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For many years we have been protecting the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and people who live on the temporarily occupied territories, including their right to receive pension benefits.

Comparing the current situation with access to pensions with the one in the summer of 2016, it is safe to say that human rights activists have forced the state to improve its policy in this area.  

However, behind every victory there are not only months of hard work, court debates and communication with the authorities, but also human lives. Often people die without waiting for justice, without receiving their hard-earned pension benefits, which were once suspended and never restored. And this money could not only improve the quality of life of these people, but also help them live in difficult times.

Apparently, everyone already knows that Ukraine is a record holder in the number of unfulfilled court decisions in favor of its own citizens. And behind the dry figures, human rights reports, appeals and resolutions of international bodies, there are living people waiting for the legal decision on behalf of Ukraine to be implemented.

The problem of non-compliance with court decisions on the payment of pensions to residents of the occupied territories has been silenced for years. Authorities that are required by law to provide people with pensions have simply “forgotten” about the hundreds of thousands of retirees who have not received pensions for years or cannot receive previously awarded pension arrears.

At the end of 2018, we were approached by Viktor Oleksandrovych’s wife (name changed), who said that her husband, who had a number of serious illnesses at the time and was completely bedridden after several strokes, could not go to the Government-Controlled Territory of Ukraine to register as an IDP and since 2014 he has not received a pension.

After months of hard work, in the summer of 2020, the legal team of the Right to Protection CF managed to obtain a long-awaited court decision on the obligation of the Pension Fund of Ukraine (PFU) to pay a pension to a man. However, the decision was never implemented.  The state violated its own regulations by not ensuring the activities of a PFU body that was to enforce the decision, and in this legal system it is impossible to force another PFU body to pay a pension to a person, although it is the state’s obligation to its own citizens.

The words “the state violated” refer not only to a few specific officials in fancy suits, but also to a whole society that is “no longer interested” in this topic.

In relations to pensioners, the state, unfortunately, behaves like a swindler, who on the one hand loudly declares it’s honesty and care for its own citizens, and on the other by all possible means not only blocks access to pensions but also refuses to comply with court decisions. 

According to officials they are not responsible for the inaction of their own bodies. For example, the PFU head office and the PFU itself are not responsible for the responsibilities of their own district offices. Although it is impossible to pay a pension to a person without the simultaneous work of all these bodies. 

Prosecute for non-compliance with a court decision? Impossible! Because the head of the district administration of the PFU cannot pay a pension to a person without the participation of the highest bodies of his department. Therefore, if the head of a district office starts to enforce the court decision, he will be the only one who will be prosecuted.

So it turns out: a “small” boss is not subject to prosecution, because the fact of payment does not depend on him, and “big” bosses can not be prosecuted because they do not head the body that is the debtor in the case. And all these legal gaps are skillfully used for years, because the police are not interested in such cases, although the article of the Criminal Code on liability for non-compliance with court decisions has not been canceled.  And while officials and police do not want to perform their direct duties, people who are left without money die.

Today I received a call from Viktor Oleksandrovych’s wife, who told me with tears that he had died a few days ago. He died without waiting for anything from the state. It is safe to say that receiving a pension arrears in a few years, even after receiving a court decision, would have allowed Viktor Oleksandrovych to eat better, be treated better, perhaps smile at life once more and live longer.

Over the years, we have not had time to help dozens of people. More than 50 pensioners who received court decisions died without waiting for the execution of these decisions. We are now working with their successors, proving to officials that the Constitution, law and court decisions in Ukraine must be obeyed.

Another name has been added to this list today. The name of a good man whom the state had to and could help to live a life with dignity. But the state didn’t help…

With grief and sympathy to the wife of the deceased,

Oleg Tarasenko

Senior Strategic Lawyer of the Right to Protection CF