government and society

Society on the wing

16.08.2013 | Iryna Vinchuk

Civil society in Ukraine is in full bloom. Every year there are new examples of how even small groups of people manage to convince those who grew accustomed to putting themselves above others

A couple of months ago we wrote about the issue of civil society in an attempt to understand why so few non-government organizations in Ukraine represent at least any strata of society or social groups. Now we are going to leave the quantitative growth of NGOs aside but will instead concentrate on what is truly significant: the walls of indifference of government officials, cemented by corruption and mutual cover-up, that some indifferent Ukrainians succeeded in breaking through

Defenders of the wrongfully convicted

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group (KHRG). Since 1993 it has been systematically reviewing the complaints submitted by individuals whose rights were violated by the bodies of power or individual officials. In 2003 the KHRG formed the Center of Strategic Protection and the Foundation for Legal Protection of Victims of Torture and Brute Force. Starting in 2006 these bodies have won 60 cases.

On June 3, 2013 the Khmelnytskiy City Court overturned the verdict against Ivan Nechyporuk, whose case was defended by KHRG lawyers since June 2004. In May 2004 Nechyporuk was arrested on suspicion of murder and in May 2005 the Khmelnytskiy City Court acquitted him stating that the police used physical violence and psychological pressure to force him to admit to the murder he allegedly committed. But in June of that same year the Supreme Court of Ukraine conveyed the case to the Ternopil Court of Appeals, which in two months reversed the acquittal by the Khmelnytskiy City Court and in August 2007 it deemed Nechyporuk guilty of premeditated murder with venal motives sentencing him to 15 years in prison and confiscation of his personal property.

In March 2008 the Supreme Court confirmed this sentence. After that Nechyporuk filed three complaints to the European Court of Human Rights with the support of the KHRG Center of Strategic Protection. On March 15, 2011, the court passed down a ruling acknowledging that several articles of the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms were violated in Nechyporuks case. Thanks to the efforts of lawyers working for the KhRG center, on February 6, 2012 the Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Nechyporuk and sent the case to a court of first instance for review. The KHRG center hailed the exculpatory sentence that the Khmelnytskiy City Court passed down on June 3 as the first precedent of bona fide execution of the decision of the European court regarding the criminal process.

Patriots of ancient Kyiv

The Preserve Ancient Kyiv organization has been active in promoting non-government initiatives in the fight against illegal property development for many years. Today, it is focusing its efforts on protecting the Hostynniy Dvir. The organization was created in 2007 in response to the plans of Kyiv city authorities to build a high-rise apartment building for employees of the Foreign Ministry on the territory of the Ancient Kyiv reserve. The result of the battle on the legal front was the resolution of the Supreme Court in J une 2009 rejecting the claims of developers who attempted to appeal the ruling of the court of previous instances regarding the illegal allotment of this plot of land by the Kyiv City Council. On November 14 of that same year, the first landscape park for children in Ukraine was opened on the planned and ultimately annulled site of construction.

The initiative of the Preserve Ancient Kyiv organization helped prevent several other illegal property development projects. In particular, there were plans to raze a 17-storey and 100-meter long apartment building on the territory of the Oleksandrivskiy Hospital. In March 2009, the Supreme Economic Court reversed the decision of the Kyiv City Council on the allotment of this plot of land. In December 2009, a kindergarten on Lukyanivska St. was saved through court proceedings and in 2010 a square on Prorizna St. In 2010-2012, the courts banned several construction projects near the St. Sofia Cathedral.

Roads to Europe

On February 1, 2011, the Public Road Control project was launched. Its objectives are to protect the rights of motorist, introducing certain measures of order and eradicating corruption in road construction and the parking business. On April 21 of this year, the first achievement was made in this sphere: a stretch of highway was repaved in response to claims submitted to the State Auto Inspection bureau regarding potholes along the roads. Now nearly 2,500 potholes on roads in different cities of Ukraine are registered on the database of the Public Control portal.

On May 14, 2012, the Paint the pothole project was launched. More than 100 owners of cars and motorcycles in Odesa agreed in their forums and on social networks to paint the numerous road potholes in white color. Activists in other cities of Ukraine quickly followed their example.

Advocates of justice

On October 2, 2012, the Holosiyivskiy District Court of Kyiv sentenced Dmytro Pavlychenko to life imprisonment and his son Serhiy to 13 years in prison. In response, football fans all over Ukraine protested against the freewill of the police and unfair justice against Pavlychenko, who they call their friend and brother.

They raised banners in support of the Pavlychenko family in many stadiums throughout the country. Since November 2012 people staged demonstrations in Kyiv and other cities of Ukraine in support of the rights for justice. Since January 2013, the case is being reviewed by the Kyiv Court of Appeals. Thanks to the movement Freedom for Pavlychenko, the whole country is aware of this case.

Hatred of playboys

The suffering and death of Oksana Makar in March 2012 shook Ukrainian society not only due to the horrific brutality of the crime committed in Mykolayiv, but also the information that among three rapist were sons of high-ranking officials. The fear that the golden boys will go unpunished sparked mass protests in Mykolayiv, Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv, Sumy and Lviv. The term mazhory (spoiled kids of big-wig parents) made its way to the media vocabulary.

In November the assailants were sentenced (one for life, two others to 15 and 14 years), this did not cool down the tempers of the people regarding the unlawfulness of the cops. Indeed, when a drunk driver behind the wheel of an expensive car runs over a pedestrian, hundreds of local residents come out to the scene of the crime in protest.

But surely the greatest excitement this year occurred in Vradiivka, a county town in Mykolaiv oblast. Local residents rioted to achieve punishment of two police officers (one of whom is a nephew of a District Prosecutor of Mykolaiv). The cops are suspected of raping and beating up a young woman on June 26. The Vradiivka unrests showed that Ukrainian society is particularly sensitive to the cases where the perpetrators can go unpunished because of their ties and mutual cover-up at all levels of power.

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