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More discussion around Criminal Procedure Code

A representative of the Ministry of Justice spoke of the conviction-oriented nature of the present system. The number of acquittals, as a consequence, does not exceed one percent

A public discussion was held in the Ministry of Justice in Kyiv on Tuesday. It was chaired by the Minister of Justice Mykola Onishchuk, and took part with the participation of representatives of the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Supreme Court, as well as academics and members of civic and human rights organizations.

Mykola Onishchuk spoke of the anachronistic nature of the present Criminal Procedure Code [CPC] which was adopted in Soviet times, back in 1961. He says that the new CPC was drawn up through the prism of guarantees established in the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and European Court of Human Rights judgments against Ukraine. For example, a large number of cases where the Court has found violations by Ukraine pertain to Article 5 of the Convention (the right to liberty and personal security), Article 6 (the right to a fair trial) and Article 13 (the right to effective remedy).

It was stressed during the discussion that the new draft code is intended to bring Ukraine’s criminal justice system into line with international human rights standards.

Another representative of the Ministry of Justice spoke of the conviction-oriented nature of the present system. The number of acquittals, as a consequence, does not exceed one percent.

Another point raised was that the new CPC must abolish the practice of sending cases back for further investigation which has led to unwarrantedly long and unrestricted terms of remand in custody of those suspected of a crime. At present, one in ten cases is returned for further investigation. It is in this area that violations are most often identified by Ukrainian human rights organizations and international institutions.

Key new elements of the draft CPC are: increased safeguards of the rights of suspects and accused; extension of the rights of victims; formation of a renewed evidence law; updating of the procedure for pre-trial investigation; refining the procedure of court control; introduction of a new procedure for court examination without orientation on convictions.  It is proposed to achieve this by abolishing the practice of returning a case to the Prosecutor or for further investigation; refining the procedure for appealing against court rulings; new types of criminal proceedings which are procedurally more economical and will make it possible to significantly reduce the workload of courts and investigative bodies.

According to the Minister of Justice, 8 attempts have been made since independence to pass a new Criminal Procedure Code. He adds, however, that this is the first draft drawn up with the participation of civic and human rights organizations and involving a particularly large number of specialists. The Code has had a number of public discussions and has received favourable comments from Council of Europe representatives.

On 14 October this year the Cabinet of Ministers submitted the draft Criminal Procedure Code for final broad public discussion. On the basis of the results of the discussion, it is planned to submit the document at an open session of the Cabinet of Ministers.

The new draft Criminal Procedure Code is the result of two years of work by specialists from the Ministry of Justice, the National Commission for the Strengthening of Democracy and Affirmation of Law under the President, a wide circle of scientists, experts and specialists from profile State bodies.

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