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Sumy-based UHHRU lawyers helped IDPs prove that their village had indeed been occupied

A family of people displaced from Donetsk Oblast was granted the right to targeted aid following a confirmation by the Antiterrorist Center

UHHRU Sumy-based legal aid center was contacted by the P. family. Their application to have monthly targeted aid, which is meant as help for IDPs, extended for the next 6 month period had been denied. Their previous place of residence was cited as the grounds for the rejection.

Deputy coordinator of UHHRU Sumy-based legal aid center Nataliya Yesina
Deputy coordinator of UHHRU Sumy-based legal aid center Nataliya Yesina

The P. family was registered in the village of Sontseve of Starobeshivskyi Rayon, Donetsk Oblast. The village was neither on the list of settlements where state authorities temporarily do not exercise their powers nor on the list of settlements located near the demarcation line (said lists were approved by the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers No. 1085-r of 7 November 2014). Such was the legal position of the relevant social protection body that discontinued payment of the so-called “resettlement money” to the P. family. These payments had been very important to a family of only women: mother, grandmother and daughters. Fortunately, LAC lawyers managed to set things right.

Indeed, as stated in the official rejection, Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers No. 370 of 31 May 2017 had amended the Procedure for Providing Monthly Targeted Aid to IDPs to Cover Residential Expenses, Including Housing and Communal Services. In accordance with the amendments, monthly targeted assistance is only provided to those IDPs that have been displaced from settlements where state authorities temporarily do not exercise their powers.

Grammatical interpretation of the law takes into account the differences between the literal text and the true meaning of legal norms. The interpreter’s task and success depend on the legislator’s expertise, who phrases the norm in the form of a provision, as well as on those who apply the law in question, using the text of the legislative act and guided by general guidelines. An important prerequisite of this is also the technical and legal cohesion of the text itself. The purpose of interpretation is correct and uniform understanding and application of legal norms.

In support of this legal advice given to the P. family, the LAC also sent a formal inquiry to the Staff of the Antiterrorist Center of the Security Service of Ukraine.

The Staff subsequently confirmed the legal conclusion regarding the village of Sontseve in its reply to the LAC. As was stated in the reply, in accordance with the annex to the Cabinet of Ministers Decree No. 1275-r of 2 December 2015, Sontseve was listed as part of the Starobeshivskyi Rayon of Donetsk Oblast, which is included in the list of settlements where state authorities temporarily do not exercise their powers (Annex 1 to the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers No.1085-r of 7 November 2014).

Thus, the social protection body misinterpreted and incorrectly applied the Cabinet’s Decree when deciding whether to extend monthly targeted aid for the P. family for another six month period. This resulted in an unlawful decision.

This violation of the rights of the P. family could have been prevented had the officials simply asked for an official clarification of the mentioned decree. After all, the social protection body had incomparably more opportunities for this than the vulnerable citizens who asked for the LAC’s help.

The letter from the Staff of the Antiterrorist Center confirmed that the village of Sontseve of Starobeshivskyi Rayon in Donetsk Oblast is indeed among the settlements where state authorities temporarily do not exercise their powers. The letter also stated that there are no other grounds for withholding the monthly aid. After that, LAC lawyers directed a petition on behalf of the P. family to the social protection body. In that petition, they demanded that the authorities take into account the letter from the Staff of the Antiterrorist Center, re-examine the application for the monthly targeted aid, and finally extend it for six more months.

The petition has been satisfied and P. family is receiving the aid they deserve.

According to deputy coordinator of the Sumy-based UHHRU LAC Nataliya Yesina, this case is a textbook example on how to act in similar situations. “Unfortunately, often people just give up, having neither the strength nor desire to argue with the officials. Instances of loose interpretation of current legislation occur often enough in various departments of social protection bodies,” she says. “In the last two months alone, LAC lawyers provided consultations to three more families that had moved from small settlements where state authorities temporarily do not exercise their powers. In each case, after consulting human rights defenders, determined IDPs went to see the heads of relevant institutions in person and, following a properly substantiated oral address and presenting all circumstances of their cases, they were granted monthly targeted aid in the end.”

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