Over 70 citizens of the Region of Chernihiv, who were disabled due to the disaster at the ChNPS, have been unlawfully deprived the status of Chornobyl participants by the local government. Most of them suffer from thyroid cancer.
While it has been 29 years since the blast at the Chornobyl NPS, the effects of the terrible disaster still persist. Following the Chornobyl disaster, citizens of the Region of Chernihiv got their thyroid glands exposed to radioiodine; the level of the exposure exceeded the ceiling established by the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, which caused severe cancers.
In 2010, offices and departments, subordinate to the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, were instructed to find a way of saving funds. The Main Department of Labour and Social Protection of the Chernihiv Region Administration could not find a better way of saving but to deprive victims of the Chornobyl disaster of the status of Chornobyl participants and related benefits. This was the solicitation the Department of Social Protection addressed with to head doctors of the Chernihiv regional centre of radiation protection and health and the Regional centre of medical and social expertise. They required that doctors changed groups and causes of disabilities to people affected by the Chornobyl disaster for general diseases. The heads of these medical committees, under the conflict of interests, agreed to this without medical examinations and reviews of the patients’ medical cards.
“These circumstances gave grounds to the Department of the Pension Fund of Ukraine in the Region of Chernihiv and its subordinate institutions not to pay pensions to this category of citizens in full and to the Main Department of Labour and Social Protection – to deprive these Chornobyl participants of benefits; and, with time, to unlawfully revoke their certificates of the persons affected by the Chornobyl disaster, category 1,” – Ihor Ushkevych, the lawyer of the civil office of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, who works under Chernihiv Human Rights Committee, comments on the situation.
This situation made people address the state government, branch ministries and courts in search of justice. The Ministry of Health of Ukraine and various judicial authorities declared the actions of the Chernihiv regional officials, subordinate to the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, illegal. Their verdict was unambiguous: the disease and the groups of disability of the citizens are directly affected by the disaster at the ChNPS. Thus, the people have legal rights for benefits established under Art. 20 of the Law of Ukraine “On the status and social protection of citizens which suffered due to the effects of the Chornobyl disaster.”
At present, thanks to dozens of courts’ decisions, strong cooperative actions of human rights defenders and activists, most of the effected Chornobyl participants have been restored in their groups and benefits, and their certificates have been partially returned.
According to Ihor Ushkevych, despite all the courts’ decisions, local officials try to resist. As for now, not all people were returned their certificate supplements, some victims were not restored in relevant payments and benefits. Currently, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Region of Chernihiv has initiated criminal investigations on non-compliance with corresponding courts’ decisions against the profile regional officials.
To find a permanent solution to the problem, the Chornobyl participants and human rights defenders intend to keep upholding justice at all institutions and hold accountable the careless officials who caused this situation, as no conflict of the kind and on such a major scale has occurred in any region of Ukraine but for the Region of Chernihiv.