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Kamyanets-Podilskiy City Council reacts to criticism
  • Written by Oksana Pastukh, Informational Resource Center “Legal Space”
  • Published in  Success stories
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Maksim Ilchyshen coordinates the local Community Law Center and is the head of the Lawyers’ Association of Kamyanets-Podilskiy public organization. Photo by Nataliya Bimbiraite, Informational Resource Center “Legal Space”.
Maksim Ilchyshen coordinates the local Community Law Center and is the head of the Lawyers’ Association of Kamyanets-Podilskiy public organization.

Maksim Ilchyshen, head of local Community Law Center, gave an interview to “Podolyanin” newspaper where he strongly disapproved local official’s inaction. He criticized City Council’s inactivity and unwillingness to support the development of a free legal aid system in the community. The reaction of local authorities was quick and rather surprising.

Maksim, who is known in his city as a successful lawyer and human rights defender, recalls that after the interview he was a little uneasy. He was afraid that now the City Council will stop all cooperation with him and the community will be left without legal aid. But, on the contrary, the City Council opened the dialogue and made the first step for the creation of a special legal aid institution on the model of Kamyanets-Podilskiy Community Law Center. This Center is administrated by the Lawyers’ Association of Kamyanets-Podilskiy public organization and is financially supported by UNDP and International Renaissance Foundation.

Regardless of the strong criticism of the local authorities, Maksim received unexpected support from the City Council. One week after the interview, Maksim was contacted by local officials. If everything goes as planned, soon the city will have its own special institutions for free legal aid, created on the basis of existing Community Law Center. It is important to note that relevant criticism can become a powerful tool in the community. However it is only possible if, besides criticism, real solutions are voiced.

As of now, a special working group is created to develop documentations and draft propositions to the City Council. Maksim Ilchyshen is of course member of this working group and coordinates the process of creation of a efficient special institution for free legal aid providing. All papers are ready and are now being approved by the Executive Committee of the city. At the same time, the Community Law Center is expecting help from donors as it is no secret that the local self-governmental bodies will not be able to provide full funding to the institution. Maksim also stresses that the Community Law Center is ready to work and provide quality free legal aid.

Local officials are aware of the importance of a free legal aid system in the community. The legal department of the City Council is unable to respond to all people who are in need of legal help. In 2011, when the Community Law Center opened its doors, local governmental institutions directed their clients to Maksim. However, now the Law of Ukraine requires a systematic approach to legal aid. Of course it is more efficient to join efforts and use the existing Community Law Center as a basis for further development.

Maksim Ilchyshen is also working on informing other people about the benefits of a working free legal aid system. He talks with his colleagues, other lawyers, State officials, local representatives and MPs. The City Council is now being reorganized and for the first time the public council will have several thematic sections. The legal section will be working on advocating for a free legal aid system for everyone. Moreover, this section will be responsible for monitoring relevant State programmes and their implementation.

It is very important that local authorities did take criticism seriously and expressed their will to take action. Maksim Ilchyshen played a crucial role in this story. He found the right words to persuade local officials and to get their attention to poor people’s problems. Kamyanets-Podilskiy City Council is now inspired to create a special institution to provide free legal aid to its community.

Additional Information: Community Law Center in Khmelnytskiy was established with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation within the framework of “Rule of law” programme and is administrated by the Lawyers’ Association of Kamyanets-Podilskiy public organization. You can learn more on the Centers network activities, basics and principles of work here: www.legalspace.org

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