If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But if it is broke, as Ukraine's criminal justice system is, how to fix it? Does society start from scratch or simply focus on a few areas at a time? These are the questions that Ukrainians are still wrestling with, nearly 24 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union The U.S.S.R.'S half-life is proving to be way too long, and the legal system provides one of the best examples of how much damage was inflicted during those 70 years.
Basic legal concepts are either not appreciated or in force here.
Probable cause – It still feels like a society where police can take people away in the dead of night on any pretext.
Presumption of innocence until proven guilty – Suspects can be subject to damning pre-trial publicity. Putting defendants in courtroom cages announces to the world: This is a guilty person. Lengthy pre-trial detention assumes guilt and ruins lives.
Plea bargains – These come in handy in getting lower-level suspects to turn state's evidence against top-level suspects, in murders and in financial crimes, and also in ensuring justice is done without lengthy and costly trials. I understand plea bargains are happening in Ukraine, but not nearly as often as they should.
Right to a public trial by a jury of one's peers – This is simply not happening in Ukraine's judicial system. Politically-appointed prosecutors still decide it all, or too much, when it comes to commanding corruptible and subservient judges. The bottom line is that politicians don't want to give up control, through appointed prosecutors, judges and police, of who goes to jail and who doesn't in Ukrainian society.
Right to a speedy trial – This is flouted through lengthy pre-trial detention, big delays in trials and incessant political manipulation of investigations. It isn't swift and it isn't justice.
Mariana Antonovych Kyiv Post Legal Affairs Reporter All of our contacts are available online at http://www.kyivpost.com/contacts/
Mark Rachkevych Kyiv Post Editor-at-large
Brian Bonner Kyiv Post Chief Editor