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Mariupol civic activists counteract abuse of power by city authorities

Mariupol civic activists counteract abuse of power by city authorities
Київ, November 24, 2016.

Civic initiative monitors activities of Mariupol city authorities, files lawsuits to court on abuses of power. Among the cases of misuse the activists identify embezzlement of UAH 2 million.

Center of civic control “Act!” is a small team of civic activists who identify procedural violations by local authorities or incidents of power abuse to later file respective lawsuits in court. The project was launched in two cities of Donetsk region – Mariupol and Kramatorsk in June 2015. Since then the Center has also opened its branches in Zaporizhia, Vinnytsia and Ternopil regions. Over the first year its activities were financed by the “People in Need” Czech non-governmental organization, today it is also financially supported by the EU. Yulia Bashkirova, lawyer, head of the Center spoke about activists’ goals and achievements at a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center (UCMC) in the framework of UCMC project “Spokesman of peaceful life” supported by the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Each of the Center’s team comprises three persons: lawyer, journalist and civic activist. “We are constantly taking part in the city events, we are trying to attend all meetings of the city council and to participate in working groups,” Bashkirova said. Center’s activists coordinate their activities and exchange news through a Facebook group.

In case activists discover violations, they file claims or lawsuits. Majority of the court hearings that the Mariupol team has initiated are related to procedural violations in the work of the city council as well as to abuse of power, Bashkirova explained. Among the cases is the misuse of office by Mariupol city council officials that resulted in about UAH two million (approx. USD 78 thousand) of public money stolen. Other cases include illegal decree that the city mayor issued to give powers to his deputies to sign the documents; controversial decision to pass the 11th city hospital to the Ministry of Interior; as well as the controversial decision to disburse UAH 980 thousand (approx. USD 38 thousand) of public money for the needs of the city council.

According to the Center’s head, due to the rooted corrupt practices in which all parts are interlinked it is next to impossible to achieve the result. “Our main problem was that all our lawsuits were being assigned to the same judge although the cases would have to be distributed through the e-system. All our claims to law enforcement agencies were either reported as lost or left without consideration, or no elements of crime were found in them,” quoted some examples Bashkirova. Cases on embezzlement of UAH two million and on the transfer of 11th hospital have been finally introduced into the Unified registry of pretrial investigation cases and tomorrow, after a long break, the activists are called to testify.

At the same time certain progress is observed. Thus, among activists’ achievements are the facts that the Mariupol city council started publishing its decrees and decisions on the web site, as well as taking into consideration conflict of interest when adopting decisions.

In addition to monitoring civil servants’ work and court hearings, the Center is training activists on how to discover violations and react in accordance with the law. Bashkirova noted that in the beginning it was only them who were controlling civil servants, while now they are often being notified by active citizens. “People started taking up the initiative and participating in the life of the city. It is probably also our small achievement,” elaborated the Center’s head.

According to the project plan the project should be running for 10 more months, but the activists plan to extend it further.

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