war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Referral network. Design and functioning

11.01.2024    available: Українською
Nadiia Hryhorieva, Yevhen Zakharov
Four Ukrainian NGOs—Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG), Blue Bird (Kyiv), Sich (Dnipro), and Forpost (Dnipro)—together with the Danish Institute Against Torture DIGNITY are implementing a three-year-long project to provide psychological, legal, charitable, medical, and other kinds of assistance to civilian victims of war.

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KHPG assists victims of war in the Kharkiv region, while all partners work jointly in the Kyiv and Lviv regions.

The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs funds the project.

KHPG also provides various types of assistance to the victims of war in the de-occupied areas of the Chernihiv, Sumy, and Zhytomyr regions.

Charitable assistance is provided to families with civilian casualties, families with detained or abducted civilian members whose whereabouts are unknown, wounded civilians, and former civilian prisoners who have been tortured in custody.

One of the project’s objectives is to build a referral or redirection network in the Kharkiv, Kyiv, and Lviv regions. Any participating in the project organization can redirect a victim to another organization or individual professional in the network if it cannot provide a particular type of assistance.

This document describes the creation and functioning of a referral network.

Stages of building a referral network

The purpose of a referral network is to provide comprehensive assistance to victims. If the organization to which the victim has applied cannot provide certain types of assistance, it refers them to another legal entity or individual entrepreneur (IE) to provide such assistance.

Stage 1. Researching the needs of beneficiaries

KHPG gained extensive experience receiving the victims of war in its office and during the field visits to the settlements in the de-occupied territory in 2022. This experience showed that the victims need different types of assistance. It includes legal, psychological, medical, in some cases psychiatric, humanitarian, and social assistance, as well as financial and material assistance (food, things, clothes, heaters, generators, charging stations, cots, mattresses, blankets, underwear, etc.) and psycho-emotional rehabilitation (sports and art events, workshops, clubs for children and adults for recreation, stress relief, etc.). A single NGO usually cannot provide all types of assistance. Thus, it is necessary to build a network of partner organizations to which victims can be referred for specialized aid. In addition, it is necessary to develop algorithms for dealing with repeated cases.

For example, to help internally displaced persons (IDPs) effectively, a scheme of consecutive actions for obtaining IDP status and humanitarian aid in Kyiv was developed (a similar scheme is valid for Kharkiv and Lviv).

First of all, register as an IDP. Contact the district Department of Social Protection (DSP) to do this. For example, the DSP office of the Shevchenkivskyi district in Kyiv is located at 5 Peremohy Avenue, and the phone number is 044 236 6057. You have to apply only in person.

At the DSP, receive a food voucher and information on the procedure for providing financial assistance to IDPs.

You can receive clothes and other useful items at the Humanitarian Center, depending on your needs. For example, the Humanitarian Center of the Shevchenkivskyi district of Kyiv is located at 11A B.Havrylyshyna Street.

You can also turn to non-governmental charitable foundations for help. Victims should apply only in person after registering as IDPs.

Stage 2. Creating the basis for a referral network

At this stage, the referral network was populated by governmental and non-governmental organizations and individual entrepreneurs — psychologists and lawyers — in Kharkiv, Kyiv, and Lviv, with whom we had previously established close cooperation and constant interaction in providing various assistance.

The victims turning to KHPG receive consultations and legal assistance from the organization’s lawyers; some also receive humanitarian aid.

Those who need psychological help receive it from psychologists from Kharkiv, Kyiv, and Lviv who work on KHPG projects. It turned out that some of the victims needed medical and, in particular, psychiatric assistance. They often need medical examinations to establish a diagnosis and prescribe treatment (especially victims released from captivity where they were subjected to torture, including sexual violence).

Victims in need of psychiatric care were referred to specialized medical institutions. These are the Skhody Rehabilitation Center and the Evolution Rehabilitation Center in Kyiv, the Regional Clinical Psychiatric Hospital No. 3 in Kharkiv, and the Yuriy Lypa Regional Hospital for War Veterans and Repressed in Lviv.

Victims needing medical care and forensic examination were referred to hospitals and other state institutions with which we had agreements; they were also part of the network. These are the Kharkiv Regional Bureau of Forensic Medical Examination, the L.T. Malaya Kharkiv Institute of Therapy of the National Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine, the Kharkiv Regional Hospital in Kharkiv, and the Kyiv Regional Bureau of Forensic Medical Examination in Kyiv.

The victims needing financial and humanitarian assistance were referred to the Human and Law Charitable Foundation.

Stage 3. Expanding the referral network

At the same time, the referral network was being developed to involve non-governmental organizations and charities that could provide social, humanitarian, and other types of assistance to victims of war and IDPs. Several steps were taken to achieve this.

Step 1. Data collection and retrieval of the contacts of charitable foundations (CF) and charitable organizations (CO).

We monitored the Internet and looked for the contacts of charitable foundations and charitable organizations that assist victims in the Kharkiv, Kyiv, and Lviv regions in social networks, through personal contacts and on thematic resources, for example:


Step 2. Creation of potential partners database

Currently, the database contains 130 contacts of potential partners—charitable and other organizations that provide humanitarian, social, psychological, and legal assistance. The database is continuously updated and expanded.

Step 3. Composing a questionnaire

A questionnaire was composed to send the potential partners an offer to join the referral network. A sample questionnaire is attached.

The goal of the survey was to obtain the following information about potential partners:

  1. Оrganization (institution) name
  2. Area of work (types of services provided)
  3. Contact person
  4. Phone number
  5. E-mail address
  6. Address (actual)

Step 4. Distribution of the questionnaire

We selected 113 e-mail addresses of civil society organizations in Kyiv and Lviv from the database and sent them our questionnaire.

As a result, we received positive responses (consent to join the referral network) from the following NGOs:

  • Representative office of the HealthRight International in Ukraine and ICO Ukrainian Civic Health Foundation, which provide psychological, legal, and humanitarian assistance to IDPs;
  • NGO Diia, which focuses on helping temporarily displaced persons and civilians, providing medical hospitals and institutions with all the necessary supplies, and targeted humanitarian assistance to victims throughout Ukraine;
  • CF Angels of Salvation, which focuses on evacuating people from the war zone, providing humanitarian assistance to people living in the war zone, helping IDPs and improving living conditions in temporary accommodation centers, and aiding IDP children by organizing children’s camps for adaptation, socialization, and psychological therapy.

Also, the NGO International Foundation of Development responded by asking the following additional questions:

  1. What is exactly the form, content, etc., of “providing psychological, legal, charitable social, medical and other assistance to civilian victims of war”?
  2. Where and how will the submitted data about our NGO be stored? Who will have access to it? For what purpose will this information be used?

The rest of the organizations did not respond to the first request, so we decided to send the questionnaire again.

Step 5. The second distribution of the questionnaire

We re-sent the questionnaire to those CFs and COs who did not respond to the first request.

Results achieved:

  • A positive response from the Kyiv NGO ’Divchata’ (Girls), which provides long-term free psychological and psychotherapeutic support to women, men, and children, and separately, support for victims of any violence.
  • A positive response from the ICF Keeplife, which focuses on helping orphans, children with disabilities, IDPs, persons/families in difficult life situations, and families with many children. Also, humanitarian aid, social and creative development (events, workshops), and sociological support.
  • The ’Zhyttelyub’ (Enjoying Life) Charitable Foundation considered joining the referral network but was forced to refuse. As a reason for refusal, they cited a large number of appeals to the foundation. Thus, they are not ready to provide material assistance (food packages and basic necessities) to beneficiaries referred by KHPG.
  • The ICF Community Wellbeing, which specializes in helping farmers and agricultural service cooperatives but also actively helped IDPs during the first phase of active hostilities, refused to participate due to the lack of further funding for such activities.
  • A positive response from the MILA UA Foundation specializing in helping older people and IDPs and providing quality food and medicines in Kharkiv and Kherson. It agreed to join the referral network and offered to sign a memorandum of cooperation and place the logos of the project participants (KHPG, Blue Bird, Sich, Forpost, and Danish Institute Against Torture DIGNITY) on the website of the MILA UA Foundation. The issue of signing the memorandum is now being discussed and worked out by the referral network members and new partners.

As of 25 September 2023, the referral network included 86 government institutions and non-governmental organizations and 29 self-employed lawyers and psychologists.

The development of the database of public organizations and communication with them on joining the referral network is ongoing.

The referral network functional procedures

Legal, psychological, medical, humanitarian, and social assistance to victims of war is provided within the referral network in two forms:

  • guaranteed assistance on a stable basis provided by organizations or specialists with whom agreements have been signed and permanent relationships have been established. We will call such redirection procedures stable;
  • other referral procedures to provide special assistance at the request of victims when the stable procedures do not cover the types of assistance desired.

Each partner organization has its own set of stable procedures. Let us consider the stable procedures applied by KHPG.

Stable referral procedures

KHPG permanently uses nine stable referral procedures. Let us briefly describe them.

1. If people applying to the KHPG offices in Kharkiv and Kyiv and at the field receptions after the consultation ask for legal aid, they are referred to the lawyers with whom KHPG works on a contractual basis. The lawyers conclude an agreement with the victims and provide secondary legal aid at the national level and internationally free of charge. KHPG pays for the work of lawyers.

2. If people applying to KHPG ask for psychological help or if KHPG consultants get the impression that a person needs such help, they are referred to a psychologist. In the KHPG office, lawyers and psychologists receive visitors in the neighboring rooms, and a psychologist usually participates in the field receptions. The psychologist provides the first consultation and decides with the victim whether psychological assistance is appropriate. If it is needed, the psychologist continues to work with the victim regularly. Psychological assistance is free of charge, the work of the psychologist is paid by KHPG.

3. If a person applies for psychological assistance, during the first appointment in the KHPG office the psychologist finds out whether the person is provided with legal aid and, if not, refers the person to a lawyer.

4. If a psychologist decides that a client needs a psychiatrist’s consultation, the client is referred to Tetiana M. Svirina, a psychotherapist with extensive clinical experience who works in the KHPG psychologists’ team. Tetiana Svirina counsels a person, prescribes treatment if necessary, or directs a client to the Kharkiv Regional Psychiatric Hospital No. 3. Doctors in the hospital decide whether a client needs outpatient or inpatient treatment.

5. If an investigator dealing with the case of a victim orders a forensic medical examination, KHPG refers the victim to the Regional Bureau of Forensic Medical Examinations. The cost of examinations is reimbursed through the budget line “Payment for services of the referral network members”.

6. When the forensic expert determines that a victim needs additional medical examinations, KHPG organizes such examinations at the L.T. Malaya Institute of Therapy consulting clinic, Kharkiv Regional Hospital, or other medical institutions. KHPG uses services either from specialized medical research institutes (dealing with endocrinology, orthopedics and traumatology, dermatology, etc.) or from private medical centers where doctors we know work. When examinations and consultations are not free of charge, they are paid for through the budget line “Payment for services of the referral network members”.

7. If a person applying to the KHPG has evident health problems resulting from injuries received in captivity or wounds, they are provided medical care as described in paragraph 6.

8. If a person applying to KHPG meets the criteria for receiving financial assistance defined by the Policy (KHPG Policy for providing financial or humanitarian assistance to victims of war crimes), the relevant supporting documents a client provides are sent to the humanitarian aid manager. The manager checks the documents, decides on approving or refusing humanitarian aid following the said Policy, and transfers the documents to the CF People and Law, which pays the financial assistance of UAH 3000. When examination and treatment are necessary, the amount may be increased subject to the availability of supporting financial documents.

9. If a person applying to KHPG lost their housing (or it is half-destroyed) and other property due to hostilities, they are referred to the CF Human and Law. This foundation provides humanitarian aid received from other charitable organizations and programs or purchases it at its own expense. Applicants can receive food packages, clothes, shoes, heaters, charging stations, generators, gas stoves and cylinders, flashlights, lighting devices, cots, mattresses, pillows, blankets, underwear, and more.

As of 1 September 2023, primary legal aid was provided to 5308 victims, secondary legal aid—to 3064 persons, psychological aid—to 604 persons, financial aid—to 1083 families, and humanitarian aid—to 2351 families. Also, 29 forensic medical examinations, 28 referrals to a psychiatrist, and 20 referrals to medical institutions were conducted.

Other referral procedures

When a victim’s needs go beyond the scope of the stable procedures for assisting, these needs are referred to the referral network manager to find an institution that can provide the necessary service. The manager contacts such an institution, inquires about the possibility of assisting the victim, and, if yes, refers a client to that institution. If the institution cannot provide assistance at this time, another institution is sought. Once an agreement is reached, the manager refers the victim to the institution and later asks about the outcome of the visit.

This scheme is used most often for referrals for medical care, as the beneficiaries’ requests for this type of assistance differ each time and require non-standard individualized solutions.

Below are some examples of such referrals:

  • the direction of a female victim to a psychiatrist and narcologist in Kyiv in August 2023;
  • referral of a child victim to a speech and language pathologist and psychiatrist in Lviv in June 2023;
  • referral of two victims for examination and treatment at the neurosurgery department of the Kharkiv Regional Hospital in May 2023;
  • referral of victims of different ages for psychiatric care in Kharkiv and Lviv.

All such redirections are reflected in the referral table as other referrals (or referrals to partners), and the information is stored in the referrals to partners tabs.

Accounting for redirections

Stable and other referrals are accounted for monthly. Data are entered in a six-month table—one for January to June and another for July to December, in accordance with the project reporting periods.

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