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'Adjustment' of justice in Anti-terrorist Operation Zone
Author: Anna Tkachova
Source: International Law Office. – 2014. – 23 December
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Since access to justice is a paramount right of individuals and entities, and should be ensured even within the Anti-terrorist Operation (ATO) Zone of eastern Ukraine, the government has issued legislative amendments in an attempt to secure the administration of justice by those courts within the ATO Zone which are physically precluded from operation.

First attempt: temporal transfer of jurisdiction

On August 12 2014 Parliament adopted the Law on the Administration of Justice and Criminal Proceedings due to the Anti-terrorist Operation, which establishes that where the courts in the ATO Zone - the list of which is set by the State Judicial Administration - are precluded from operation due to anti-terrorist operations, the higher specialised courts (ie, the High Commercial Court, the High Specialised Court on Civil and Criminal Matters and the High Administrative Court) will designate courts in other regions of Ukraine to perform temporarily the functions of courts in the ATO Zone (ie, a temporal transfer of jurisdiction will occur).

The same transfer mechanism was introduced for pre-trial investigations. Where it is impossible to conduct pre-trial investigations in the ATO Zone, the prosecutor general will designate the competent authority for pre-trial investigations of criminal offences committed in the ATO Zone.

Second attempt: relocation of courts

On November 12 2014 the president of Ukraine issued three decrees (866/2014, 867/2014 and 868/2014) amending the network of administrative courts, appeal courts and commercial courts in the country. The presidential decrees will enter into force on their publication.

The proposed amendments envisage the relocation of administrative, commercial and appeal courts from Donetsk and Lugansk to other cities (Slovyansk, Severodonetsk, Cramatorsk and Kharkiv), as follows:

The Donetsk Regional Administrative Court will be relocated to Slovyansk. The Lugansk Regional Administrative Court and the Lugansk Region Court of Appeal will be relocated to Severodonetsk. The Donetsk Administrative Court of Appeal will be relocated to Cramatorsk. The Donetsk Region Commercial Court, the Lugansk Region Commercial Court and the Donetsk Commercial Court of Appeal will be relocated to Kharkiv.

The justice administration law provides that when the courts in the ATO Zone become able to resume operations, they may do so. Therefore, the relocation of courts from the ATO Zone to other cities supersedes the initial temporal transfer of court jurisdiction and serves an important purpose - to reduce caseloads for courts temporarily performing the functions of ATO Zone courts and thus maintain the effectiveness and speediness of justice administration.