We, representatives of civil society organizations, call on MPs of Ukraine to reject draft law No. 7033-д, which provides for restriction of access to the court register, and draft law No.8359, which allows not to record court hearings.
We believe that the amendments proposed by these draft laws pose a danger of disproportionate restriction of the society’s access to important information, the right to a fair trial, create conflicts with the requirements of legislation, and contradict the values of a democratic society.
Let us remind you that the Unified State Register of Court Decisions was introduced by the Law “On Access to Court Decisions” in 2006 as an important part of the program of adaptation of Ukrainian legislation to the European one for Ukraine’s further accession to the European Union.
Draft law No.7033-д proposes a number of dubious innovations, both for the period of martial law and in peacetime.
Firstly, a significant expansion of the list of information that cannot be disclosed in the texts of court decisions is envisaged. In particular, we are talking about the name and location of critical infrastructure objects. The problem is that the list of such objects is changeable and incomplete, and information about most objects is already available in open sources (for example, about the bodies of the pension fund, social protection of the population, local governments and, finally, about the courts). There is no point in hiding information “from the enemy,” which has been known and available to it for years. But such a concealment will significantly complicate the monitoring of court decisions for the public.
Secondly, for the duration of martial law and a year after its expiration, it is proposed to limit access to court decisions in cases that pose a special public interest (in particular, on crimes against the basics of national security, protection of state secrets, inviolability of state borders, conscription and mobilization, as well as the procedure for performing military service). Such a restriction is disproportionate and does not meet the request of the society. After all, journalists, lawyers, scientists, public activists will not be able to learn about the circumstances of the case and the punishment imposed by the court on traitors, collaborators, accomplices of the occupiers, etc. Concealing court decisions will definitely increase tension and distrust of the authorities among the Ukrainian society.
Thirdly, it is planned to provide judges with the right to arbitrarily remove information from the court register from decisions in cases considered in open hearing, which contradicts the general principle of publicity of the trial and carries corruption risks.
In turn, the draft law No.8359 provides for a space for abuse regarding the recording of the trial. According to it, during martial law or a state of emergency, “in the event of an objective impossibility” to fully record the court hearing technically, the secretary records only the essential points of the case in the protocol. Any judge can interpret what an objective impossibility is in their own way.
Legislation should have a uniform approach to restricting access to information, so open information should not be limited in court decisions. Otherwise, it threatens the normal functioning of the Unified State Register of Court Decisions, which is a democratic achievement of the Ukrainian society.
Restricting access to court decisions will set Ukraine back decades in the democratic progress — to the level of Russia and Belarus — and pose a danger to the further process of integration into the European Union. Currently, MPs of Ukraine plan to disproportionately restrict the Ukrainians from freely receiving the information that is of significant public interest, in particular about decisions, evidence in cases, as well as about persons accused and convicted of committing these crimes.
We call on the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to reject draft laws No. 7033-д and No.8359 as harmful to the justice system and freedom of speech, public access to open information, especially during the war and after its end.
Human Rights Centre ZMINA
Kharkiv Anti-Corruption Center
Institute for Peace and Common Ground
Kharkiv Institute for Social Research
Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv
NGO “Progress Group of Frankivtsi”
Institute of Mass Information
Media Initiative for Human Rights
Anti-Corruption Action Centre
Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group
All-Ukrainian Association “Automaidan”
Institute of Legislative Ideas
Center for Civil Liberties
Kharkiv Regional Foundation Public Alternative
Democratic Initiatives Incubator
NGO Expert Group “SOVA”
Regional Center for Human Rights
NGO “Human Rights Platform”
CF “Gender Zed”
Transparency International Ukraine
Agency for Legislative Initiatives
LGBT Human Rights NASH SVIT Center
CO “CF Vostok-SOS”
NGO “Blue Bird”
NGO “Government Monitoring Center”
NGO “Donbas SOS”
NGO Kyivski kotyky
NGO “FRESH BLOOD”
Anti-corruption Research and Educational Center
Institute of Legislative Ideas
Crimean Human Rights Group
Centre for Economic Strategy
NGO “Civil holding “GROUP OF INFLUENCE”
All-Ukrainian youth NGO “Foundation of Regional Initiatives”
NGO “Human Rights Vector”