EHRAC in Ukraine: Training for human rights lawyers

20 February 2018

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“I really like the combination of practical and theoretical approaches. I will use the knowledge and skills I have gained when preparing applications to the European Court and witness statements.”

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU) and the Regional Centre for Human Rights (RCHR) – both of which are EHRAC’s partners in Ukraine – are two of the highest profile human rights organisations in Ukraine supporting victims of the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and the aftermath of the annexation of Crimea. In February 2018, we delivered a skills-based training for their lawyers focused on providing practical tools and advice for use in their litigation before the European Court of Human Rights.

“I may reconsider my approach to structuring legal arguments when drafting.”

In the four years since Crimea’s annexation and the start of the ongoing armed conflict in the Donbas region, human rights lawyers have been faced with multiple complex and demanding cases. The rule of law has been severely weakened in these regions, and with ineffective or non-existent law enforcement locally, victims of human rights abuse need lawyers who can represent them internationally.

Drawing on EHRAC’s own experiences of litigating conflict and situations of occupation in Russia and the South Caucasus, we addressed issues such as:

  • best practice for legal drafting;
  • drafting complex legal arguments;
  • how to substantiate arguments with evidence;
  • how and when to seek reports from experts as a form of evidence;
  • obtaining and using evidence from witnesses;
  • how and when to apply for an urgent measure from the European Court (to prevent irreparable harm).

Participants overwhelmingly expressed the need for more practical training as a follow up from our session. We also held case clinics with lawyers from UHHRU and RCHR, giving them the opportunity to raise questions from their current case load.

“Responding to requests from our partners, the training focussed predominantly on legal drafting, particularly drafting witness statements – a crucial source of evidence, which provide clients with the opportunity to explain to the Court what has happened to them – and replying to submissions from the Government.  This was an excellent opportunity to meet our partners and to consolidate and strengthen their existing legal skills.”

Joanne Sawyer, EHRAC Lawyer

This training was carried out with the financial support of the European Union. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of EHRAC, UHHRU and RCHR and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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