Ukraine has announced a revised criminal procedure code centred on ‘freedom and human rights’ in what is believed to be an attempt to ease its entry into the European Union.
Ukraine must meet certain conditions by May if it is to join the EU, including ridding its legal system of Soviet-era abuses and addressing issues of concern, including the imprisonment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Ukraine’s first deputy prosecutor general, Renat Kuzmin, announced the new code at a meeting of UK judges and lawyers in London last week. He said that the new code replaces the previous code, ‘a product of Soviet ideology’, which allowed ‘gross infringements of defendants’ rights’.
Kuzmin said: ‘We are already making changes and have amended 100 laws and have 70 more in the pipeline. On 1 December 2011, we had 33,000 people in pre-trial detention.
‘We now have only 20,000. In the last five years, 980,000 people were sentenced to prison under the old code. We can now begin to review many of these cases.’
He added that the new criminal procedure code, focused on ‘freedom and human rights’, was drafted with the ‘active input’ of the Council of Europe (CoE) and has been approved by US and European institutions, including the CoE’s legal and constitutional reform adviser the Venice Commission.
However Ukrainian lawyer Irina Tymczyszyn, international arbitration partner at City firm Bryan Cave, commented: ‘A leopard does not change its spots. Ukraine is determined to join the EU and the new procedure code is the key to doing just that. It affects how criminal suspects are treated, but doesn't change the nature or number of offences for which you can be jailed in Ukraine.
‘The new code is a positive development, but implementation and the need to change mindset are important factors to be considered for significant change.’