draft Law No. 5185.
We believe it is necessary to begin operation of the system of free legal aid in non-criminal cases not later than April 2015, and for internally displaced persons – not later than January 1, 2015, and we urge the Verkhovna Rada to adopt necessary amendments to the legislation.
We urge the Government to find the necessary resources for effective operation of the system of free legal aid in non-criminal cases.
Mykola Kozyrev, the Chairman of the UHHRU
Arkady Bushchenko, the Executive Director of the UHHRU