Work goes with a swing under the master’s hand: Ombudsperson’s regional coordinators in action

Kyiv, 24 June 2016 – The Ombudsperson's regional representatives and coordinators gathered to exchange experiences and best practices in the area of human rights' protection, resolve practical issues, and receive additional knowledge from Ombudsperson's Office experts.

Img4565657Opening the event, Team Lead of UNDP's Strengthening Capacities of the Ombudsperson's Office Project Svitlana Kolyshko noted: "Engaging regional coordinators in the activities of the Human Rights Commissioner allows for promptly addressing the incidents of human rights violations, receiving documents necessary to address problems raised in claims received by the Ombudsperson, meeting with people who need help, and handling issues on site."

Olena Smirnova, Deputy Head of the Ombudsperson's Office, underlined: "Currently the Ombudsperson's Office outreach at the regional level is ensured by 9 regional representatives (public servants) and 17 regional coordinators (civic activists). In particular, the network was extended by 5 new regional coordinators in June. It allows the Office to cover almost the whole territory of Ukraine and provide access to the Ombudsperson's mandate to more people."

A key element of this event was the presentation of the best success stories from the regional coordinators. In particular, the regional coordinator from Sumy Oblast Irina Bilyk won the first prize.

Oleksandr ShelkovenkovHer story tells us about Oleksandr Shelkovenkov, the Russian civic activist, who fled his country because of political persecution and had to seek asylum status in Ukraine.

"Kyiv human rights activists applied to me as the Regional coordinator of the Ombudsperson in the Sumy oblast," Iryna Bilyk said. "They informed that the public activist from the Russian Federation famous for participation in the pro-Ukrainian actions in support of Nadezhda Savchenko "At first Kyiv, then – Moscow" and anniversary of the Maidan in Kyiv waited for more than 5 hours at a check point of a border and asked for political asylum."

The young activist faced numerous bureaucratic procedures and had to satisfy additional requirements of the Border Service, the Migration Service and the Security Service in Ukraine within a short period of time. The regional coordinator provided support to Oleksandr in the processing of all necessary documents and procedural steps as well as legal aid. As a result, the activist was interviewed by the Migration Service to solve the issue of granting to him a political asylum in Ukraine. According to information from the Migration Service, currently, the standard application procedure for political asylum is still pending, Oleksandr should pass a medical examination and several interviews.

"Today it is essential that a balance between the general interest of state security of Ukraine and the respect of the fundamental human rights should be achieved. A migration flow from neighboring Russia relies not only on politically motivated prosecutions but also on an attempt to avoid criminal liability for ordinary crimes. Therefore, the primary task of the Ombudsperson's Office and its regional network is to ensure a fair balance between human rights protection and national security interests all over Ukraine," summarized Olena Smirnova.

The Ombudsperson's regional coordinators, supported by the UNDP Project "Strengthening Capacities of the Ombudspersons Office," will continue to monitor the human rights situation in the regions.