Judging Justly: Ukraine’s Journey toward Judicial Reform.

February 3, 2017

“Through joint efforts we are going to change this country every day, and this change will be experienced by every common citizen,”

Pavlo Petrenko, Ukraine’s Minister of Justice

Restoring Public Faith in the Judiciary

During the 2014 anti-government demonstrations known as the Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine’s turbulent journey of judicial reform reached a crossroads. Innocent people were stopped on the streets by police and accused of being public disturbers. The government even used the judiciary as a tool to ban peaceful assembly and infringe on freedom of speech.

Amidst this political instability, FAIR saw an opportunity to reform the judiciary system and engage the Ukrainian public along the way. Doing so required improving communication between the courts and citizens.

FAIR supported a nationwide information campaign, “Judging Justly: Informational Campaign for Raising Awareness about the Constitutional Reform Related to the Judiciary.” The campaign included three informational videos and infographics about court operations and changes in the judicial system. Leaflets, brochures, and videos on the judiciary and court services helped further boost awareness.

Ukrainian citizens were also given a real chance to share feedback. The project developed citizen report card surveys, which identify gaps in judiciary services and help evaluate court performance from the public’s perspective. Reflecting on everything from access to court information to the professionalism of judges to the timeliness of court decisions, these surveys have given court users the opportunity to share their experiences and trust that their point of view is heard.

Since 2008, more than 40,000 court users have made hundreds of recommendations. With contributions from a new generation of 120 modern court administrators, more than 300 courts improved their performance and access to court services for all citizens, particularly people with disabilities. The surveys have proven to be a practical and cost-effective means for improving court performance and tapping public opinions on the judiciary.

FAIR also installed video and audio equipment in The High Council of Justice’s conference hall so it could broadcast its sessions online. With these broadcasts, citizens can observe the council’s responsibility to discipline the Supreme Court justices and judges. From live broadcasts to surveys to complaint forms, the FAIR project created engaging channels to bridge the gap between the courts and citizens.

40,000

court user have made recommendations since 2008

300

courts improved their performance and access to court services for all citizens, particularly people with disabilities.

The Future of Reform

Although these reforms fostered change both inside and outside the courtroom, it will take continued efforts to ensure these changes are not short-lived. Building on the strides led by the Ukraine FAIR project, USAID’s Nove Pravosuddya Justice Sector Reform Program will push forward a justice system that upholds the rule of law and fights corruption.

Meanwhile, there is work ahead for everyone. Judges must continue to follow the Code of Judicial Ethics as the ultimate standard for judicial behavior. The judiciary must adhere to high performance and operations standards. The public and civil society must persist in protecting and monitoring their right to a fair trial.

Ukraine’s Minister of Justice Pavlo Petrenko recognizes that the impact of upholding the vision of an independent judiciary with reliable administrative services reaches far beyond the courtroom.

“Through joint efforts we are going to change this country every day, and this change will be experienced by every common citizen,” Minister Petrenko said. “They will experience the change that will allow them to register a company in 24 hours without queuing, register an apartment without offering a bribe of UAH 500, and obtain any information via the Internet without corruption and any obstacles.”

For Ukrainian citizens, judiciary reform is more than the abstract notion of protecting democracy. With every regulatory change and amendment, judicial reform transforms their day-to-day lives.