On April 10, 2018 joint press conference dedicated to expanding free legal aid for and preventing stigmatization of people living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as well as vulnerable groups of the population was held in Kyiv by UHHRU, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group and All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS
Lack of access to justice and violations of the right to fair trial in Ukraine present serious problems. This is especially true for people living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as well as those communities that are most vulnerable to HIV. According to the law, PLWH and drug addicts are not entitled to free legal aid from state centers. However, they can receive such aid in UHHRU legal aid centers located in 10 cities. The participants of the press conference held at Glavcom talked about the goals, opportunities and prospects of working together to protect the rights of these categories of the population.
Dmytro Sherembey, Coordination Board member of the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, remarked how important cooperation with UHHRU is for the Network, which has over 16 thousand members throughout Ukraine. According to him, the Network is capable of providing services to more than 150 thousand clients a year. These are people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as well as those most vulnerable to HIV.
“Now our clients have found a defender there never had before,” says Dmytro Sherembey. “It is a legal step forward for our organization in terms of upholding the legal interests of the people we represent.” He also noted that now the legal cases of the Network’s clients can be solved not just at the national level, but also internationally.
Over 1,500 employees of the Network collect information about offenses committed in Ukraine. Now the rights of people belonging to groups vulnerable to HIV will be represented by UHHRU. Dmytro Sherembey is convinced that court victories will not just be important in terms of justice, but will also be useful to society in the context of protecting the rights of these people on an equal footing with others.
According to Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Executive Director of UHHRU, the project aims to overcome a complex and serious problem the Ukrainian society is facing today – stigmatization of people living with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and concomitant diseases, as well as vulnerable groups of the population.
According to Mr. Pavlichenko, UHHRU, together with the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, is working on specific cases in this area. “This topic is not new for our organizations,” says Oleksandr Pavlichenko. “We have already encountered numerous cases when we provided assistance to people, who, while being in detention or deprived of medical care, sought help and didn’t always receive it in a proper manner, which required intervention of lawyers in specific cases.” He added that there are cases ruled on by the European Court of Human Rights, which have become legal precedents.
Natalya Kozarenko, Coordinator of UHHRU legal aid centers, shared in which Ukrainian cities people with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as well as related risk groups can receive free legal aid. She noted that since the launch of the project, more than twenty people contacted UHHRU legal aid centers with various aspects of this problem.
“We will also seek out cases that could help change the existing situation in Ukraine related to the observance of human rights, and also carry out strategic defense, supporting applications to the ECtHR when necessary,” said Natalya Kozarenko.
According to Yevhen Zakharov, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, UHHRU’s partner in this project, has been dealing with these issues for a long time. “Our long experience with providing defense in criminal cases for these vulnerable groups shows that most of them have been convicted unfairly – it is a massive and systemic violation of human rights,” said the Director of KHRPG.
Yevhen Zakharov spoke about the legal aid network for people living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as well as vulnerable groups, including drug addicts, which human rights organizations started building back in 2012. KHRPG has been overseeing this network since 2013. According to Yevhen Zakharov, UHHRU legal aid centers will be working on the areas with the groundwork already put in place by the network, to facilitate direct contact with lawyers. He emphasized that lawyers working with the network have been involved in more than 500 cases, many of which were a success.
Text and photo Ivan Shelekhov (UHHRU)
If you find an error on our site, please select the incorrect text and press ctrl-enter.