Forward to juries, or back to people’s assessors?

The draft Criminal Procedure Code which the President has submitted for parliament’s consideration envisages the appearance of jury assessors. The government claims that this is the first step towards creating a jury system in Ukraine. Experts are critical, predicting a return to the Soviet model of people’s assessors.

The draft Code states that people suspected of committing particularly serious crimes will be able to demand that a court is appointed consisting of two professional judges and three «juror judges”. Candidates for the latter will be put forward by local communities.

The President of the Institute of Law Policy Mykola Onishchuk says that the model negates the very sense of a real jury. Those who earlier drew up the draft Criminal Procedure Code suggested that a jury, made up of six or twelve ordinary citizens would take decisions as to whether there had been a crime and whether the defendant was guilty.

Members of the government argue that the proposed model is merely the first stage towards a fully-fledged jury system. The chair of the parliamentary subcommittee on criminal procedure legislation, S. Oliynyk asserts that the institution is provided for in the new draft code in the form which is possible from the economic point of view.

However human right rights activists believe that the draft code effectively envisages a return to the Soviet system of court proceedings.

The Head of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Arkady Bushchenko calls it an attempt to tell people that Ukraine has a developed democracy. He points out that a jury is a panel of jurors who determine whether a person is guilty.  This does not include judges. “Now this is a single panel. They’re not jurors, however they try to call them”, he says. He adds that the attempt to convince European experts that a jury system is being introduced has not worked. The experts who analyzed the draft code also noted that it does not envisage such an institution.

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