Posted by: Verena Spilker | September 16, 2008

Report on the work done by the legal defense office Romani Yag

In the period of June 2007, till February 2008, the following work of defending the rights of roma from Uzhgorod and Mukachevo has been done by Uzhgorod legal defense center of Regional Transcarpathian Cultural-Educational Association Romani Yag:
Analyzing the work done by the Legal defense offices of Romani Yag we came to the conclusion that all Roma, who were attracted to criminal liability during the reporting period were provided with a defense attorney in time.

Purpose of the project:

  • Legal help, given by specialists and lawyers to Roma people which applied for such help.
  • Advising the roma population on questions of social character, official registration of           documents, of property right, pension providing etc.
  • To prepare activists of roma public organizations with the aim to defend roma on a professional level.
  • To provide Roma, victims of offences access to justice through judicial facilities.
  • To support development of antidiscriminatory legislation in Ukraine, which will give Roma and other national minorities facilities for qualified defense in the cases of discrimination.

Types and quantity of the cases are given in the following table:
No                               Type of cases                                 15.06.07-15.02.08
1                          Total quantity of appeals                            296
2                   Criminal cases (also consultations)                      32
3                                 Working cases                                      128
4                                   Civil cases                                           46
5                    Cases of socially-legal character                         90

Let us present some examples of particular cases:
Early in October 2007 Mr. Lakatosh Stepan Vasylyovych, a Roma, born in 1983, living in the village V. Vyznytsia, Mukachevo district, Transcarpathian province, appealed to the Romani Yag right protection center for legal assistance.
According to Mr. S.V. Lakatosh,  the legal authorities, in particular, the trial department of the Mukachevo RV UMVS, have brought a criminal case and a charge against him in committing the crimes specified in article 185, part 1, of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (i.e. surreptitious stealing of alien property) and article 213, part I, of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (i.e. violation of the procedure of executing operations with metal scrap).
The essence of the case is as follows:
In May 2006, two men, Ilya R. and Ivan Ch. (non Roma) came to S.V. Lakatosh’s house and suggested to him to exchange his motorcycle (a Yava motorcicle that belonged to S.V. Lakatosh as his private property) against a cheaper motorcycle so he would get the extra ammount of money. S.V. Lakatosh agreed, because the proposal seemed reasonable. After a preliminary agreement between the parties S.V. Lakatosh fulfilled his duty and transferred his motorcycle to Ilya Rizak, but did not receive the extra amount of money. Regarding the S.V. Lakatosh’s request to make final settlement, Ilya R. (non Roma) told him, that he didn‘t  have the necessary amount of money and suggested to compensate the amount of money in form of metal scrap, which could be sold at the metal acceptance point for the relevant price. S.V. Lakatosh agreed and asked where the metal scrap was. Ilya R. informed him that the metal scrap (used industrial motors) were on the territory of an old farm. He also stated that he had an agreement on this issue with a guard there and that the only thing to be done was to take the motor. S.V. Lakatosh asked about possible related problems and the two non-Roma men told him that no problems would arise since they had paid for the motor to the guard. Afterwards they brought the motor to S.V. Lakatosh and the bargain was over.
Later on the police came to S.V. Lakatosh’s house with request to examine the house and the yard, they were suspecting him of hiding the stolen motor. Being surprised, S.V. Lakatosh clarified the situation to the policemen and informed them that he received the motor from Ilya R. (non Roma) on account of dept repayment. However, despite his explanations, the policemen executed a record, confiscated the motor and brought a criminal case against S.V. Lakatosh.
The two non-Roma persons who really did comit the crime were not concidered and not punished, while S.V. Lakatosh (Roma) appeared to be guilty only due to the fact that he was Roma and was not able to protect his legal rights and interests because of illiteracy and the lack of money to pay for lawyer’s services.
Due to the on time involvement of a lawyer into his case (Accusation of S.V. Lakatosh in committing the crime specified in article 185, part I, of the Criminal Code of Ukraine) was rejected at the stage of pre-judicial investigation.  The accusation of committing the crime specified in article 213, part I, of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, Stepan Lakatosh was exempted from criminal liability at the stage of pre-judicial investigation.

In August 2005, Mrs. Bella Adam (Roma) bought a house located in Uzhgorod, at the Mynayska str., 54s. The relevant sales contract was concluded and certified at the Uzhgorod notary office. The house was old and needed capital repairs. In June, the woman started house repairs, armed the walls, changed the roof and provided the house with all relevant municipal utilities.
However, in July 2007 Bella Adam received a precept from Uzhgorod court as a defendant in the case, claimed by R.P. Martynets against Bella Adam. The woman was, of course, very surprised, since she didn’t know the complainant and had no idea about the cause of the judicial precept.
As she got to know later, the man who sold the house possessed the proprietary right in accordance with a donation agreement with the primary house owner Lonchynsky, who died in 1996. Thus, Bella Adam received the proprietary right to the above mentioned house legally. However, the complainant R.P. Martynets stated in her claim that she was the actual wife of the primary house owner Lonchynsky, lived with him and kept the house with him. Thus, in accordance with articles 70 and 74 of the Family Code of Ukraine, she has the right to one-half of the house and of the the whole property. In this relation, she asked the court to solve her problem and acknowledge her proprietary right to one-half of the house located at Mynayska street, 154 and to pay her the amount of 150,000 UAH. Together with the above mentioned complaint, R.P. Martynets claimed to annect the disputed property and prohibited Bella Adam to reconstruct the house. The above mentioned claim was accepted by the court, which adopted a resolution to annect B. Adam’s house and prohibited further house reconstruction.
In this case it is also interesting that the complaint’s arguments are constructed exclusively on the witnesses’ evidences, who proves the fact of mutual complainant’s residence with the primary house owner Lonchynsky. As was clarified in the course of proceedings, the complainant together with her quasi witnesses alleged: “Roma should not live in this house”. Thus, today the actually legal house owner has no ability to dispose of her property, since she is void of finishing house reconstruction and living in this house.
Bella Adam’s appeal for assistance is quite understandable, since the woman is threatened by being abridged of her house, and all the circumstances of the case indicate the reality of such outcome. It is evident that the concerned persons succeeded to falsify certain documents and play them of the true ones. The woman, not having the knowledge of the details of the lawsuit, needed a qualified lawyer’s assistance. As of today, the rights of the Romawoman had been protected and court made a decision to give her a right of property to her house.

According to the results of our work during this period, we can make such conclusions:
Problematic work on protection of Roma rights became possible due to the cooperation with financial help of  other institution.
Because of the possibility of Roma people to appeal for qualified legal help from the Defense Center Romani Yag, we could notice a tendency of improvement of the legal conditions of the Roma people in Uzhgorod and Uzhgorod district, Mukachevo and Velikij Bereznij.
Representatives of local authority and law-enforcement agencies nowadays pay more attention to the problems of the Roma people.
The work of the Defence Center on a regular basis gives the possibility to Roma people to use free legal advice and support.
According to the data shown in the table, it is possible to draw the conclusion, that legal help is very necessary for Roma people. The quantities of references to the Great Defense Office testify about it.
There are plenty cases concerning the property rights of Roma people, that are obsered by the representatives of authority and law-enforcement bodies.
Unfortunately, there are cases where employees of law-enforcement bodies abuse their position and force Roma to confess those crimes, which they did not make.
Plenty of cases, which show the discrimination of Roma to a national can be observed, an support provided to the victims of those accusations.

The Defense Office Romani Yag gives a proper legal assistance to the Roma people by providing their legal access to justice.
Leaders of Roma organizations can solve the problems of their communities together with the  lawyers working for Romani Yag. They can coordinate their actions, directed to the strengthening of collaborations with skilled specialists in the rights departement, with the purpose of providing continous access to objective justice for Roma people.
Monitors on places determine the situation in relation to the dwelling of Roma people in this region and work on the cases of discrimination of Roma as an ethnic group and prepare materials for the publication of those in the „Romani Yag” newspaper.

For the improvement of results of our work, it will be necessary to develop a scale of measurements, on which we could show the real impact on the raise of the level of legal consciousness of the Roma population.
To continue working on the defense of Roma rights by employing skilled specialists of the defense of human rights.

On behalf of the Roma society and all Roma people which applied for help so far, we are sincerely grateful for your support and hope for a future collaboration.

The Lawyer of the Legal Defense Center Romani Yag
O.O. Movchan

The Head of Transcarpathian Roma Cultural-Educational Association Romani Yag                                        A. Adam

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