World Congress of Jurists held in Lviv
by Donna Pochoday
LVIV - The Fourth World Congress of Ukrainian Jurists (WCUJ) met on September 17-20, 1998, in Lviv. A world organization formed in 1992, the WCUJ encompasses 13 legal associations worldwide. The Ukrainian American Bar Association (UABA), is one of the founding members of the WCUJ.
The UABA sent a small delegation to the fourth congress, in contrast to much larger delegations of UABA members that attended the 1991 and 1992 sessions. Regardless of the reasons - financial cost of the trip, lack of sufficient notice about the congress from organizers in Ukraine, lack of interest in Ukraine in general, or bad timing - it is clear that attendance at these conclaves is waning, not only on the part of UABA members, but also on the part of other country delegations.
The fourth congress held its opening ceremonies on September 17 at the Lviv Opera House and among the dignitaries to address the audience were Lviv Mayor Wasyl Kuybida, Minister of Justice Suzanna Stanik and First Vice-President of the Supreme Court of Ukraine Volodymyr Stefaniuk. Greetings were offered also by representatives of each country delegation, including UABA President Donna T. Pochoday.
Arriving at the Lviv Municipal Building for the conference the next morning, participants observed a dozen or an demonstrators rallying in front of the building - not so uncommon sight in today's Ukraine. The protest was against the city administration's approach to business investments. The demonstrators alleged that the city was permitting Poles and Russians to set up business ventures, to the exclusion of Ukrainians, causing further unemployment and economic maladies.
Some of the most well-known and respected Ukrainian legal minds and scholars addressed the audience during the congress, including National Deputy Victor Shyskyn, Mr. Stefaniuk, and Prof. Mykhailo Kostytskyi, justice of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine.
Conference topics included "Realization of Legal Reform in Ukraine: the Current Status and Perspectives," "Activities of the Constitutional Court," "Administrative Reform in Ukraine," "Problems of Formation of the Institute on Human Rights," "The Search for a Judicial Model in Ukraine" and "Theoretical and Practical Problems in the Formation and Functioning of the Supreme Justice Council of Ukraine."
The lectures and discussions covered legal concepts in contrast to legal conferences in the West, during which there is a noticeable lack of discussion about constitutional principles or basic legal and democratic concepts. Western practitioners tend to focus more on civil or criminal procedure or discussions of the application of the law in their daily practices.
Western lawyers noted an obvious lack of understanding, and open and outright disregard for the concept of conflict of interest among the judicial, legislative and executive functions in Ukraine. For example, it was surprising to hear a member of the Ukrainian judiciary comment on the pending court appeal of Serhii Holovatyi's fate as a national deputy of Ukraine, or to hear about the appointment of an individual to a judicial, as well as a legislative position.
On September 19, the nominating committee struggled to find consensus on a candidate to be president for the 1998-2000 term. The only proposed candidate from Ukraine was Valerii Evdokimov, head of the Supreme Justice Council, and president of the Union of Ukrainian Jurists, one of the larger and more powerful bar associations. There was also one candidate from Canada, Ihor Bardyn, a Ukrainian Canadian activist who in the past has headed several of the organizational committees of the WCUJ and was one of its vice presidents.
During the formation of the WCUJ in 1991-1992, there was an unspoken agreement that the member-organizations would take turns proposing a presidential candidate. Volodymyr Stretovych, a member of the Union of Ukrainian Jurists, had served for two terms (1994-1998). For this and other reasons, the Western delegates believed that Mr. Evdokimov, a member of the same Ukrainian legal association, should not be a candidate for the 1998-2000 term.
Western delegates also stated since there was no other Ukrainian candidate being proposed, the candidacy of a Canadian, Ihor Bardyn, should be upheld. It was argued that Mr. Bardyn could help find international funding for the WCUJ and could preside over the WCUJ objectively during a term that included a significant presidential election in 1999. Others contended that it was unlikely that a candidate for WCUJ president from Ukraine could be objective and keep his personal political convictions out of the presidential elections. Others further argued that Mr. Evdokimov had a conflict of interest as he serves on the Supreme Judicial Council that licenses prospective jurists, including prospective members of bar associations in Ukraine that compete with his association.
The debate over the candidates was probably one of the most acrimonious electoral debates that has taken place since the formation of the congress, surpassing even the difficulties in 1991 and 1992 in forming the congress.
Since the nominating committee was unable to come to a consensus on a nominee for president the congress participants went through a formal voting process.
The voting was conducted by confidential written ballot. Each delegate had to provide a passport to validate identity, re-register as a delegate of the Congress, and be personally present during the voting. After a count of the ballots, Mr. Evdokimov won by two votes.
Some claimed that the voting was conducted in violation of the WCUJ By-Laws, which require a majority of the registered delegates, not a simple majority of those physically present and voting.
The day after the elections, rumors and accusations of voting illegality were bantered about. However, after consideration of the options, and the costs and efforts that would be involved, the dissatisfied member-associations decided to not take any further action with respect to the results.
Mr. Evdokimov, the newly elected president, pledged to cooperate and work closely with all associations and members of the WCUJ. He also stated that he would be able to provide office space and assistance for the WCUJ's needs.
The reception after the difficult election process, which ended close to midnight on Saturday evening, ended the congress on an acrimonious, hostile note. Nonetheless, most agreed that it was necessary to work together for the good of all.
Preliminary discussion indicate that the WCUJ's fifth congress may be held in Poland in 2000.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, January 3, 1999, No. 1, Vol. LXVII
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