A People’s Deputy from the settlement of Gusiatyn in Ternopil region has sued the local council which failed to provide disabled persons with access to the session hall. How the lawyers managed to prove that such omission constituted an act of indirect discrimination?
Ivan Kosmyna became deputy of Gusiatyn settlement council in Ternopil region in 2015. He has the first disability group and moves with wheelchair. It is impossible to get to the session hall on the third floor, yet the building has no elevator. It was costly to install a lift, then the deputy proposed to held working sessions in the nearest cultural and leisure centre located not far from the settlement council and equipped with entrance ramps. Unfortunately, the community management had not heeded him, and the man had to assert his rights in court. Interests of Ivan Kosmyna were represented by Myroslava Anniuk, lawyer, graduate of the second course of The Protection of Victims of Discrimination and Hate Crime Victims progrram. The suit was drawn up with help of Oksana Guz, lawyer, senior partner of Prove Bar Association, expert in servicing vulnerable strata of population which are subject to discrimination and hate crimes, co-author and coach of the Program’s training course.
During the legal proceedings the representative of the settlement council (defendant) declared that the deputy could ask his colleagues and they would assist him to get to the third floor. The people’s deputy stated in reply that he suffered indignities each time he asked for such help from the council members.
Together with their advisee the lawyers achieved that Ternopil District Administrative Court awarded to declare long omission by the settlement council regarding the case of Ivan Kosmyna as wrongful and discriminative since applications of other citizens were duly considered compared with the deputy’s case. Besides, the court awarded to enforce indemnification for the non-pecuniary damage suffered in favour of the plaintiff from the settlement council.
“Positive outcome of this case was secured by a number of circumstances. Firstly, the client understood that the problem of discrimination of disabled persons existed and was ready to fight and talk thereon. Secondly, we were a strong team and managed to write a proper suit which played a significant role in the court ruling. Thirdly, it was also a piece of luck that the court took a detailed look at the case. But the main thing was a client’s personality. He spoke explicitly and was fearless to engage in an argument with the settlement council. He said he did not want to be carried on hands in the settlement council as that was humiliating for him”, lawyer Oksana Guz outlined.
No official statistics are kept by the Ukrainian authorities in regard to the number of discrimination cases where a legal entity stands as defendant.
“We have no collection system for court statistics. Cases are not classified in the state register either by plaintiff or defendant. We alone sort these cases, as necessary”, Iryna Fedorovych, expert, Director of the public organization Social Action Centre, Head of The Protection Against Discrimination Program of the Ukrainian School of Practical Knowledge on Access to Justice, tells.
According to her, the biggest problem of such cases is finding the plaintiff who will be ready to assert their rights in court.
“In the Ternopil case, the plaintiff alone started legal proceedings, wanted to change the system, proposed the solution. He noted all his communication with the council and having realised that the system ignored him, filed a claim”, Iryna Fedorovych added.
In the lawyers’ opinion, in order to increase number of positive awards in cases of disability-based discrimination, a relevant informative campaign among population should be launched by the government and the lawyers must identify signs of discrimination in such cases. Additionally, statistics must be kept by government and not by public organizations. Experts of the Protection Against Discrimination program believe that real figures and data will motivate population to take legal action in similar cases and assert their rights.
The training course “Protection against Discrimination and Hate Crimes” was implemented by Ukrainian Legal Aid Foundation in close cooperation with Social Action Centre, Legal Association “Prove”, Regional Center for Human Rights with the support of the Program “Human rights and access to justice” International Renaissance Foundation (IRF). The training course is the basis of training within the program “Protection against Discrimination” of the Ukrainian Access to Justice School of Practice.