Thank you very much!
It’s really such a pleasure to be here for the opening of the 5th Free Legal Aid Center. And I’d like to start with congratulating the Minister and the team of the Ministry of Justice for the Free Legal Aid Coordination Center, as I really think this is a critical step forward.
As you heard, we’ve been working with the government of Ukraine really since 2013, but most intensively since 2015, helping to stand up a free legal aid system across Ukraine.
And the fact that any detained person in Ukraine can now access a free lawyer within two hours is incredible.
These efforts, I think that we’d all agree, are especially critical for vulnerable populations. So, it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter whether you are wealthy or poor, whether you are part of a minority population or another kind that is vulnerable, you now have access to free legal aid. That’s for criminal cases, administrative cases, and civil cases.
And for me, that’s personal. When I was a student – I think many of us had dreamed about what we would do when we became adults. When I was a student, my dream was to become a lawyer. And I wanted to be a particular kind of lawyer, I wanted to be a defense lawyer for people who are vulnerable. So as you can see, I followed a different path in life. So I’m proud that the United States has been able to partner with Ukraine to help a part of my dream to come true.
But more seriously and more importantly, that this is really an important accomplishment for Ukraine that anybody here gets free legal assistance.
We are also pleased that we’ve been able to partner with the Ministry of Justice to develop, as he [the Minister] said – and I’m not going to repeat everything – these platforms for professional growth for those in a legal profession. I think the Minister here phrased it very well in terms of training, as well as other sorts of legal resources that are available whether to the general population or to professionals.
So five legal assistance spots are open throughout Ukraine. I was happy to participate with the Minister and with others for the opening in Dnipro. And I think we saved the best for the last in opening this one here in Kyiv.
So I just want to say again my congratulations to everybody who is involved in this project. I think your dedication to the principle of justice for all is at the very heart of what a democracy is all about, and at the very heart of what Ukrainian people fought for in 2014 on the Maidan.
And I can’t think of a better St. Nicholas Day present than justice for all.
So thank you very much for inviting us here today.
Thank you to the press for being here today because it’s really important to get the word out to people that this service exists.