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Human rights watchdog reports complicated access to many court hearings

12.07.2023, 12:23
Sora Shimazaki from Pexels
Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

The Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR) calls attention to the complications in accessing many court hearings faced by journalists and activists due to the martial law and the courts being extraordinarily busy.

On July 11, MIHR coordinator Olha Reshetylova mentioned this while presenting interim findings of their monitoring on judiciary issues, reports Ukrinform.

"We found that getting access to many court hearings is complicated. Martial law allows the court's president to limit access to the hearing, and this poses huge problems. For example, a group of French journalists and I went to the Kotelva Court in Poltava oblast. Unfortunately, out of five hearings, we were able to attend none. The court itself had made a decision to make the hearings inaccessible to journalists, and appeals to neither the Council of Judges nor the court administration helped," said Reshetylova.

Moreover, according to her, the courts are extremely busy with cases that are processed unusually fast. She noted that international crimes committed in the course of armed aggression get lost among all the cases.

"Sometimes we see courts making rushed decisions. Perhaps under pressure from the public. Perhaps because they really want to solve a case faster. Perhaps they already made a decision somewhere in their heart and do not need a long hearing. We cannot speak for everyone, but we did record cases being processed quickly," added Reshetylova.

Furthermore, the human rights advocates have documented courts having such issues as processing cases on paper only and adversarialism.

Andriy Yakovlev, a lawyer and expert at the Media Initiative for Human Rights, noted that it is vital that court hearings be open, as the public must see that the case is being processed transparently.

"There are not only psychological obstacles to limiting public access, but also technical ones. Physically, the cases are scattered all over Ukraine, and active journalists cannot constantly change their location, especially under constant shelling. For this, such a modern solution as video calls exists. However, even the parties have difficulties joining video calls... In fact, the court has legal power to refuse to host a video call, but journalists and other listeners have no other technical means to access the hearings," Yakovlev said.

He added that it is necessary to make court proceedings accessible to free listeners online.

As IMI reported, on March 6, 2023, multiple public organizations and media demanded that the authorities open state registers and restore access to public information.

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