27 March 2020

Life or fair trial: how to avoid unusual choice in the quarantine time

The prolongation of Quarantine by the Cabinet of Ministers, as well as the introduction of an emergency state in the country, made significant adjustments to the organization of enterprises’ operation, and also changed the lifestyle of virtually every citizen.

Because the prospect of spreading COVID-19 has led to a forced restriction of personal communication in all areas. To a large extent, litigation has also been “harmed”.

Thus, the special regime established in the courts, which minimizes the oral examination of cases, in fact comes into direct conflict with the obligation to respect everyone’s right to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable period of time, as guaranteed by Art. 6 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. This issue is especially acute in the context of criminal proceedings, where the quality of compliance with the right to a fair trial literally affects every other guarantee.

And here we all (the state, the private sector and society) need to find the tools and the available mechanisms today to keep the balance between the rights and to prevent (as far as possible) the need to choose between them.

Like many others, during this difficult period of time, we made the most of online communication and shifted the focus towards writing. Meetings with clients, legal advice, development of legal position, preparation and submission of procedural documents, as well as many other operations may well be conducted from the home “office”. As a proof – video conferencing applications have hit the top in AppStore and PlayMarket, ahead of games and social networks.

However, certain legal aid work requires the personal presence of a defender at the epicenter of events. For example, a search, interrogation, selection, or continuation of restrictive measures. Of course, wherever it is possible, one can ask for a postponement of the procedural action until the situation is improved (and here, the other party will probably meet you). However, such a justification for the process delay or fear of personal presence is unlikely to be appreciated by your client in the pre-trial detention center.

This is why corporate advocative solidarity can be helpful as never before. Law Firm Drozdova & Partners is open to cooperation and encourages colleagues from all regions of Ukraine to join forces in order to solve the problems that require personal involvement of a lawyer within their physical location.

Sincerely

Olena Drozdova, Deputy Chairman of the UNBA Committee on Medical and Pharmaceutical Law and Bioethics, Director of Drozdova & Partners Law Firm