Long road to justice

20.12.2006 |

The Kherson regional branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, together with clients from its Public Reception Centre Taisa Spas and Tamara Voina, are celebrating victory in the European Court of Human Rights.

This drawn-out case is fairly banal and familiar to many people in Ukraine. A business goes bankrupt or is deliberately made bankrupt by those with an interest in this, leaving huge debts, in the first instance, in wages due ordinary employees.

The factory is seemingly run into the ground, with no property and with no money to pay people – a painfully familiar tale. However the enterprise, a joint stock company, “Dnipro”, which people called “superconductors”, where Taisa Tymofiyvna and Tamara Volodymyrivna worked, was very affluent in its time. And even if production was suspended, there was easily enough property left to pay back the money owing in wages.  Yet while the bankruptcy proceedings were continuing, the lathes, metal constructions, and massive rods with coloured metals and other assets were taken away in trucks.  By the point of liquidation, there was nothing left and nothing therefore to pay off the debts with.

However, T. Voina and T. Spas were not sitting all that time doing nothing. They fought, went to court to ensure that they were not deprived of the money they had earned through honest work. They went through all conceivable court and state institutions, from those in Kherson to the very highest in Kyiv. They even wrote to the Ministry of Employment that the factory’s property was being taken away, providing evidence to substantiate this. They had, for example, an inventory of the property prepared by the liquidation committee at the beginning, with this property later disappearing without trace.

And seemingly their efforts were not in vain – the local court handed down a ruling in favour of the employees and ordered the debt to be paid, 9 thousand UH to each person. However it transpired that it was not so easy, since they now had to get the Bailiff Service to execute the court’s ruling. Unfortunately, they did not succeed in this. There were again numerous complaints, law suits to the Appeal Court, to the Economic Court, letters to the President, Ministers, Deputies and the Human Rights Ombudsperson. All in vain.  The state had no concern for the problems of these ordinary women who needed to feed their families and raise their children. Why go on – the situation is familiar to most of our fellow citizens.

There was only one remaining hope, to seek justice abroad, in the European Court of Human Rights. It was then that Taisa Tymofiyvna and Tamara Volodymyrivna turned for help to the public reception centre of the Kherson regional branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine where they received consultation from the author of this article. Perhaps arrogance from lack of experience and an enormous desire to help gave me the impulse to undertake something quite unknown. It should be stressed that our clients were already highly experience in court wrangling and gave a lot of help in preparing the claim for the European Court. That was way back in December 2002.  From when the claim was lodged over four years there was correspondence with Strasbourg, information about how the case was proceeding, about new circumstances. And then, when hope had almost faded of receiving a positive result, we received the good news, that in Case No. 5019/03, Spas and Voina v. Ukraine, judgment had been handed down on 7 December 2006 in favour of the applicants.

Justice triumphed! Yet it’s extremely frustrating that it was necessary to call in international arbiters to prove that a person must be paid for his or her work.

I would like to thank those committed women who proved to all of us that we must fight for our rights and never give in, regardless of the difficulties, but begrudging the time needed, and not losing hope. This is not just a victory for Tamara Spas and Taisa Voina, it is a victory for all who did not have the energy and patience to travel such a hard road to justice.

Nataliya Bohrentsova


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