After the beginning of the occupation of Donbas and Crimea by the Russian Federation, Ukraine has been dealing with the issue of pension payments to residents of occupied territories as well as to IDP pensioners. Since 2014, this category of people has been facing major problems with getting their pensions.
In June 2016, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine made it even more difficult for IDPs to obtain pensions. On June 8, 2016 the Cabinet of Ministers passed a number of regulations that made it impossible for IDP pensioners to receive pensions, or for any IDPs to get material aid, unless they undergo a verification procedure. This involves representatives of social bodies or other authorities visiting the homes of IDPs and verifying that the person in question is present at the registered place of residence. In case of absence, the IDP is deprived of the right to receive a pension (for pensioners) and material aid for IDPs.
Adoption of the above-mentioned regulations made a lot of IDPs and civil society activists indignant, given the obvious unlawfulness of the Cabinet’s resolutions. The cited regulations effectively prevent IDPs from travelling within Ukraine, chain them to their place of residence and make it impossible for them to go abroad. Many IDP pensioners have been deprived of their pensions, which they have earned with many years of hard work and their contributions to the Pension Fund of Ukraine.
Moreover, the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, published on September 15, 2016, stressed the need to abolish the provision linking registration of IDPs to social benefits that are not related to the IDPs’ situation, including pensions. Paragraph 208 of the report contains the following recommendation: “To the Government of Ukraine: to change the recently introduced IDP residence verification system ensuring IDPs’ right to freedom of movement and free choice of residence”.
PACE, with its resolution dated October 12, 2016 urged the Ukrainian government to make easier, as far as possible, the daily lives of residents of non-government-controlled territories and displaced persons from these territories by simplifying the administrative procedures required for access to pensions and social aid.
In light of the above, representatives of NGO “Public Committee for the Protection of Constitutional Rights and Freedoms of Citizens”, which is a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, filed a lawsuit on behalf of IDP, pensioner, head of the Public Committee for the Protection of Constitutional Rights and Freedoms of Citizens, and former head of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union Mykola Kozyrev, to have the provisions of the Cabinet of Ministers on IDP checks declared unlawful. The plaintiff was represented by attorney Yevhen Chekaryov.
The plaintiff requested the court to declare unlawful and unfit to be enshrined in a legislative act of the highest legal force the following regulations:
– procedure for exercising control over the payment of social benefits to internally displaced persons based on their actual place of residence/stay, introduced by the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 365 of June 8, 2016;
– clauses 7, 8, 9, 13 of the Procedure for the assigning (restoring) of social benefits to internally displaced persons, introduced by the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 365 of June 8, 2016;
– Paragraph 10, clause 1 of the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 637 On the Payment of Social Benefits to Internally Displaced Persons of November 5, 2014.
The District Administrative Court of Kyiv, with its verdict of June 26, 2017, ruled to satisfy the lawsuit and revoked the regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers that require IDPs to undergo checks. However, the Cabinet appealed against the above decision.
With its verdict of July 4, 2018, the Kyiv Administrative Court of Appeals upheld the verdict of the first instance court and left it unchanged. The decision of the appeals court came into force.
In light of part 2, Article 19 of the Constitution of Ukraine, this means that neither the social protection bodies nor other government institutions, local self-government bodies, or other institutions, organizations and enterprises have the right to carry out checks of IDPs starting July 5, 2018.
Yevhen Chekaryov, lawyer, UHHRU Strategic Litigation Center