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Legal aid to participants of anti-terrorist operation and their families

Starting from February 2015, lawyers of five Community Law Centers united their efforts in order to ensure free legal aid for participants of anti-terrorist operation (ATO) and their families. Success-stories, best-practices and legal consultations are published on “Legal Space” web-platform in “Legal advice for ATO participants” and “Legal consultations” sections. Moreover, visitors can get on-line legal information from a qualified lawyer via chat, forum and hot lines.

Legal consultations for mobilized persons are conducted with the support of International Renaissance Foundation in the framework of “Legal empowerment of mobilized persons, participants of anti-terrorist operation and their families through legal aid and monitoring” project. This project is realized in Kherson, Volyn, Kharkiv, Kyiv and Chernihiv regions. The main goal of the project is to ensure legal support to ATO participants and to bring down the level of social insecurity.

The project is planned for six months. However, it is evident that this type of activity should be a long-term deal. ATO legal issues will continue to pop up in different aspects of soldiers’ lives. The network of Community Law Centers reacted very quickly to Russian aggression and started providing legal aid to mobilized persons in 2014. A press-conference was conducted in November 2014: the Centers presented mid-term results and shared their best practices.

Natalia Bimbirate, coordinator of “Legal Space” web-platform, explains that the Centers have been providing free legal aid to soldiers for several months. Moreover, lawyers travel to military bases to contact soldiers directly and help them in situ. There are a lot of problems and they all need immediate resolution. We still have situations when the State refuses to pay due social benefits. Many soldiers cannot get the status of armed conflict participant because of bureaucratic procedures. Wounded soldiers can’t get access to free medical care. State officials don’t know how to help and people are left alone with their problems.

Main legal issues of ATO participants

Through different consultations it is easy to narrow down the most recurrent legal issues for soldiers, volunteers and their families. Lawyers have identified five main problems: travel compensations, salaries, food, equipment, regular leaves. Olga Nastina, project’s coordinator and head of Bila Tserkva Community Law Center, tells that soldiers usually don’t have time to visit lawyers. They ask their relatives to ask for help. Centers’ main clients are mothers, wives, parents, friends of soldiers. ATO participants use different devices to reach lawyers: hot line phone numbers, “Legal Space” online chat etc.

How to get legal aid

Visitorsof “LegalSpace” web-platformhaveaccesstofreelegalconsultationsviachat-serviceorforum. Moreover, “Legal Space” also has a data base of consultations and comments from qualified lawyers: Legal advice for ATO participants and Legal consultations. Both sections are regularly updated.

Examples of most popular articles on the project’s work:

Social benefits for ATO participants

Volynmilitarycommissionerexplainsmobilizationregulations

Howtokeepyourjoband salary duringmobilization

How to help your captive relatives or friends

Legislation to end this war

Hot line numbers:

Chuhuev: 097-1793822.

Chernihiv: (0462) 612532

Kherson: 093-1477303, 099-4683848

Kovel: 095-6234011

Bila Tserkva: 096-7023747

Specific focus of the project: monitoring of legislation

A lot of organizations are providing legal aid to ATO participants. However, this project has a special focus on legislation monitoring. Community Law Centers analyze how laws on ATO are applied and realized in reality in five regions of Ukraine. The Centers’ lawyers study gaps in legislation and elaborate draft recommendations. Informational requests to different State bodies are a powerful tool of legislation monitoring. The Centers are now sending informational requests on:

  • regulations of social benefits and social care for ATO participants;
  • land plots distribution to ATO veterans (number of requests, types of territories, reasons for refusal, procedures etc.);
  • criminal procedures against ATO participants, war crimes, mobilization evasion etc.

Chuhuev and Kovel Community Law Centers have already received several answers from State officials. Moreover, an additional request was sent by Kherson Center’s lawyer in order to get information about equipment of demobilized soldiers. During next week the Centers will send 5-7 new requests.

Lawyers will elaborate relevant recommendations accordingly to monitoring results.

Olena Matviychuk, head of Kovel Community Law Center, comments: monitoring will help us locate legislative gaps in our system. Indeed, we will see where the laws are not working or are working only partially. We will be able to provide expert advice and elaborate changes to existing legislation.

The results of the project will be published and presented during closing press-conference. Accumulated experience of six months of work will be shared with other Ukrainian regions. The level of legal protection of ATO participants and their families will hopefully rise. Social insecurity and pressure will go down for mobilized persons.

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