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Criminal justice system of Ukraine in the Wartime: impacts and challenges

The 2022 military invasion to Ukraine became the event that significantly changed the European political landscape as well as impacted economic and cultural life in all European countries and the EU in general in context of perspectives of the EU – Ukraine relations.

The problem of the criminality and crime rates in Ukraine have become more an issue after the European Parliament’s resolution have called on the Heads of the EU states or governments to grant the EU candidate status to Ukraine “without delay”.

All aspects of life in the contemporary Ukrainian society have become affected by wartime including criminal justice system and its elements. A traditional burden of protection human rights imposed on the Ukrainian criminal justice system according to the European Convention of Human Rights has become obviously impossible to comply with in frontline areas.

Therefore, the first step in the sphere in criminal justice (and justice in general) was expectedly concerned with derogation of Ukraine from its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights what had been done on March 2, 2022. The same steps have been taken on the national level (martial provision of the Code of Criminal Procedure, for example) that are discussed below.

The criminal justice system (and justice system in general) has floated (or is floating) out from the deepest crisis caused by external war-concerned factors what has become possible due to its virtual character (use of the electronic services for participants of court proceedings and their representatives as well as distance character of court sessions).

Research of crime rates in war-time Ukraine shapes a difficult task for many reasons. Movement of big masses of population abroad and within the country, disorganization of the police forces on the first stages of Russian invasion, intentional sabotage or reluctancy in registering crimes by the police officers and other factors distort the real picture or crime trends of the first seven months of 2022.

Nevertheless, it could be presumed with a high level of accuracy that Russian invasion led to a partial decrease in criminality due to simplified (from the point of view of long-term crime prevention) additional control measures introduced by authorities (closing public places, curfews, abolition of transport connection for long periods, the police and military block-posts, prohibition of sale of alcohol etc.).

Any further analysis of general crime rates in wartime (and post-war, as we hope) Ukraine should bear that Ukraine is a country filled with weapons and explosives in which much more people know how to use these weapons and explosives. Therefore, violent property crime and organized crime could pose a risk for stability of social relations in Ukraine as well as in any postwar country.

Human trafficking will also pose a more serios problem for Ukraine and its border states. It is expected that economic factors will lead to impoverishment of population which could more easily become victims of human trafficking.

s far as issues of the prison and probation system is concerned, the 2022 Russian invasion has underlined to which extent the rehabilitative component of the prison policy is sensitive and could be easily removed (shortened) due to conditions of the war-time routine in favor of punitive philosophy covered with slogans of control and national safety.