On September 8, 2018, the Festival of Thoughts (Festival of Opinions) took place in Sievierodonetsk for the second time.
The Festival’s organizers – Vostok-SOS charitable foundation and Estonian organization MTÜ Mondo – conceived it as an open forum that gives everyone the opportunity to speak. In the course of the day, about 25 discussions on socially important topics took place in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk Oblast, attended by over 70 speakers from Ukraine and the EU. During lengthy discussions, experts and locals pondered a number of topics related to society, city, education, reforms and legislative initiatives.
Is The Hague waiting for Putin? Why document war crimes?
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union also participated in several panels, most of them related to the issue of transitional justice. Oleksiy Bida, coordinator of UHHRU Documentation Center, spoke about documenting war crimes during armed conflicts in the context of international humanitarian law. UHHRU, Vostok-SOS and DRA representatives discussed this topic, including insights into international experience, during the panel entitled Is The Hague Waiting for Putin? Why Document War Crimes?
Yuliya Naumenko, lawyer of UHHRU Strategic Litigation Center, and Anna Seleznyova, leading lawyer on housing, land and property rights of the Norwegian Refugee Council, discussed the issue of reparations for the property destroyed in the combat zone. Ukrainian legislation is rather problematic when it comes to providing compensation for houses destroyed by Russian invaders and Russia-controlled terrorists. The lawyers showed the statistics of appeals to authorities and NGOs submitted by victims, and gave advice regarding such litigations. As a reminder, there is an instruction on getting compensation for houses destroyed as a result of hostilities on the UHHRU website.
Reconciliation: capitulation or victory?
Perhaps the largest audience gathered at the discussion entitled Reconciliation: Capitulation or Victory, with the UHHRU was represented by Darya Svyrydova. With this discussion, the human rights community tried to decide what reconciliation means for Ukrainian society, concluding that it is a victory, not surrender, considering Russian aggression and occupation of Ukrainian territories, as well as the internal conflicts of socio-political life.
UHHRU experts also took part in the panels on educational issues, entitled Is School a Human Rights Territory? What Our Schools Have in Common and What Should We Strive for? Conversation with a Teacher from Estonia, and How Modern Schools Educate People.
The Festival also featured a number of cultural and entertainment events for visitors and participants, particularly for children and youth, including interactive games, concerts and film screenings. The speakers got to know Sievierodonetsk even closer due to the tour conducted by Viktoriya Gurzhiy from the Tourism and Local History Center.
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union thanks our colleagues for the excellent organization and the invitation to participate in interesting and relevant discussions. We will gladly return to the Festival in the future, and soon, we believe, to the liberated Donbas as well.
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