The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Donbas released a report focusing on cases of removing law offices from the militant-held areas onto the government-controlled territory. The ongoing conflict significantly affected that, too, says the report. The mission’s members stressed in the report that civilians face difficulties with due access to the courts, which takes place both in militant-held and government-controlled areas of Donbas.
OSCE marked that the report’s findings are based on “meetings with judges, prosecutors, civil society and other actors, and focus on the implications of the seizure of government buildings by armed groups and the subsequent relocation of all Ukrainian justice services from non-government-controlled to government-controlled areas”.
The report shows that the administration of justice by Ukrainian authorities has been negatively impacted by the relocation process. For example, courts and prosecution offices in government-controlled areas suffer from shortages in staffing and equipment, and court cases have been forced to be suspended or terminated as essential case materials remain in non-government controlled areas or were destroyed by armed groups.
“People residing in non-government controlled areas face additional challenges. Due to the lack of postal services, many are not provided with adequate notice of legal proceedings. Even where people are notified, they are required to undertake difficult journeys to reach courts in government-controlled areas. Moreover, for certain areas of Donbas which lie outside government control, many court decisions cannot be enforced”, says the message at the OSCE website posted briefly after the organization’s report was published.
The SMM members noted that parallel “justice systems” have begun operating outside of the Ukrainian justice system in non-government controlled areas. “The SMM, however, found that these are non-transparent, subject to constant change, seriously under-resourced and, in many instances, completely non-functional”, reads the message.
The OSCE Mission in Eastern Ukraine expressed grave concern because “both the conflict and the relocation of the justice institutions have led to the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of people in both government and non-government controlled areas”.