Do you need to grab for a gun to get a wheelchair from the State?
An industrial accident in 1987 left Oleksandr Melnyk severely disabled (Group 1 disability). In 2008 he lodged a civil suit in the Chernihiv District Administrative Court against the Social Security Fund on the grounds that they had not provided him with vital necessities. His main demand was to be provided with a wheelchair. He had had his old wheelchair for 7 years, although they should be replaced after four.
Despite the undoubted validity of his demand, the court turned it down. Oleksandr Melnyk, disabled physically, however not broken psychologically, decided to fight.
He refused to leave the judge’s office after the court ruling, stating that because of the ruling, he had nothing to move about on. The judge, knowing about Oleksandr’s problems, assumed that he wouldn’t hold out long and would voluntarily abandon this sitting strike.
Finding him still sitting in his wheelchair the next morning, the judge ordered that the court police take him out on the street which was seen by the claimant as mockery of his physical helplessness. He became obsessed with the idea to obtain a weapon at any price so that nobody would ever dare to violate, as he understood this, his right to physical inviolability with impunity.
On 7 July 2008, after the latest court ruling refusing to compensate Oleksandr Melnyk for the cost of his unused sanatorium trips, he demanded an explanation from the judge who rudely replied that he had no intention of giving him an explanation. When the police officer on duty who had been called ran into the office and came to grab Melnyk, the latter shot and wounded him.
Oleksandr was sentenced to three years imprisonment. The sentence was upheld by the Court of Appeal. It was the civic organization for the disabled “Aspirations”, and specifically its Head Oleh Ivanenko, who tried to help Mr Melnyk. However they needed qualified legal assistance which was provided by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union Strategic Litigations Fund, with UHHRU lawyer Oleh Levytsky taking on the case on 24 July 2008.
Thanks to the efforts of the two civic organizations, Oleksandr Melnyk was pardoned on 2 April 2009.
P.S. The most interesting thing is that the demands for a bed, mattress and wheelchair did end up being met. On 17 September 2008 the Social Security Fund against Industrial Injury passed Melnyk’s relatives an American-made wheelchair, a German bed and an Italian mattress.
Slightly adapted from a text by Oleh Levytsky and Marina Hovorukhyna
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