July 2021
Werewolves in judicial robes
«You should have been considering high treachery cases rather than lead it...»
Are the treacherous judges punished and what lessons did the state learn in the justice sphere after the occupation.

Everyone who assumes the office of judge shall take an oath before the people, undertaking "to administer justice objectively, impartially, unbiasedly, independently, fairly and competently on behalf of Ukraine". The oath has both ethical and legal significance: its breach provided grounds for dismissal of a judge until 2016.

In 2014, war and occupation tested the integrity of the oath of judges of the Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. While some judges had been approving the decisions to abolish the so-called referendum till the very last minute and organized the transportation of cases from the non-government-controlled area (NGCA), others became collaborants and began to administer the so-called "justice", where there was no law as such already.

Read below, how the state responded to the "occupation in the judiciary area", which judges remained to cooperate with the occupants, whether they were dismissed and prosecuted, what institutional changes occurred and what lessons can be learned.
Decision of a judge Mykola Himon, which canceled the provisions on the referendum on supporting the national autonomy of the so-called DPR on the territory of Donetsk oblast. As of the moment of decision, separatists have taken over the major part of the oblast and seized most of the administrative buildings in Donetsk, which might cause major risks for judge's health and life.
Judge Rayisa Khanova was presiding over the Donetsk administrative court of appeals during the administrative bodies takeover and Donbas occupation. She organized transportation of cases and electronic archive from uncontrolled area. Moreover, the court has quickly restored its operations in Kramatorsk.
Author: Veronika Kreidenkova, DEJURE Foundation analyst

Reviewer: Olena Semyorkina, merited lawyer of Ukraine, analyst, legislative specialist of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Foundation

Data assistance
: Mykola Maryev, Mariia Skoropad
1. Justice before the occupation
Prior to the occupation, the courts of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Sevastopol, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts were part of the general judicial system of the country. As of January 2014, there was a well-developed network of 99 courts with 1,619 judges administering justice in these territories.
The Autonomous Republic of Crimea
36 courts were operating on the peninsula before the occupation — 32 first instance courts and 4 appellate courts. Among them, the jurisdiction of 6 courts extended only to Sevastopol as the city with a special status. As of January 2014, 488 judges held positions in these courts.
Number of judges of the Economic Court of the city of Sevastopol and the Economic Court of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
Number of judges of the Circuit Administrative court of the city of Sevastopol and Circuit Administrative Court of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
Number of judges of the Appellate Court of the city of Sevastopol and the Appellate Court of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
Courts on the peninsula were integrated in the general judicial system of Ukraine, thus, cassation hearings took place in higher specialized courts and the Supreme Court of Ukraine (SCU). At the same time, Crimean judges were widely represented in judicial self-government in comparison with other oblasts: delegates at the Conference of Judges and Congress of Judges were elected both from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as a separate administrative and territorial unit.

Two territorial departments of the State Judicial Administration of Ukraine (SJA) were in charge of the organizational and logistical component of the activity of general courts on the territory of Crimea:

  1. Territorial department of the SJA in the city of Sevastopol – for local general courts of Sevastopol;

  2. Territorial department in the AR of Crimea, located in Simferopol – for all other local general courts.

It was this very department that obtained funding for court maintenance and judges' remuneration.
Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts
In 2014, there were 63 courts in the Donetsk oblast, and 35 local general courts and 4 courts of appeal in the Luhansk oblast. In each oblast there was an appellate court for criminal and civil cases, and the Donetsk commercial court of appeal, which had jurisdiction over Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhya oblasts, and the Donetsk administrative court of appeal, whose jurisdiction extended to Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, were operating in Donetsk.

In January 2014, 1,131 judges held positions in these courts.
Donetsk oblast — 740 judges in total.
Luhansk oblast — 391 judges in total.

2. Justice at gunpoint
On February 27, 2014, the "green men", military staff of the Russian Federation (RF), invaded the territory of Crimea. It was on this day that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) recognized the onset of Russia's "effective control" over the Crimean peninsula. This moment marked the beginning of an active occupation of the territory by the Russian Federation, which, in its turn, affected the justice system.
The Autonomous Republic of Crimea
From the beginning of the takeover of administrative buildings by the Russian military and until the "referendum", the judges hesitated whether to side with the occupant power, because they did not know what course the situation might take. Thus, courts suspended the adoption of claims and other documents, stopped appointing hearings, and some decisions to postpone court hearings were made without a date.

The very next day after the "referendum", the judges, trying to adapt to the situation, used to pass decisions "on behalf of no one". They have not yet started indicating "on behalf of the Russian Federation", but no longer used "on behalf of Ukraine" in court decisions. An example is the ruling of February 27, 2014 of the Sevastopol Economic Court of Appeal, which still contains a reference to the Ukrainian legislation, but does not specify that the decision was made "on behalf of Ukraine".

On March 16, 2014, a "referendum on the Crimea status determination" was held, as a result of which Crimea was supposed to "reunite with the Russian Federation". On March 18, 2014, the so-called Agreement on the accession of the Republic of Crimea to the Russian Federation, which provided for the extension of its legislation to the territory of the peninsula, was approved. In terms of practical consequences, it meant that the judiciary on the territory of the Crimea will be shaped to reflect the Russian Federation model and the relevant legislation shall be applied to resolve disputes.

On March 21, 2014, the Federation Council approved the federal constitutional law "On Admission of the Republic of Crimea to the Russian Federation and Formation of New Subjects, the Republic of Crimea and the Federal Level City of Sevastopol in the Russian Federation", which defined the status of judges in Crimea. This law established the so-called "transition period" for the integration of existing institutions of the peninsula and the creation of new ones, including in the legal sphere. This "period" was supposed to last from the moment of "admission of the Republic of Crimea" until January 1, 2015, but ended earlier.

Moreover, according to this law, such persons lost the status of Ukrainian judges and obtained the status of "persons acting as judges". It provided a priority right to hold the position of "judge", if a person accepted the Russian citizenship. Nevertheless, such individuals continued to call themselves "judges" in their decisions. In July 2014, the High Qualifications Panel of Judges of the Russian Federation announced two "competitions" for positions of "judges" on the territory of the peninsula, which started the formation of the "judicial corps".

At the same time, as the "judges" noted, there were conflicts over the subordination of the courts to the occupant power after the "referendum" during the "transition period". Thus, the "acting Chief Judge of the Sevastopol economic court of appeals" Tetyana Vydashenko states in an interview that the former Chief Judge of the Sevastopol economic court of appeals, Volodymyr Koval, continued to send letters and cassation appeals to the Commercial Court of Cassation within the Supreme Court of Ukraine even after Crimea's accession to Russia. She noted that this caused a conflict in the "judiciary", which divided it into "those who did not want to cut ties with Kyiv, and those who welcomed the changes". Tetyana Vydashenko pointed out that supporters of the occupant power, aided by the "administration", managed to deprive Volodymyr Koval of the position of judge, and to stop admitting those who supported him to the court.

The formation of the occupation "judicial system" ended on December 26, 2014 in accordance with the decision of the Plenary Session of the Supreme Court of December 23, 2014 "On the Day of Commencement of Activities of the Federal Courts of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Crimea and the Federal city of Sevastopol." Thus, a "system of courts" was created to mimic the Russian one:

  1. the so-called Supreme Court of the Republic of Crimea;
  2. the so-called Sevastopol City Court;
  3. the so-called 28 district and city general courts;
  4. the so-called courts of arbitration;
  5. the so-called military courts;
  6. the so-called institute of magistrates.
Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts
In early April 2014, the occupants began taking over key public authorities in eastern Ukraine. On April 13, 2014, the Anti-Terrorist Operation was officially launched in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

In May 2014, the discussions started in the so-called DPR and LPR on establishment of judicial systems provided by the "Constitution of the DPR" and the "Provisional Basic Law of the LPR".

In June 2014, the creation of a "judicial system" in the so-called LPR started: the law "On Military Courts" was adopted. Establishment of other courts was not initiated until April 2015, except for the military tribunals. In April 2015, the leaders of the so-called LPR passed a number of laws, which provided for the creation of other courts, such as the "Supreme Court", the "Arbitration Court" (never created), 17 local "courts".

On October 22, 2014, the so-called DPR resolution "On the Judicial System" defined the principles of the judiciary and the status of judges. This resolution provided for the creation of 55 courts, some of which covered the area already controlled by the Ukrainian government (GCA). Most of the planned courts never started working. From December 2014 to April 2015, 15 "courts of general jurisdiction", two "specialized courts" and the "Supreme Court" started operating. All of them still function in this form.


In both cases, the positions of "judges" were mostly taken by those who had been judges or held other positions in state bodies of Ukraine.

3. Response of the state to occupation
We analyzed the state actions with regard to justice in the conditions of occupation, and conventionally classified measures of influence into two groups:

  1. personal: transfer of judges who wished to relocate to the government-controlled territory, dismissal and criminal prosecution of those who cooperate with the occupation authorities;

  2. institutional: change of jurisdiction of cases, their transportation, termination of work and financing of courts, their staff and territorial offices of the SJA, invalidation of seals and stamps of courts.
This approach enables exploring every measure of influence separately, establishing why and how they were used in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Donetsk, Luhansk oblasts, as well as to evaluate them.
Personal dimension
During and after occupation the state applied three key measures with regard to courts:
  1. transfer and assigning to a position in a court on the controlled territory;
  2. dismissal;
  3. holding to criminal liability for the offences committed.
We analyzed the fate of judges from the courts that ceased their activities due to the occupation, and identified those who were transferred to the GCA, who were dismissed and on what grounds, who began to cooperate with the occupant authorities and who were prosecuted.
According to the Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG), the actions of judges are classified as follows:
1) in the territories of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol these actions are classified under Part 1 of Art. 111 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine — treason, i.e., an act intentionally committed by a citizen of Ukraine to the detriment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity of Ukraine in the form of assistance to a foreign state in carrying out subversive activities against Ukraine;

2) in the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, such acts are classified under Part 1 of Art. 258-3 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine — creation of terrorist group or terrorist organization, management of such group or organization or participation in it, and also organizational or other assistance to creation or activity of terrorist group or terrorist organization.
Transfer of judges to government-controlled area
It ensures the safety of judges, enables them to continue their work and prevents adverse consequences, such as the capture of a judge by the occupants.
The Autonomous Republic of Crimea
On April 15, 2014, the Law of Ukraine "On Ensuring the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens and the Legal Regime in the Temporarily Occupied Territory of Ukraine" established the guaranteed right to be transferred to court in the government-controlled territory for judges who were willing to relocate because of occupation.

53 judges from the occupied Crimea applied to the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine (HQCJ), requesting transfer to courts in the controlled territory, but five of them later withdrew their applications. During 2014-2017, the President of Ukraine transferred (appointed) 47 judges to courts in the controlled territory. Thus, 10% of judges who held positions in the Crimea continued to administer justice in the controlled area. At the same time, civil society organizations noted that during the occupation, judicial (self)government bodies and other authorities did not provide sufficient communication on transfer to the controlled territory, which may also contribute to a low percentage of applications. In those rare public statements which the judiciary representatives or other public figures did make, judges were urged to continue to perform their duties, such as in a statement by the ex-judge of the Supreme Court of Ukraine Ihor Samsin.

The territorial offices of the SJA in the Crimea and Sevastopol ceased their activities, as did the court staff. Because of this, judges received remuneration in the courts to which they wished to be transferred or were assigned. In particular, this is the source of income indicated by judges in property declarations for 2015-2017.
Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts
As for the transfer of judges from Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, HQCJ informs 329 judges filed such requests, 308 of whom were transferred to courts in the government-controlled area. Remunerations to judges were made by the courts to which they were assigned or by the territorial offices of the SJA, which resumed their work in the GCA.

It should be noted that if a judge expresses an intent to relocate from a non-controlled area, it does not automatically imply that they have no ties with the occupants. Five judges, who applied to the HQCJ for transfer, also took part in "competitions" for the positions of "judges" held by the occupation authorities. As a result, three of them were appointed by the President of the Russian Federation.

There are also cases where judges who have been transferred to another court in the controlled area have been found to have possible connections with occupants.

For example, judge Svitlana Chonhova was one of 53 judges who applied to the HQCJ for a transfer. Her application is dated April 2, 2015, and in September she became a judge of the Economic court of Kyiv oblast. However, according to journalists from the Nashi Groshi project, on December 24, 2015, the judge received a Russian passport, while continuing to administer justice on behalf of Ukraine.

There is a well-known case of the former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea Valeriy Chornobuk, who actively promoted the establishment of the occupant power on the peninsula. However, after that he moved to the territory controlled by Ukraine and continued to administer justice in the Court of Appeals of Dnipropetrovsk oblast until September 29, 2016, when he was dismissed for the breach of oath. Subsequently, the judge by the decision of the Administrative Court of Cassation of the Supreme Court was reinstated in the court from which he was dismissed on September 23, 2019 by the decision of the HCJ.

Journalists of Hromadske also reported that in November 2017, prosecutors detained Judge of the Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi City and District Court of Odesa region Nadiya Anisimova, who was transferred from the Kirovskyi District Court of Donetsk. According to the investigation, she re-registered the property into the ownership of representatives of the so-called DPR. According to the OPG, Nadiya Anisimova is currently a defendant, and the case is being considered by the first instance court.
We can conclude on the basis of these cases that in extraordinary circumstances, such as the occupation of the territory, the procedure for the transfer of judges should include additional verification of possible connections with occupants. This will reduce the risk of transferring judges who have some affiliations to the occupants.
Dismissal of judges cooperating with the occupation government
It prevents abusing the status of a judge, which offers immunity and other guarantees of independence.
As long as a person maintains the status of a judge, he or she enjoys guarantees of independence, including the inviolability and immunity of a judge, as well as financial and social security. Given these peculiarities of judicial status, the judge's maintaining any contact with the occupants is more dangerous than if an ordinary person was involved. In this case, judges who work closely with the occupants must be dismissed as soon as possible, even if they do not currently hear cases, as they have not been transferred to the controlled territory.

The President of Ukraine had the mandate to dismiss judges appointed for the first 5-year term and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (VRU) was in charge of dismissal, if a judge was elected for an indefinite term. The motion of dismissal was submitted by the High Council of Justice (HCJ). Upon amending the Constitution and the Law of Ukraine "On the Judiciary and the Status of Judges", the High Council of Justice (HCJ) became responsible for the dismissal of judges.
Judges appointed by the President of Ukraine for the first time for the term of 5 years.
The Autonomous Republic of Crimea
Of the 488 judges who have held office in Crimea, 436 gave reasons to believe that they have remained to cooperate with the occupant power — have held the position of "judge", have expressed a desire to hold an office or have continued their legal careers in another field

According to open sources, the main "appointments" for 286 people took place in 2014, which coincided with the end of the so-called "transitional period" of integration into the legal system of the Russian Federation. However, the large-scale dismissal of judges from the positions in Ukraine began only in 2016.
As of March 2021, the following judges were dismissed or had their powers terminated on the following grounds:
275 judges were dismissed for the breach of oath from January to April 2016. Regarding 263 of them, there are grounds to believe that they have held positions in the "courts" of the Crimea since December 2014, and before that carried out "proceedings" under Russian law.

Six judges were dismissed for violating non-combination requirements in 2017. As previously explained by the HCJ, this reason for dismissal was chosen because judges were not required to take the oath at the time of their appointment. There are grounds to believe that all judges held positions in the "courts" of the Crimea in December 2014.

Five judges were dismissed for refusing to pass the qualification assessment from September to November 2019. According to open sources, one judge probably held the position of assistant judge of the Kerch city court of the Republic of Crimea back in 2017.

The voluntary resignation of four judges took place from November 2015 to August 2016. Among them is former judge Mykola Lyubynetskyi, who has allegedly been a citizen of the Russian Federation since the beginning of 2015.

In November 2015, the Verkhovna Rada dismissed Judge Viktor Kozlenko, who had passed 154 decisions under Russian law at the time.

Judge Valentyna Lisovska was dismissed by the Verkhovna Rada in connection with reaching the age of 65 in November 2015, but at that time she had been a "judge of the Sudak City Court of the Republic of Crimea" since December 2014.

Judge Iryna Radkova was dismissed on the basis of a court conviction of July 29, 2013, which was not related to the events of the occupation.
Currently, the HCJ public page.
Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts
Of the judges who held positions in the courts in the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, there are grounds to believe that 76 people remained to cooperate with the occupant authorities.


As of March 2021, judges have been dismissed or had their powers terminated on the following grounds:
Mass dismissal of these judges occurred in 2016-2017:
Compared to the Crimean judges, the proportion of voluntary dismissals and resignations is higher, which enabled such judges to receive a lifetime allowance or pension and the opportunity to re-apply for the position of judge.
The important question is whether the persons cooperating with the occupants received remuneration, allowance or pension at the expense of the State Budget of Ukraine.
Persons who maintained the status of a judge in Ukraine after the occupation and cooperated with the occupation authorities
Probably they do not receive payments. As the SJA noted in response to a request, the payment of remuneration to such judges has been suspended since the occupation. However, it is not specified, since when the payments were suspended.

Those who wished to transfer received benefits either through the courts to which they were assigned or through the SJA offices that moved, as it was the case of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

Judicial disputes over the payment of remuneration to judges in such cases have not yet been considered. However, there is a decision of the Administrative Court of Cassation of the Supreme Court (ACC of the Supreme Court) on the claim of a judge of the Court of Appeals of Donetsk oblast, who was taken captive by the so-called DPR terrorists in 2016 while crossing the demarcation line. The judge argued that he was forcibly prevented from administering justice while in captivity, so he claimed remuneration for that time. ACC of the Supreme Court denied the judge's claim and emphasized:

The Law of Ukraine "On the Judiciary and the Status of Judges" № 1402 contains a number of cases when a judge does not administer justice. (…)

Moreover, such cases are divided into two categories: when the non-administration of justice is beyond the judge's ability to control the situation or is not caused by their conduct, and when the non-administration of justice is caused by the conduct of the judge him/herself. (...)

The circumstances of the case established by the courts of previous instances show that the plaintiff's failure to administer justice was caused by his own conduct, and his argument that the state was guilty of his getting detained by illegal paramilitary units (DPR) is unfounded, given the judge's necessity to adhere to reasonable prudence and avoid actions that could harm the interests of justice in their daily routine".

Given this justification of the ACC of the Supreme Court, it is likely that such case law will be followed in other claims on judicial remuneration payment for the period of stay in the occupied territories.
Judges who resigned and were dismissed on their own request
This entitles such judges to a pension (in the event of voluntary dismissal for a duration of work experience) or a lifetime allowance (in the case of voluntary resignation). According to the law, such payments are made by the Pension Fund of Ukraine (PFU) from the State Budget of Ukraine. However, the PFU refused to provide information on the payment of lifetime allowances and pensions to dismissed judges. The lawyers of the DEJURE Foundation appealed against this refusal in court, but as of the date of publication, the court has not yet made a decision.

It is known from the media that residents of the occupied territories often cross the demarcation line in order to receive a pension in the territorial offices of the PFU on a government-controlled territory, but it is not known whether there are former judges among them.

The only way to terminate a judge's resignation, and therefore to discontinue lifetime allowance payment, is the verdict convicting such a judge becoming effective. However, law enforcement agencies and courts are sluggish to prosecute allegedly traitorous judges.
Holding to criminal liability
It is important to identify and punish criminals, to investigate events that took place during and after the occupation, and to deprive retired judges of the right to lifelong financial support.
Since the beginning of the occupation of Crimea, the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine (now the Office of the Prosecutor General) and local prosecutor's offices have publicly reported numerous suspicions against former judges of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, including:

- notice of suspicion to 276 judges who previously held positions in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol;
- notice of suspicion to 50 judges who previously held positions in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol;
- notice of suspicion to 45 judges of the so-called DPR, of which 12 judges previously held positions in Ukrainian courts.

As of February 9, 2020, the OPG provided the following data on the prosecution of former judges:
As of February 2021, pre-trial investigation was suspended in connection with the suspects being wanted.
Considering the number of judges notified of the suspicion, the number of proceedings in which the trial has begun, and only three convictions that have entered into force, we conclude that the pre-trial investigation by law enforcement agencies is ineffective.
Institutions
Case jurisdiction change
Ensures the right of both the citizens who already participate in the proceedings and those who can potentially become participants to access to justice.
The Autonomous Republic of Crimea
On April 15, 2014, the Verkhovna Rada adopted the Law of Ukraine "On Ensuring the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens and the Legal Regime in the Temporarily Occupied Territory of Ukraine", which changed the territorial jurisdiction of cases and re-assigned it to the courts in Kyiv.
The law was aimed to enable citizens of the peninsula to defend their rights in an independent court in the government-controlled area. At the same time, according to the USRCD, the courts of appeal determined the court to consider the case ad hoc. Experts from the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union claim that such a mechanism failed to solve the problem of access to justice for citizens in the occupied territories due to gaps in the law and the lack of clarification from the courts or the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine.

In order to facilitate access to justice for the inhabitants of the occupied territories, in March 2020 the Verkhovna Rada passed a law on alternative jurisdiction of such cases, including the possibility to consider them in courts located also in the Kherson oblast and not only in Kyiv.
Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts
On August 12, 2014, the Verkhovna Rada adopted the Law of Ukraine "On the Administration of Justice and Criminal Proceedings in Connection with the Anti-Terrorist Operation", which allowed the heads of specialized courts to change the territorial jurisdiction of cases.
In this case, the law established an "adaptive" system of jurisdiction change depending on the territory in which the Anti-Terrorist Operation is held. The SJA was to compile a list of courts which were unable to administer justice and submit it to the chief judges of higher specialized courts. At the same time, in the event of a district boundaries change or the completion of the anti-terrorist operation, the SJA was to send to the chief judges of the higher specialized courts a petition on the possibility of resuming the court's work. This is how some local general courts resumed their work. Subsequently, the President of Ukraine changed the location of seven courts — appellate, commercial and administrative. They were relocated to the nearest big cities — Kharkiv, Slovyansk and Mariupol.
Thus, the change of jurisdiction of the "Crimean" cases did not fully meet the citizens' needs for accessibility and efficiency of proceedings. In particular, due to the transfer of territorial jurisdiction to Kyiv, citizens have to spend more time and effort than if it were the nearest courts in the controlled territory, so this problem is still outstanding. This lesson was learned to some extent when changing the territorial jurisdiction in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, where the consideration of cases was transferred to the closest courts.
Case transportation
This enables both to continue consideration of cases which have already been heard in courts, and to preserve materials of the previous ones. This is also important for national security, as case files may contain information that constitutes a state secret to which judges have had access.
The Autonomous Republic of Crimea
The "relocation" of pending cases on the territory of the peninsula was regulated by the Law of Ukraine "On Ensuring the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens and the Legal Regime in the Temporarily Occupied Territory of Ukraine", which defined jurisdiction. Ideally, they should have "moved" to the courts in the mainland within ten working days from the date of entry into force of the law or from the date of establishment of jurisdiction by the courts of appeal.

In practice, the relocation failed: these cases were considered, as well as effective decisions reviewed, by the newly created "courts" of the Russian Federation on the territory of the peninsula.
Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts
With the change of jurisdiction of the cases, it was planned to transport case materials to the courts in the GCA. However, the occupants stopped the vehicles loaded with cases at the checkpoint and confiscated the cases. Judges who "relocated" to the GCA noted the difficulty of continuing the proceedings due to the loss of materials and archives.

Legislation and court orders, which also regulated the transportation of cases, were adopted only in April 2014 for the Crimea and August 2014 for the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. This response was too tardy, because in both cases the occupants already gained complete control over the territory, which made it impossible to remove cases and archives. This, in turn, affected the right to a fair trial and made it difficult to continue the proceedings initiated before the occupation in the GCA.

For example, the loss of case materials in criminal proceedings caused Ukraine to violate Articles 5 and 6 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights ‒ the right to liberty and security, the right to a fair trial. In particular, this was stated by the ECtHR in the judgment in Kurochenko and Zolotukhin v. Ukraine of February 11, 2021 (statements No. 20936/16, 53257/16), where it assessed the actions of the authorities to restore the case materials. The case of Kurochenko regarded the case file at the stage of appealing the verdict of the first instance court, the case of Zolotukhin ‒ the materials of the criminal proceedings at the time of forwarding the indictment to the court. The court pointed to the delay of the prosecutor's office in restoring the materials in the first case and the lack of legal procedure as such in the second. In the second case, this caused the fact that Zolotukhin had held a defendant status since 2014, and there was no legal opportunity to drop the charges or terminate the proceedings. In both cases, the ECtHR found a violation of the right to a fair trial.
Thus, the lack of legislative regulation in some cases and the procrastination of law enforcement agencies when the procedure is established, actually violates the right to a fair trial. However, according to human rights defenders, it is currently impossible to determine exactly how many criminal cases are "suspended", as the SJA and law enforcement agencies do not keep such statistics. There are also no statistics available in open sources on pending cases in other forms of litigation. Because of this, the scale of the problem cannot be determined.

The risk of losing cases could be avoided or prevented in the future by digitizing archives, cases and their materials. Backup copies of cases and materials would enable them to continue their consideration, if the court resumes work at a different location or properly consider cases if they are transferred to another court. Human rights experts also emphasized the need for digital documents, particularly in criminal proceedings.
Termination of court operations, invalidation of their seals and stamps
Prevents the use of legal entities of courts, seals, stamps for forgery of documents or tweaking with court activities.
The Autonomous Republic of Crimea
On October 15, 2014, the SJA reduced the number of 24 local general courts in Crimea to 0 judges.

On October 28, 2014, the SJA invalidated the seals and stamps of 34 courts located in the Crimea and Sevastopol. It was a "transitional period" in the occupied Crimea, during which the system of Ukrainian courts was replaced by the occupation one. Court decisions were often certified by the seals of Ukrainian courts both prior to the so-called "referendum" and in the "transitional period" until December 2014, when the occupation judiciary was established. Such a late invalidation of the court's seals creates a misunderstanding as to since what moment the documents certified by the seals and stamps should be considered invalid.

On September 30, 2016, the Law of Ukraine "On the Judiciary and the Status of Judges" entered into force, authorizing the HCJ to suspend court activities in the event of natural disasters, hostilities, counter-terrorism measures or other emergencies. Suspension of the court operation does not mean its liquidation: the court does not administer justice, but judges can formally hold office in it, and the legal entity of the court continues to exist. The HCJ can make such a decision at the request of the President of the Supreme Court (SC), so it was impossible to do so for courts in the occupied territories before the start of the Supreme Court operations, which happened only in December 2017. On January 25, 2018, the HCJ, at the request of the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court Valentyna Danishevska, terminated the activities of 36 courts of Crimea and Sevastopol.
Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts
On January 25, 2018, following the same termination procedure that was applied to courts in the Crimea, the HCJ terminated the activities of 31 courts in Donetsk and 17 courts in Luhansk oblast.
We did not find any information on the invalidation of the seals and stamps of the courts that remained in the NGCA. At the same time, there is a case of accusations of a former judge of the Kirovskyi district court of Donetsk oblast, who allegedly used the stolen seal of the court to certify the decisions re-registering property of citizens to the ownership of the representatives of the so-called DPR.
Termination of funding of courts and activities of territorial offices of the SJA
Prevents inefficient use and loss of funds.
In order to understand whether funds were spent on maintaining the courts after the occupation, it is necessary to explain how courts and judges are financed. Courts are financed from the State Budget of Ukraine depending on their place in the judicial system:

  1. local general and appellate courts receive funds through the treasury account of the territorial offices of the SJA, which make payments directly;

  2. economic and administrative courts receive funds directly through the SJA treasury account as the chief budget holder and make payments through their own offices.
It is the territorial offices of the SJA and the SJA itself that form a budget request in accordance with the working hours of judges and other factors to the State Treasury Service of Ukraine, which transfers funds to the appropriate accounts.

Normally budgeted amounts for the maintenance of courts and judges are accrued quarterly: this is due to the fact that the total amount planned for the year may vary.

The report on the fulfillment of the State Budget of Ukraine for 2014 does not contain data on expenditures for the administration of justice in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as such information is not available in the SJA and cannot be obtained. That is, such information is unavailable from open sources or in response to a request so far.
The Autonomous Republic of Crimea
The territorial offices of the SJA of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol have not moved to the GCA, but still formally remain in the structure of the SJA and preserve the status of legal entities. Due to this, it is impossible to obtain data on judicial expenditures from them.


As noted by the State Treasury Service of Ukraine in response to a request, since March 2014, the key budget holders (in the case of local and appellate courts – the SJA) transferred budget allocations from institutions located in the Crimea and Sevastopol. Subsequently, the funds were redistributed and used in the GCA. However, the authority did not provide information on the specific amounts of such funds and the dates of the transfers. On April 2-3, 2014, the main departments of the State Treasury Service of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol were disconnected from the electronic payment system of the National Bank of Ukraine, i.e. ceased operations, which also makes obtaining information impossible.


Given the practice of accrual of funds on a quarterly basis, it can be assumed that expenditures were not made after the first quarter (January-March 2014), and funds did not remain in the NGCA. However, we cannot assert this lacking accurate data.
Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts
The territorial offices of the SJA in these oblasts only partially suspended their operations and resumed activities in the controlled territory.

On August 20, 2014, the territorial department of the SJA in Donetsk oblast transported server equipment and necessary workstations from the NGCA in order to make timely payments. On November 21, 2014, this territorial department was accommodated in Slovyansk and continued its work.

On October 13, 2014, the SJA issued an order to accommodate the territorial office of the SJA in the Luhansk oblast in Rubizhne.
Also in response to a request for remuneration of judges, the SJA replied that such payments to judges of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the cities of Sevastopol, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts who had not expressed an intent to relocate since the temporary occupation had ceased. However, the SJA did not respond to a repeated request to clarify the date on which and on what basis the payment of remuneration was stopped.

In such circumstances and in the absence of data, it is impossible to assess how timely and efficiently the authorities acted to save taxpayers' money.

4. Conclusions
Inefficient work of the judicial (self)governance bodies and law enforcement authoritiesIn such circumstances and in the absence of data, it is impossible to assess how timely and efficiently the authorities acted to save taxpayers' money.

  1. Regulatory delays and gaps —
    legislative regulation of the change of territorial jurisdiction, in particular in the Crimea, did not resolve the issue of access to justice for citizens, which is still relevant after seven years of occupation; the of territorial jurisdiction change and the case transfer procedure was introduced only after the occupants gained full control over the territory and buildings of the courts, so the removal of cases was blocked; there was no scrutiny of judges during the transfer from the occupied territories, which led to the administration of justice by judges who had contacts with the occupants.

    The untimely regulation of changes in the territorial jurisdiction of cases, their transportation, gaps in the legislation on the restoration of lost materials, lack of electronic copies, sluggishness of law enforcement agencies in using the existing procedure has led to difficulties in accessing justice for citizens from the occupied territories and, on some cases, violation of the right to fair trial.

  2. Inefficient work of the judicial (self)governance bodies and law enforcement authorities —
    the systematic dismissal of judges who cooperated with the occupation authorities began only in 2016, and the transferred judges were not scrutinized in any way on whether they maintained contacts with occupants; there was no systematic prosecution of such judges either, seven years after the occupation only 35 judges were charged with offense and three convictions came into force.

    Numerous cases of judges cooperating with occupation administrations, the inability of law enforcement agencies to ensure proper investigations, and the failure of courts to prosecute them can, as a result, significantly reduce trust in law enforcement and the judiciary.


  3. Lack of communications—
    during the occupation of Crimea there was no quality communication of judges' actions, as a result some judges immediately left the territory of the peninsula, and others continued to administer justice.

    The lack of clear communication of the action plan for judges who wished to continue working in the GCA posed additional threats to them, such as captivity or violence. This in turn could affect the credibility of the judicial (self)government and other authorities.

    The untimely, chaotic and fractionary measures taken during the occupation, both at the legislative and the practical level, have revealed a more overarching problem — the danger of the absence of a clear emergency action plan for the judiciary. As a result, it can complicate access to justice, violate the right to a fair trial and reduce confidence in the judiciary in general.
The review and literary editing of the material was carried out with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation in partnership with the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE) with the financial support of the Embassy of Sweden in Ukraine.