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Tefft: Success of Ukraine's Criminal Code depends on presumption of innocence

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Aug. 18, 2012, 2:51 p.m. | Ukraine — by Interfax-Ukraine

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Tefft
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The successful implementation of the new Criminal Procedure Code, which comes into effect in November of this year, will depend on the reconsideration of the notion of the presumption of innocence by participants of the judicial system, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Tefft has said.

"The adoption of the new Criminal Procedure Code gives Ukraine a chance to redefine the understanding of the presumption of innocence. Actually, the success of the new Criminal Code will depend on a new understanding of the fundamental principle of law," the diplomat said in an article published in the Dzerkalo Tyzhnia weekly on Saturday.

According to Tefft, public dialogue among all participants of the criminal court system (including the attorneys) should lead to fundamental changes in their approaches. "Of course, the further introduction of regulations prohibiting prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, government officials and court employees to make public statements or disseminate information which violate the presumption of innocence would help the cause, but without a fundamental change in the understanding of the legal system by court system officials, one cannot expect this problem to be solved even with the help of well-written laws," the ambassador said.

The diplomat said that the presumption of innocence is being ignored in Ukraine in two cases, "during a routine arrest of people, suspected and/or accused of a crime, and in public statements by politicians and prosecutors, who really should know better than to speak of someone's guilt long before the end of the trial."

"If it (the Criminal Procedure Code) is properly implemented, this document has every chance to make the criminal justice system in Ukraine into one that both protects human rights, and provides law enforcement agencies a possibility to expose and prosecute through honest ways in such complicated cases as multi-level corruption and conspiracy to launder money with the involvement of many suspects and the international banking sector," Tefft said.

He also believes that the reduction in the number of detainees awaiting trial will improve "the current unpleasant situation in Ukraine before the European Court of Human Rights."

 

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