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Cherkasy Human Rights Center: a worthy example of a combination of legal and humanitarian assistance

Author: Olena Orlova / Legal Development Network

Since the first days of the war, the Cherkasy Human Rights Center, a member of the Legal Development Network, has expanded its range of assistance. The combination of legal and humanitarian approaches yields good results: people affected by the war not only meet their basic food and shelter needs, but also have legal support and adapt more quickly.  

For more than three months in a row, since the full-scale russian invasion of Ukraine, the organization’s lawyers and volunteers have been providing primary and secondary legal assistance to internally displaced persons, military personnel, people living with HIV / AIDS, tuberculosis, and drug addicts. At the same time, they support the displaced people with humanitarian aid in the form of food kits and help with the accommodation.

  • From the very beginning of the war, we strengthened the direction of humanitarian aid. Why humanitarian? Because there are basic human needs that need to be met. Legal aid works little if a person has nothing to eat and nowhere to sleep, – Taras Shcherbatiuk, the head of the Cherkasy Human Rights Center, believes.
Photo: Taras Shcherbatiuk, the head of the Cherkasy Human Rights Center. Photo: Cherkasy Human Rights Center.

Developing this direction, the organization has taken care of several communities: people from Zolotonosha, Lysyansk, Monastyryshche, Kamyansk, and Cherkasy communities have already received help. The organization plans to help other communities and continue to identify their needs.

  • We will continue to expand our activities and provide the most vulnerable categories – families with children – namely food kits, Taras says.

At the same time, each displaced person who receives a set of products has their own life story: difficult, related to evacuation, loss of home, work… For example, here is the story of Liudmyla (photo below), who moved from the city of Pervomaiskyi, Kharkiv Oblast, to Zolotonosha (Cherkasy Oblast). She did not move alone but with four children, a dog, and two cats. While the woman is waiting for payments from the government as an IDP, she has not found a new job, and her personal savings are over. It is very difficult for the family. Therefore, the food set that Liudmyla received together with other IDPs at the Zolotonosha Volunteer Center from the Cherkasy Human Rights Center and the NGO “Veterans of War “Defenders of Ukraine” was a salvation for the family.

  • We arrived here on April 10. We still haven’t received any social payments… And I need to feed four children. In general, we were at home to the last. But when the authorities announced the evacuation, we went… We decided to go to Zolotonosha, because there are distant relatives here. But still, although we have to pay for utilities, – a Kharkiv resident told the Cherkasy media “Procherk”.
Photo: procherk.info

To date, we have managed to do many useful and necessary things to support and help people who have moved to Zolotonosha. Knowing the critical situation in the city for people, we formed and distributed 180 food kits and necessary medicines for families with children. We have already delivered 320 such sets to Zolotonosha. In Cherkasy and Monastyryshche, 50 places have been set up for people needing temporary shelter. We are currently preparing another 50 such places, clarifies the head of the Cherkasy Human Rights Center.

Photo: Humanitarian aid to the IDPs of Zolotonosha. Фото: Photo: Cherkasy Human Rights Center.

It is important to add that when the center’s staff distributes food kits, they also work with people on legal issues. Providing such information “on the ground” is a good example of a combination of legal and humanitarian aid. Each food package is accompanied by a booklet containing telephone numbers that can be used to provide free assistance to military personnel, IDPs and refugees, people living with HIV / AIDS, tuberculosis, and drug addicts.

Photo: the Cherkasy Human Rights Center adds such a brochure to each package of humanitarian aid.

  • It is a very good example. When humanitarian aid is issued, people should also be asked basic legal questions: registration, social benefits, and other legal issues. Then the result of such comprehensive assistance will be obvious, – considers Taras’s colleague, the lawyer of the Sumy NGO “Northern Human Rights Group” Nataliia Yesina.

Also, one of the areas of work, especially during the war, for the Cherkasy Human Rights Center is in cooperation with local governments and local communities. In particular, on May 27, together with representatives of the Konotop Local Center for Free Secondary Legal Aid for Representatives of Territorial Communities of Sumy Region Suffering from Constant Fire from russia, the organization’s lawyers conducted an online training on how to act in violation of international humanitarian law.

During the event, Taras Shcherbatiuk spoke about the current violations and provided algorithms for the actions of civilians, local government officials, public activists, law enforcement officers, and prosecutors to properly record violations and further – prepare documents for submission to the International Tribunal. All participants received information materials on this topic.

Photo: Online meeting participants. Photo: Konotop Local Center for Free Secondary Legal Aid Facebook page.

Among the organization’s further plans, says Taras Shcherbatyuk, is to help people file lawsuits with the law enforcement agencies and the European Court of Human Rights for damages for property destroyed or damaged by war.

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