Quarantine zoning and court proceedings - experience and proposals of Kharkiv RJRC
General recommendations for courts of different jurisdictions to take into account restrictions applied according to where a locality is located in a particular quarantine area.
Both lawyers and citizens in Kharkiv region faced the challenge of differing application of special working hours in courts. The specificity of the region is that during the quarantine, the city and the region found itself in all areas: from green to red.
"At the beginning of the epidemic, courts of general jurisdiction generally suspended the administration of justice in civil and administrative cases, and criminal cases were considered with restrictions. Administration of justice in criminal cases, especially at the beginning of the epidemic, was carried out given the stage case consideration and whether the accused was in detention centres. No criminal cases were considered if suspect or accused were not detained as pre-trial restriction measures", – the example is given by Roman Chumak, Kharkiv RJRC coordinator.
Differing approach in courts to ensuring access of persons to justice concerned access to court premises, obtaining consultations from court staff members, information on court proceedings, participation in court hearings, adjournment of court proceedings, familiarisation with case files.
Participants in court proceedings, in particular lawyers involved in court proceedings in various courts in the region have been forced to constantly monitor the situation in specific courts. In some cases, the parties to the case experienced difficulties in exercising their procedural rights, including access to the case file.
Courts of commercial and administrative jurisdiction have imposed stricter arrangements for access to justice since quarantine started. The participants in the cases were immediately banned from visiting the court premises.
"Participants of the Kharkiv Regional Justice Reforms Council can and want to influence improving legislation. Our representatives are ready to implement reforms, so they offer to solve the challenges faced by lawyers in the region", – says Roman Chumak.
The proposal by Kharkiv Regional Council concerns drafting recommendations by the High Council of Justice for courts of different jurisdictions, taking into account the restrictions applicable to location of a particular settlement in a certain quarantine zone. In addition, it is crucial to shape similar rules of courts' working hours which can be possible only if courts in the region equally apply current recommendations by the Council of Judges of Ukraine on the special working hours arrangements of courts given whether there are COVID-19 infected in a particular court.
It should be recalled that the Regional Justice Reform Councils were formed in 6 regions over July 2018 - February 2019. The councils are made up of representatives of a wide range of legal professions, academia, students and community activists who meet regularly to identify and discuss issues related to justice reform of most relevance in their region.