On 24-25 November, the general meeting of the Helsinki Union was held; the human rights activists summed up their work for last year and began planning for the future year.
“The main objective of this meeting was to present the results of the Helsinki Union in different directions, particularly the work of the Network of Public Receptions Offices, the Analytical Department, the Strategic Litigations Center, the Advocacy and Educational Departments. The Union members got acquainted with the work, and agreed on how to plan their activities for the coming years,” said the program director of UHHRU, Maksym Shcherbatiuk.
This year the Helsinki Union has provided legal assistance in more than 140 strategic cases. The lawyers of the Union have won 11 cases in the European Court. The Strategic Litigations Center of UHHRU has implemented several programs related to legal assistance to victims of armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. In particular, human rights defenders have submitted 98 applications to the European Court complaining of torture, arbitrary detention, and the lack of effective remedies. The lawyers have submitted new materials to 44 previously submitted applications (the project Prisoners of War UA).
The lawyers have provided assistance to those who received injuries as a result of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, and relatives of the victims. 72 complaints have been filed with the European Court; another 7 cases are being processed at the national level. In general, 113 people have received legal aid.
The human rights activists of UHHRU have begun protection of property interests affected by the fighting. They have provided legal assistance to 63 persons. 28 complaints (some of which were collective) have been sent to the European Court. The lawyers and experts of the Center have prepared the instruction on the protection of property rights of persons affected by the fighting in eastern Ukraine, which contains a detailed algorithm and model documents.
The Union also provides legal and expert assistance in “the case of February 26″ concerning criminal persecution of Akhtem Chyihoz by the Russian authorities and other participants of the peaceful rally held on February 26, 2014, in front of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to support the integrity of Ukraine. The complaint regarding violation of Articles 5, 11 and 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights in connection with unlawful imprisonment of Akhtem Chyihoz, because of his political activities and public position on the integrity of Ukraine, has been prepared.
Maksym Elihulashvili, a coordinator of the area of informal education of UHHRU, said that this year the department has launched a network of different experts and activists, among whom were also alumni of educational programs of the Union. “They are not centralized, but they consistently develop educational products for various target groups that are able to effectively promote human rights while working as instruments to protect these rights.” Maksym Elihulashvili listed programs such as Youth activists, Passport of the region, Human Rights in the Context of Local Democracy, Art-activism, Partizaning in the human rights context, basic online courses on human rights.
Oleh Martynenko, Head of the Analytical Direction of UHHRU, said that this year the Office has broader opened the term “Transitional justice” in Ukraine. It have created a “legal framework” for the national human rights movement. “Together with the Ombudsman, we initiated two global programs: “Monitoring the National Strategy on Human Rights” and “Human Rights Passportisation of Areas”. We hope to develop these initiatives further”, said Oleh Martynenko. In addition, this year UHHRU has launched the Center for Documentation of War Crimes, which will register violations of human rights during the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Yevhen Zakharov, Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, which is part of UHHRU, said that this year the Union had fruitfully co-operated with the Constitutional Court of Ukraine as amicus curiae. “Two decisions of the court were actually built on analytical materials of UHHRU,” said Yevhen Zakharov.
Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Chairman of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, said that this year the Union has become stronger and more professional. It was one of the main players involved in the creation of the National Strategy on Human Rights and now monitors its implementation. In addition, UHHRU has been involved in monitoring human rights on the occupied territory of the Crimean Peninsula. “This shows that the Union keeps abreast of how the state complies with human rights,” said Oleksandr Pavlichenko.
Arkadiy Bushchenko, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union, said that this year the Union’s lawyers prepared the ground for legal assistance in court cases that will begin after the hot phase of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and reintegration of the occupied territories. In addition, Arkadiy Bushchenko said that the Helsinki Union had opened a position of a lawmaker to execute ideas and achievements of the UHHRU team in quality draft legislation.
Borys Zakharov, the head of the Advocacy Center of UHHRU, has added about the achievements in the advocacy direction. He said the advocacy direction of the Union for the year had been significantly upgraded. Among the innovations, he mentioned the website of monitoring of the National Strategy on Human Rights www.hro.org.ua and created a new version of the official website of UHHRU.
This year, the employees of the Center implemented advocacy campaigns to improve legislation in combating illegal migration (Bill №3159, one of the so-called “visa-free” laws) concerning refugee status and persons in need of additional protection, against the abolition of all precautions other than arrested in corruption cases, protecting property rights in the area ATO, combating discrimination and hate crimes, combating human rights violations, political persecution and war crimes of Russia on the occupied territory of Crimea, in “the case of February 26.” In addition, the Center supports advocacy campaign under the Project “Dumaidan – 2016: Preserving Green Areas in Cities and Towns.”
Among the successfully completed advocacy campaigns is the adoption of the Law “On Strengthening the Guarantees of Rights and Freedoms of Internally Displaced Persons» (№2166), the law establishing the judicial process of registration of acts on civil status on the occupied territories (№3171). Also, the dangerous bill to abolish the alternative preventive measures for corrupt persons (№3066) has been withdrawn, the Law on the improvement of the provisions of the judicial protection of foreigners and stateless persons and regulation of certain issues related to combating illegal migration (№3159) has been adopted.
In addition, from September 2016, the Advocacy Center of UHHRU has seriously strengthened the international advocacy direction.
Advocacy activities of the Strategic Litigations Center also had been developing.
The website Precedent.in.ua has become an even more convenient tool for lawyers, judges and lawyer with other specializations, teachers, and students. This year the Union has improved the website’s work by adding easy navigation not only to the website but also to separate pages. Moreover, short annotations have been added to all translations of ECHR judgments together with their translations; reviews of all ECHR judgments against Poland and Russia in 2014 has been added as well; reviews of judgments of the UN Human Rights Committee against Ukraine have been firstly published; a series of success stories of alumni of the international distance learning course on human rights for lawyers (held in cooperation with the Network of Human Rights Houses; 13 stories have been already published); the twitter-tape has been created and twitter-broadcast of the current affairs in strategic litigations of the Union has been launched; a series of court reports on strategic litigations of the Union, which has become a material for publications in other media. In addition, with the support of the Strategic Litigations Center of UHHRU, the weekly podcast “Law Alphabet” on Hromadske Radio has been launched.
Prepared by Oleh Shynkarenko
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