Categories
Response stories

“Do police defend me?”

Only for the first half of 2021 year, REActors in Kyrgyzstan registered 166 appeals on cases involving one of the key group — people who inject drugs (PWID). Alas, one of the most customary reasons for such requests is… law enforcement. PWID are more likely to face violations, threats of physical violence, extortion of money, and abuse of authority rather than get their help. Next, one of the recent true stories.

Confess and you won’t get anything!

** August 2021, the client was at a bus stop in the *** district (****, *** region) and was waiting for passengers as he moonlighted as a taxi driver. Two young Kyrgyz approached and asked for a ride to the city center. When the client delivered them to final destination, they paid and told him to wait. After 10 minutes, three young guys got into the car without asking, hit the client twice in the chest and started recording everything on the phone. The people were in civilian clothes, did not introduce themselves, did not explain who they were, handcuffed the man and took him out of the car in a humiliating way, disparaging him. Afterwards, they began to inspect the car and the client’s personal belongings as well. After a while, two plastic bags and scales were taken out of the car. The client forthwith claimed that it did not belong to him, then sadly, he was battered, maltreated and his ribs were broken. After weighing the contents of the packages, according to the unknown people, there were 200 grams of marijuana and 143 grams of heroin. As it became clear later, these people were operational officers of the District Department of Internal Affairs of one of the districts of the *** region. All the incident was captured on a phone camera.

The operatives said that if the client had confessed, then half would be given to him. And while the investigation of the case is going on, he will not be in need of anything, and his family will be assisted in all their demands. He cast aside the offer. Then representatives of the internal organs turned off the phone camera, punched and smashed the man repeatedly. They insulted and rebuked him, then suddenly they began to promise to “Let him go”, and subsequently they took off the handcuffs and hitched the client in the car to the police department. They brought me through the duty department in an embrace, like a friend. In the office, they called me “AIDS-positive, drug addict, convict” in every possible way, stroke me repeatedly and violently. They said that they had been looking for him for a long time, allegedly he also robbed the apartment.

At 3 A.M., the client could not stand it and wrote a candid confession, under dictation, and only then was he given a drink of water and a smoke. He also offered five thousand dollars to “hush up” the case and at six in the morning everyone drove to his house in his car. The client was warned that if he “throws out the trick”, they will immediately put him in jail, the papers are already ready and will go in the course. Being at home, he asked to go into the bedroom alone, so as not to frighten his wife and children. Once in the room, the client closed the door, managed to take his son’s phone and jumped out the window that overlooks the neighbor. There he hid in a septic tank (a pit where all the sewerage from the house goes). They searched for him for a long time, but they didn’t find him, the neighbor also said that he didn’t see anyone and asked the operatives to leave, otherwise he would call 102. Before leaving, the police department officers told the client’s wife that if he came in the morning, then nothing would happen to him, otherwise he will be kept in prison for a long time.

** August the client called the NGO and partially explained the situation. He was given REActor’s phone number, they met at the appointed place, where the man told all the details of the above offense.

What was done by REActor:

The client was granted shelter outside the area of residence. There he completely came to his senses, similarly concurred to work on the same territory (caring for cattle, and the elderly owners of this place). The man refused to go anywhere, fearing for his son, since he is already a teenager, so REACTOR went himself to one of the directors of the state institution and told the whole situation. He contacted the prosecutor’s office, and a couple of hours later the REACTOR was invited for a conversation. The prosecutor’s office said he would look into it.

Happy end

** August 2021, the prosecutor’s office gave an verbal answer that the client would not be tocuhed by anyone. It turned out that on that unfortunate day for him, two operatives and an investigator got into the car. The investigator was fired (on a different case, but still, he no longer works), and the operatives received a warning from the management that they themselves would be imprisoned for such actions. Since September, the police stopped disturbing the client.

REActor: “In my judgement, the success of the result also lies in the fact that the work was done despite the client’s desire to solve the case and the refusal to officially file a complaint with the prosecutor’s office, since both ill-treatment and torture took place. Assistance was provided by REACTOR independently, in cooperation with the mentor and the head of the Harm Reduction Network Association. Even without the participation of the client, but a positive result was achieved, and most importantly, he was contented!”

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News

Don’t miss REAct-related events at AIDS2022

Don’t miss out on REAct-related events at AIDS2022, taking place live and online in Montreal, Canada from July 26th to August 3rd.

At this year’s conference, there will be present statistics and evidence collected through the REAct tool in the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

At the same time, REAct National Coordinator in Ukraine, Nadiya Semchuk, and REAct Regional Coordinator in the EECA region. Victoria Kalyniuk, will act as speakers and share their experience in documenting human rights violations, as well as will tell how to build efficient advocacy strategies based on collected evidence.

31 JULY 10:30 – 12:00 (GTM -4)Workshop, VIRTUAL ONLYCommunity-led human rights data for advocacy NOW: How marginalized communities are responding to rights violations impeding access to health and justice and implementing evidence-based
31 JULY14:15 – 15:15 (GTM -4)Oral abstract session / Hybrid format: Nothing about us without us: Community-led responses and research
2 AUGUST08:00 – 09:00 (GTM -4)Satellite session / Hybrid format: REPORT LAUNCH: Protectors or Perpetrators? The Impact of Unlawful Policing on HIV, Human Rights and Justice
Categories
News Response stories

Presentation of statistics of violations of the rights of people affected by tuberculosis, collected through the REAct tool, took place in Tajikistan

Since the beginning of 2022, the REAct tool in Tajikistan has also been used by project partners and national coordinators, SPIN Plus, to document violations of rights and legal barriers that people affected by TB face when accessing treatment and prevention services. The activity is carried out within the framework of the STOP TB PARTNERSHIP, UNOPS project “Improving access to prevention and treatment of tuberculosis among people living with HIV in Tajikistan”.

In the first half of 2022, 89 applications from people affected by tuberculosis were documented, which is 8% of the total number of registered cases in the country during this period. It should be noted that 49.4% of clients with TB also have a positive HIV status, 41.5% have a criminal record, and 18% use drugs. Therefore, most of the documented violations are indicative of stigma and discrimination based on a variety of grounds, including the presence of tuberculosis.

The report was presented on July 15, 2022, in Dushanbe (Tajikistan) at a meeting with partner organizations.

Educational information about TB is available on the SPIN Plus Facebook page.

Categories
Publications Reports Useful materials

Operational Report: Violations of the Rights of People Affected by TB in Tajikistan

Since the beginning of 2022, the REAct tool in Tajikistan has also been used by project partners and national coordinators, SPIN Plus, to document violations of rights and legal barriers that people affected by TB face when accessing treatment and prevention services.

In the first half of 2022, 89 applications from people affected by tuberculosis were documented, which is 8% of the total number of registered cases in the country during this period. It should be noted that 49.4% of clients with TB also have a positive HIV status, 41.5% have a criminal record, and 18% use drugs. Therefore, most of the documented violations are indicative of stigma and discrimination based on a variety of grounds, including the presence of tuberculosis.

The report was presented on July 15, 2022, in Dushanbe (Tajikistan) at a meeting with partner organizations.

The detailed operational report in Russian is below.

Categories
Reports Useful materials

REAct Statistical Report 2021. Violations of the rights of people living with HIV, drug users, sex workers, men who have sex with men, trans* people, and other vulnerable groups in Moldova.

The main implementing partner in the Republic of Moldova is the Public Association “Positive Initiative” from Chisinau. The mission of the organization:

In our work, we unite the efforts of all responsible and interested parties, strengthening community systems, influencing public opinion and politics.

At the end of 2021, 5 out of 14 NGOs implemented routine screening for human rights violations in the national Electronic Monitoring System (a system for collecting data on services provided and handouts in the Republic of Moldova). In 2021, 3060 screening questionnaires were submitted, 361 people reported violations of their rights, of which 79 received legal advice and 55 were included in REAct.

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Publications Reports Useful materials

Situational Report: Drug policy in Georgia and Challenges

On June 27, 2022, a round table discussion on “Humane Drug Policy – Affordable Health Care” was organized by the Georgian Harm Reduction Network. A situative report on Drug policy in Georgia and Challenges based on REact data was presented at the meeting.

The meeting was dedicated to the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking, which has traditionally become a day for anti-drug policy for network organizations.

A report in English:

Report in the Georgian language:

Categories
News

ECOM begins to work in the REAct system to monitor and document human rights violations

At the end of June, a training session was held on monitoring and documenting human rights violations of LGBT people. ECOM was able to train 18 activists from 5 countries in the EECA region.

One of ECOM’s tools to achieve the goal of creating a favorable legal environment is to collect data on human rights violations of LGBT people in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Therefore, we continue to train more and more monitors in order to monitor human rights violations.

“This year, we started working together with the Alliance for Public Health: we started adding cases of human rights violations of LGBT people to the REAct online database. We conducted this training session as part of this activity. The participants took part in the training and identified monitoring objectives for each country. In the future, the information collected on violations will become a source for advocacy in the countries and in international mechanisms,” says Elvira Tilek, Human Rights Officer at ECOM.

During the training session, the participants learned how to collect evidence when monitoring and documenting human rights violations of LGBT people, how to systematize and classify human rights violations. The training session was based on the manual on monitoring and documenting human rights violations of LGBT people developed by ECOM.

The participants received theoretical and practical knowledge about monitoring and the process of documenting, got acquainted with the applied theory of collecting and documenting evidence, learned how to properly use photo and video evidence in their work.

Also, during the training, the following topics were discussed in detail: human rights, what is stigma and discrimination and the difference between them, the classification of human rights violations, the process of identifying violators and types of violations.In addition, the REAct database was presented to the participants as well as the mechanism of how to work with it.

REAct is a tool for documenting rights violation cases and monitoring the response to them. The participants learned how to conduct interviews with victims of rights violations, carefully collect complete information about each incident, and also took part in a discussion about methods of creating a monitoring network, about emotional burnout and shared their self-care methods with each other.

Read also:

APH and ECOM Initiate Strategic Partnership to Improve Protection of KPs Rights via REAct Online Platform

ECOM: Manual on monitoring and documentation of LGBTQ human rights violations

Categories
Education courses News Useful materials Education courses

Online course on drug decriminalization launched in Russian, English, French and Arabic

On June 2, 2022 at 11:00 am (UTC+3), #SoS_project 2.0 regional team the Alliance for Public Health and the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) presented a new version of a unique online training course on drug decriminalization for activists in the EECA region.

IDPC’s Drug decriminalization [e]Course is a free-to-access online learning course open to anyone interested in this crucial topic. With the launch of the Russian version of the course, activists from the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia will have access to cutting-edge knowledge in the field of modern approaches.

Presentation speakers:

Alexandrina Iovita, The Global Fund,

Tetiana Deshko, Alliance for Public Health

Marie Nougier, IDPC (United Kingdom)

Ganna Dovbach, EHRA

Irena Molnar, ReGeneration, Serbia

The [e]Course includes seven modules:

  • Introduction, definitions and support for decriminalisation
  • Existing models of decriminalisation
  • Introduction, definitions and support for decriminalisation
  • Designing a decriminalisation model
  • Thresholds and defining drug possession for personal use
  • Designing decriminalisation: sanctions and intrusiveness
  • The ‘gold standard’ for decriminalisation

Watch course presentation in Russian recordings:

https://fb.watch/eqdQxcPVXk/

Log in on this web-site to try a course.

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News Response stories

Republican AIDS Center will be immediately informed about REAct appeals from HIV+ patients

On May 19-26, 2022 within a visit of technical assistance of PAS experts to Tajikistan within regional project TB-REP 2.0, several strategic meetings were held with partners and stakeholders in the country.

REAct coordinators collaborate with TB-REP 2.0 project in the documentation and responding to human rights violations and discrimination against TB patients. Collected data was presented during the meeting with the representatives of the Republican AIDS Center of Tajikistan. Center management was so surprised by the number of violations performed by its employees, that ensured REAct coordinators take measures in order to reduce the number of cases within AIDS Centers.


Deputy Director of the AIDS Center of Tajikistan Soliev Alijon proposed a quick response to all identified and registered cases of violations by medical workers of the country’s AIDS in order to avoid these problems. “As soon as the new case is registered in REAct – we want to know about it and react as soon as possible.” – informed Mr. Soliev.

Read full data, collected in Tajikistan read here.

Categories
Reports Useful materials

Statistical report for 2021. Evidence collected in Tajikistan

The REAct system was implemented in Tajikistan in 2020-2021 as part of the regional SoS_project “Sustainability of Services for Key Populations in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Region” (2019-2021). The implementation of the system was provided by NGO “SPIN-Plus” in cooperation with local HIV service and legal public organizations and is coordinated at the regional level by the ICF “Alliance of Public Health”.

Starting from 2022, funding for the work of the project is provided within the framework of the national grant Global Fund. REActors represent 12 NGOs located in different cities in eight regions of the country. Reactors are scheduled to visit cities and towns in the region in order to collect information and provide services to clients. Cases are also documented through a hotline, initiated under the C19RM mechanism in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Categories
Response stories

Go and talk to the perpetrator: how to eliminate stigma and discrimination on a domestic level

In Tajikistan, during 2020-2022 there were registered more than 1000 cases of human rights violations against people living with HIV and representatives of groups at risk. Nearly 60% of such appeals inform about violations by individuals in a form of domestic violence, eviction, stigma, and discrimination on a domestic level. Read detailed statistics here.

Stigma and discrimination in Tajik society are promoted and enrooted by repressive criminalizing laws in the country against people living with HIV. Ignorance and lack of information about HIV and AIDS provoke fear and hatred against HIV-positive family members.

Fatima*, 30 years old lives with HIV.
Fatima met a man and married him. He is also HIV-positive. They live together in his mother’s home with her. The client’s mother-in-law knows about the status of the client and her husband. She always insults, does not allow the client to go to the kitchen or to take the food from the fridge. She says: “You are not allowed to enter the kitchen! I will cook food for the family and you – have to do all cleaning up. I don’t want to get infected with AIDS from you.” At the time when the client wants to go to the mother-in-law’s bathroom, she does not allow, or completely cleans everything from the bathroom. And after that, if the client enters the bathroom, after she washes her entire bath with bleach and chemicals. The client says that she cannot share with her fellings with anyone. Asked for help to talk to the mother-in-law of the clients. The client’s husband agreed REActor to go and talk to his mother.

* name is changed

“At the beginning of my work as a REActor, I heard from clients a lot of stories about domestic violence and hatred due to HIV status. The client’s relatives were so scared of HIV, that they didn`t let one use the shared kitchen and bathroom! I understood, that these violations happen because people do not know how HIV can be transmitted, and how – not. All this was happening due to a lack of information. At that point I understood, that if we provide these people with accurate information on HIV transmission and prevention, maybe – they will stop discriminating their HIV-positive close ones.” – tells one of REActor.

So the strategy “to go and talk to the perpetrator” was chosen as a reaction to such cases, registered in REAct. REActors were provided with informational brochures about HIV prevention and treatment. After the client appealed, REActor was coming to the client’s family to explain that a discriminative attitude toward HIV-positive family members will not help to win a virus, otherwise – such an attitude just keeps a person far from treatment services.

Coming back to Fatima’s case, let’s analyze how this approach worked out.

Psycho-emotional support was provided, information was given on the rights of PLHIV, she was invited to the organization, and a social worker consulted her. The next day, a visit to Fatima’s home was organized to talk to her mother-in-law. Full reliable information was given in an accessible language about HIV, VL, ARV therapy and adherence, about the rights of PLHIV, and about the legislation of the Republic of Tajikistan. After that, the mother of the client’s husband was stunned and wordless. She did not believe that if taken at the time of the pill (ART), there would be no risk of HIV-positive person and there will be no risk of infection. “Having well believed you, I will no longer infringe on the rights of my daughter-in-law and son. Let’s see what happens tomorrow and in the future.” – mother-in-law said. The client and her husband were very happy. In two months we contacted them again to find out about the situation in their home. Fatima assured us that her mother-in-law changed her attitude toward her and that everything is fine in their family.

Categories
Education courses News Useful materials

REAct launches a Youtube channel with educational videos on how to use the REAct online tool

The training channel was created for the purpose of distance learning and instructing Reactors and documenters on the use of the REACT online tool. The short videos cover specific topics and parts of the questionnaire and train reactors on how to properly document an incident, how to properly record an incident response, how to identify discrimination and stigma, and how to qualify whether an incident is a human rights violation.

Read also:

Online course on drug decriminalization launched in Russian

Categories
Response stories

Law enforcement or law offending authorities? Where to turn if the rights are violated by the police?

In 2020-2021, the REACT system in Kyrgyzstan registered more than 1,300 applications of violations of the rights of people living with HIV, drug users, sex workers, and members of the LGBT community. More than 50% (668 cases) of registered cases reported violations of rights and discrimination carried out by law enforcement agencies’  representatives. 59% out of the total 668 cases, reported violations by injecting drug users and 34% by sex workers. You can get acquainted with detailed statistics on the data page or in statistical reports.

A large percentage of similar stories gathered together from drug users about illegal detentions, systematic police arbitrary action could not go unanswered by the SOROS-Kyrgyzstan organization, which implements the Street Lawyers project and documents cases of rights violations using the REAct tool. Today, in this article, we look at how you can react to police violations and what advocacy actions can be taken by an organization that has evidence of such violations in its location.

“We have been working in the REACT database for three years already. In 43% of our cases, clients are not prepared to solve the case, therefore to receive legal assistance and defend their rights through contacting law enforcement agencies. This is highly evident when the violator in the case is the representatives of law enforcement agencies themselves. We have documented quite a lot of appeals from injecting drug users about harassment, blackmail, and harassment by police officers. Of course, none of the victims agreed to address to the prosecutor’s office with a complaint against the actions of law enforcement officers.” – reports Baktygul Zhumabayeva, national coordinator of the REACT system, Soros Foundation-Kyrgyzstan

Ilim*, February 2021
The client visitied the OST site (opioid substitution therapy) in the morning, and at the entrance he was stopped by the officers of the *** District Department of Internal Affairs. The client was not given the opportunity to get the methadone, they concealed him in the vehicle, and they began to demand more information about the another client of the PTM site. They threatened to put me in jail for harboring, humiliated me with words, insulted me. They took me to the police station and continued to humiliate and threaten me. They kept me for almost three hours and then let me go without even an apology. However, the client refuses to write a complaint on account of his fear of persecution. Consultations were held: “know your rights” as well “behavior during detention”

*name changed

Ahmed*, March 2021
A client of OST site (opioid substitution therapy) came to get methadone on *** Street. Received the methadone dose for 7 days. Left the site. He was stopped by police officers, then they concealed him in the vehicle, they have taken him to a distant place, threatened, beaten, forced him to cooperate and provide them with the necesary information about the other clients of the site. They kept me in the car for more than three hours and then let me go. the client does not want to make a complaint against the police officers. A street lawyer provided advice on “citizen’s rights”

*name changed

Utkur*, October 2021
**.10.2021, the client left the OST site and was stopped by a district police officer named *** and a police officer ***. They put him in a car, hit him over the head with a plastic bottle of water and told him to either hand over other consumers or pay them 1,000 soms a month for gasoline, otherwise they would put him in jail. The client agreed to pay 1,000 soms per month and was released with the supposition  that the client would bring the money the next day. The next day, fearing police persecution, he left for another city, where he remains to this day.

*name changed

Vladimir*, December 2021
After the client received the methadone dose and was heading home, a car stopped on the road near the client. Two people in civilian clothes got out of the car and introduced themselves as police officers and offered the client to take off. As a consequence of the client’s refusal, they rudely stuffed him into a car and took him to the GOM. On the spot, a personal search was carried out without witnesses and video recording. Without finding anything illegal, they began to recruit him to work, humiliated him, insulted him with foul language, threatened that they would find something to put him in jail in case he would not start collaborating with them. After five hours of detention, he was released.

*name changed

Analyzing the cases, it is obvious that the violations made by the police are systemic. That is why it was decided to respond in the same systematical way. The lawyer of the project, who advises street lawyers (REAKTORS), wrote an official letter of complaint to the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs that the organization has evidence of regular abuses of authority by police officers in the form of illegal detentions near OST sites. The letter went along with video recordings from street surveillance cameras on neighboring buildings, which recorded the regular presence of police cars near OST sites.

“Oddly enough, we received an official response that this information was taken into account and that the leadership will strengthen control over the legality of the actions of policemen. Sure, this document can be considered an excuse and empty promise. But we made copies of this official letter and distributed them to street lawyers. Now they use this document when negotiating with employees in uniform. Let’s hope that such a strategy will help stop the arbitrariness,” says Baktygul.


Read also:

How legal aid helps end TB and HIV

Access to justice through… deprivation of parental rights?


Reminder:

The project “Street Lawyers” is implemented by the Foundation’s “Public Health” program

Soros-Kyrgyzstan with the assistance of the United Nations Development Program. This initiative appeared in response to the current problems of vulnerable groups.

Street lawyers are trained employees of non-governmental organizations in Kyrgyzstan, representing and defending the interests of vulnerable groups, key in the context of deterrence

HIV epidemics.

Read more about the project.

Categories
Response stories

Access to justice through… deprivation of parental rights?

According to the legislation of Kyrgyzstan, there are seven main reasons why parental rights can be terminated in the country. If parents (one of them):

  • evade the fulfillment of the duties of parents, including in the case of malicious evasion to pay alimony;
  • refuse without good reason to take their child from a maternity hospital or from another medical and educational institution;
  • abuse their parental rights;
  • mistreat children, including physical or mental violence against them, encroach on their sexual inviolability;
  • are patients with chronic alcohol addiction or drug addiction;
  • have committed an intentional crime against the life or health of their children or spouse;
  • allow their minor children to wander, involve them in the worst forms of child labor.

However, alas, in practice there are a number of other reasons why a parent can be considered by the authorities as a potential violator and a person who deserves such a terrible punishment – deprivation of rights in relation to their child. For example, his HIV status and stigmatization as a representative of marginalized groups.

“Bad Parent”

On **/ **, 2021, in the Chui region (Kyrgyzstan), a meeting was held with the participation of the client, mentors and the REActor. The reason was the claim of the Social Development Office represented by the Department for Support of Family and Childhood (hereinafter as the DSFC) of the Sokuluk district of the Chui region, to deprive the girl of parental rights due to their improper implementation. The client explained the possible reasons for such an appeal: she is a representative of the PLHIV community, a former pupil of an orphanage and, unfortunately, does not have her own housing. The girl categorically disagreed with such a claim and asked for help – to defend her rights and the rights of her children, since she did not have the opportunity to hire a qualified lawyer.

At the coordination meeting, it was decided to help the client and join the REActor as a representative and mentor, for control as a second representative. Trials have begun…

“Children in Danger”

The position of the FCSD of the Sokuluk district was clear from the very beginning: they insisted on depriving the client of parental rights, since she cannot provide the children with housing and food. The REActor, together with the client, opened a voluntary patent, and after talking with his organization – Ishenim-Nuru Public Foundation, he was ready to provide the family with temporary housing. All documents and petition from the organization were submitted to the court for consideration and legal assessment. However, the representatives of the DSFC of the Sokuluk region and the prosecutor of the Sokuluk region participating in the case, having learned that the organization provides assistance and temporary accommodation to a representative of the PLHIV community, were against the placement of children in this organization, arguing that the children could be in danger.

What is the way out?

After long processes, an alternative solution was found. The client’s ex-husband agreed to provide her and her children with their temporary home. On these terms, the DSFC of the Sokuluk region agreed to withdraw their claim. On December 16, 2021, a trial was held with a ruling on the termination of the civil case on the claim of the DSFC of the Sokuluk district for the deprivation of parental rights. The client returned her children and currently lives with them.


Remember, if you or your loved ones need help in Kyrgyzstan, a REActor is a community representative, an NGO employee who, in addition to providing services and outreach work, is a “street lawyer” and documents cases of rights violations when community members turn to him with complaints. The REActor can advise, provide psychological support and provide primary legal advice, help with the preparation of primary documentation for solving the case.

In Kyrgyzstan, REActors represent 13 NGOs located in different cities of the country, one REActor per region. REActor travel to cities and towns of the region in order to collect information and provide services to clients.

Categories
Brochures Education courses Useful materials

ECOM: Manual on monitoring and documentation of LGBTQ human rights violations

According to data obtained between 2015 and 2018, the HIV epidemic continues to develop among MSM and trans people in the majority of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEECA).

In the 2016 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS, passed by the UN General Assembly, UN members, including all states in our region, confirmed that the realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms contributes to global measures taken in response to the HIV epidemic, and pledged to promote the adoption of laws, strategies, and approaches aimed at eliminating HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

ECOM believes that one of the key elements to putting an end to the concentrated HIV epidemic in the CEECA region is the elimination of legal, social, economic, and gender barriers to accessing services. Legal and normative barriers in countries of our region are exacerbated by stigma in society, which, in turn, is strengthened by government actions, or inactions regarding the investigation of cases of violence and discrimination towards gay men, other MSM, and trans people.

View the original publication on the ECOM website.

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News

Every third drug user arrested is subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment during arrest or detention

Eastern Europe and Central Asia is the only region in the world where new HIV infections among all age groups have continued to rise, according to UNAIDS data.

The policy environment in EECA is dominated by punitive drug laws. People who live with drug dependence are exposed to discrimination based on their chronic health condition, arbitrary arrest, and ill-treatment by the police.

EECA Drugs Regulation

EECA Drugs Regulation

The color scale shows the severity of punishment in the countries’ legislation for drug use and possession for personal use. However, the light color doesn’t mean that
drug users are not criminalized in the country. Rather, in the countries (such as Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan) where laws related to drug use are quite progressive police
practices on the ground remain quite discriminative against drug users.

Evidence collected in REAct

the number of cases registered in each country during the entire period of documentation) As of November 1, 2021

The most frequent violators of PWIDs’ rights are the police (from 18% in Moldova to 68% in Kyrgyzstan) and the healthcare system (from 14% in Kyrgyzstan to 61% in Russia). However, the types of violations are quite different if we compare these two groups of perpetrators.
In respect of the healthcare system, we have recorded such cases as humiliating treatment or denial of health services, which are not so severe and violent as excessive use of force, violence, torture, arbitrary detentions that the police practice on a regular basis against drug users.
The table below shows that the range of violations committed by the police is much broader than those committed by other perpetrators.

All in all, on average one out of every three cases registered in the EECA region, is about the police and law enforcement agencies severely violating fundamental human rights such as the right to life, freedom, bodily integrity etc.

Most common violations in relation to drug users

At a first glance at this table, it becomes clear that most violations take place in healthcare settings. Indeed, 43% of complaints are related to discriminative denial of health services. However, it is important to keep in mind that when a client sought for health services, he/she comes to an NGO, so that a REActor (paralegal) can easily document the case.

Alternately, when a person is detained it is almost impossible to reach him/her with legal services or document such a case, as police officers rarely even let detainees make phone calls. That is why, we believe, the percentage of cases attributable to the
police that we have managed to record are just a small portion of the actual number of violations practiced by the police.

The evidence we have collected proves that violations such as police violence, arbitrary detentions, forced confessions are deeply enrooted in the day-to-day practices of police officers. Such cases should be considered as routine practices rather than rare exceptions.


Read the full report

Drug users and human rights. The situation in Eastern Europe and Central Asia region

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Brochures Publications Reports Useful materials

Drug users and human rights. The situation in the EECA region

The policy environment in EECA is dominated by punitive drug laws. People who live with drug dependence are exposed to discrimination based on their chronic health condition, arbitrary arrest, and ill-treatment by the police.

According to the statistics, collected through REAct tool, every third drug user arrested is subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment during arrest or detention.

Categories
Response stories

Goodbye, the oath of Hippocrates or the fragility of medical secrecy

You risk not only your health, but also your reputation

By law, doctors and medical staff are not allowed to disclose information related to the patient’s health without his/her consent. Alas, this rule is often violated, which causes family conflicts, nervous breakdowns, and even suicide attempts. This is especially true of diagnoses that are still condemned in some countries, including Tajikistan: HIV / AIDS, hepatitis, and psychiatric illness…

Of course, there are times when it is necessary to talk to third parties about the diagnosis, for example:

  • when the patient is not able to express his will (in a state of coma), and doctors need to know if he/she suffers from diabetes and if he is taking any medications.
  • in case of an unfavorable prognosis of the development of the disease. Then it is allowed to provide information about the patient’s state of health to his spouse or one of the close relatives
  • with the threat of the spread of infections or mass poisoning.
  • either when there is a trial (you can transfer information about the disease upon request to the relevant authorities), or the patient is a minor (information about the disease is transmitted only to his parents or guardians).

By the way, in Soviet medical institutions (usually these were oncologic dispensaries), after the examination, three extracts were drawn up: one remained in the card of the department, the second was for a medical institution, and the third was handed over in an envelope. Moreover, often not even to the patient, but to his relatives (this was done out of good intentions: relatives can more delicately inform the patient about difficult news).

In a stigmatized society, many people are still forced to hide their status. But the information scatters in seconds, as soon as it “goes outside”: the doctor told the nurse, the nurse told her friend, a friend – a relative, and the town is so small… And the disclosure of medical secrets becomes a real crime against this person.

Neighborhood close to tortures

Alfia (name has been changed) has lived in the town *** all her life, led a normal life.
The woman learned that she had HIV during her pregnancy. There was shock, doubts, a depressed state, but after weighing all the pros and cons, I decided to give birth. The baby was born healthy.

The delivery was attended by nursing staff who knew about her status, including a nurse – her neighbor.
A year later, during a quarrel, the nurse began to insult Alfia and shout to the whole yard: “Alfia has AIDS, Alfia is a prostitute, etc.” And her son threatened to write the name and status of the woman on the poster so that all other neighbors would know about it.
For Alfia, it was a strong psychological blow, it became ashamed and scared. Going outside has become like torture for her, and she thinks about moving, fearing bullying from neighbors.

Corpus delicti … not found

Alfia came to REActor. Together with the REAct lawyer, a statement was drawn up to initiate a criminal case against the nurse and submitted to the prosecutor’s office in accordance with Art. 145 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan (On medical secrecy). Criminal liability under this article is imprisonment for up to 2 years with the deprivation of the right to hold certain positions or engage in certain activities for the same period (maximum penalty).

However, according to a written response dated September 14, 2021, number 12 / 230-21, the prosecutor, having examined the application against the nurse, did not reveal any offense in her actions, which would fall under Article 145 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan. In this connection, unfortunately, it was refused to initiate a criminal case.

What does the law say?

According to Art. 23 of the Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan (RT), the collection, storage, use and dissemination of information about a person’s personal life without his consent is prohibited, i.e. establishes the right of every citizen to privacy, personal and family secrets. Medical secrecy is a personal secret.

Medical and pharmaceutical workers are obliged to keep medical confidentiality (information about the state of health, about visiting a health care organization) and other personal information (Article 49 of the Health Code of the Republic of Tajikistan). Also, according to part 2 of article 162 of the Health Code of the Republic of Tajikistan, information received about HIV infection is confidential (medical secret) and at the request of health authorities, if this is required in the interests of protecting public health in order to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, on the basis of a court order or upon request the investigating authorities are provided with such information. It is prohibited to use this information for the purposes of criminal administrative prosecution of persons, except for the cases established by the legislation of the Republic of Tajikistan.

В случае отсутствия названных в законе условий врач не имеет права разглашать врачебную тайну. Он не может предоставить такого рода информацию даже родным и близким больного. Обязанность не разглашать сведения, составляющие врачебную тайну, распространяется, прежде всего, на медицинских работников (врачей, медицинских сестер, санитарок, сиделок, регистраторов, студентов, проходящих практику в лечебных учреждениях) и фармацевтических работников. Если диагноз пациента разгласили лица, которые узнали о нем при исполнении служебных обязанностей, они могут быть привлечены к ответственности.


You might be interested in:

The invisible barrier: how fear makes one silently endure

Positive marriage: in Tajikistan, HIV-positive status is an obstacle to marriage registration

Breakthrough in human rights protection in Tajikistan: court fined 20,000 somoni from husband for disclosing wife’s HIV+ status

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News Response stories

Time to act, time to remember

According to the latest data, there are about 50,000 people, who inject drugs in Georgia, which is an alarming figure for the population of our country. The issue of overdose management is especially relevant today in the entire civilized world since new psychoactive substances have become widespread and every day a new species of substance appears on the market. What’s more, the statistics of overdoses registered at the governmental level in Georgia are significantly different from the cases identified by the non-governmental sector.

International Overdose Awareness Day shares the grief of family and friends who have lost a loved one to an overdose. This International Campaign honored those who have died or received permanent injuries due to drug overdoses and aimed to raise awareness of the problem of overdose deaths and to draw the attention of decision-makers to legal, human and supportive ways to prevent overdose.

Global massage of this Campaign became: “Time to remember. time to act”. That’s why, this day GeNPUD, Georgian Harm reduction Network GHRN member organizations, activists, drug users, family members of the deceased, joined the International Overdose Awareness Day with planting eternity Cyprus trees (“Trees of life”) as a tradition – to honor the memory of the deceased.

Within the campaign of 2021 we, as well as partner organizations (from other regions of Georgia – Phoenix and Rubikon, from Ozurgeti and Kutaisi) once again reminded the government to humanize the drug policy and the vital importance of removing Naloxone from the drug prescription system. We aimed to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related death. It was also important for us to start an evidence-based discussion on overdose prevention and drug policy. That’s why, to commemorate this day, several parallel activities took place on 31 August:

Online webinar

Its agenda Included the following presenters and topics:

Maka Gogia – Drug Scene and Overdose Among the Beneficiaries of Harm Reduction Program – Georgian Harm Reduction Network
Khatuna Todadze – “Referral to Drug Clinics during the Covid Pandemic” – Deputy Director General of the Center for Mental Health and Drug Prevention, Narcologist
Irma Kirtadze – How to behave in case of overdose – Alternative Georgia
Lasha Abesadze – New Vector – Drug Scene, Cases of Overdose

Government appeal

Articles

Planting trees

Also, GeNPUD production filmed a short video about the campaign and we would be glad to share it with you.

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News

Training on documenting violations of the rights for REActors took place in Tajikistan

On October 29 and 30, 2021, a training on documenting violations of the rights of people living with HIV and members of vulnerable groups was held in Dushanbe. The participants of the training were REActors and street lawyers from all regions of the Republic of Tajikistan, who are filling in or will fill in the electronic REAct database.

All participants of the training for safety reasons passed a rapid test for COVID-19 before the training and received negative test results.

The REAct tool has been operating in Tajikistan for more than 2 years. Before the start of the project, in 2019, an introductory 4-day training was conducted with the participation of four experts from the UK, who explained the theory of human rights and the methodology of working with the database.

“The system itself had not yet been launched in the region at that time, and we could only assume at that first training how it should all work. And years later, a new training is conducted not on theory, but on real and practical lessons / cases.
The new insights were obtained as the result of joint work of developers, coordinators and documentarians. A huge amount of information was analyzed in order to bring the work to a new, more efficient level.
The new training combines not only basic knowledge of human rights in the context of key populations, but also practical advices on how to technically document violations. The participants of the training clearly saw how everything works in reality, all on real examples. ” – says Victoria Kalyniuk, trainer and regional coordinator of the REAct system in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Victoria Kalyniuk, trainer and regional coordinator of the REAct system in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The trainer had an important task to convey complex theoretical, legal information into simple language, understandable for a non-certified lawyer. It was important to ensure that this complicated information is perceived and transmitted further to people, in order to raise awareness of their rights among clients. To this end, training materials were presented in the form of comics and cartoons so that participants could understand and communicate to clients the complex concept of human rights and state responsibility.

“It is very important that at the training the mechanism for responding to human rights violations, the procedure for actions after the case is documented, the algorithm for responding to the fact of violation based on the national legislation of the country was fine-tuned. After all, our goal is to help each client in a difficult life situation in which the client finds himself. He trusts us, and we have no right to leave him. ” – says one of the training participants from Khorog.

The training program was designed in such a way to teach the project participants to collect exactly that information and evidence, which can then be used for planning programs and projects, planning financial resources, for dialogue with government agencies, for planning interventions.

“All this (ed.note: violation of rights, the role of the state) to identify, correctly document and describe in one case is a whole methodology. At first glance, you might get the feeling that we are just filling out a ready-made base of questions. But in fact, this is all much deeper, since these are true stories and these are living people who have had a difficult fate. In our work, it is very important not to succumb to emotions and impressions, “not to become limp”, but to document evidence and help our clients to defend their rights “- a participant from Khujand shares her experience.

“It was important for me to give confidence to our reactors. After all, they are on the front line every day, they often risk their safety, and sometimes they themselves do not understand what more feats are done by their hands. Although they are not certified lawyers, they have a well-deserved reputation in their communities and are essentially “first aid” when someone from the community is detained or denied medical services. I am honored to help them understand the complex subject of human rights and teach them how to use the REAct tool to bring more structure to their day-to-day work and respond to violations of rights more effectively and efficiently. ” – sums up the trainer of the REAct project.


You may be interested in:

For the first half of 2021, 165 violations were registered in Tajikistan.
Six organizations from all regions of the Republic of Tajikistan are implementing the REAct system in the country.


Read more about Tajikistan:

Positive marriage: in Tajikistan, HIV-positive status is an obstacle to marriage registration

Breakthrough in human rights protection in Tajikistan: court fined 20,000 somoni from husband for disclosing wife’s HIV+ status

The invisible barrier: how fear makes one silently endure

Categories
Response stories

Great victory! The OST site is finally opened in Orhei

The fact that in the city of Orhei (Republic of Moldova) there was no OST site for several years, we have already written here earlier. And only almost two years after the first case of this situation was documented in the REAct system, this problem was finally resolved. But let’s take a closer look from the beginning.

Since 2015, 40 patients from Orhei have had to travel 100 km to Chisinau every day to receive substitution therapy drugs. This fact created many difficulties for them, including travel costs and employment problems. People with disabilities faced particular obstacles since it was very difficult for them to physically overcome such distances on a daily basis, as well as women who had no one to leave their children with. This also led to an overload of the substitution therapy site in Chisinau, which served 150 patients, including those from Orhei.

In early 2020, REAct (a tool for systematic monitoring of violations of rights at the community level) was launched in Moldova. A REActor from Orhei recorded 27 appeals about the barriers that patients have to overcome in order to get their medicine.

Nikolay *
Moldova, April 2020
I am a client of methadone substitution therapy, every day I have to travel from the city of Orhei to the city of Chisinau to get the medication. For many years politicians have been promising to open an OST site in our city, but for various reasons, this remains only a promise. Despite the fact that there is methadone in the country, and in our city there is a narcology treatment. I can’t get a job and provide for my family.

*name changed

NGO “Positive Initiative”, coordinating the implementation of the REAct system in Moldova, together with other organizations and stakeholders in the country, initiated a dialogue with local authorities, with UNODC Moldova, with the Republican Narcological Dispensary, and with the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Moldova. Despite the fact that back in December 2019, the Ministry of Health adopted Order No. 1378 on the opening of an OST site in Orhei, until mid-2021, no real action was taken due to the reluctance of the management of the medical institution to serve drug users.

That is why on August 18, 2021, a lawyer representing the NGO “Positive Initiative” filed an application to the Council for the Prevention and Elimination of Discrimination and Ensuring Equality, in which he argued that the absence of an office for issuing opioid substitution therapy in Orhei was a violation of patients’ right to access health services.

“As they say, one is not a warrior in the field. And if we want to achieve systemic changes in the country, then we should combine our efforts and act as a single mechanism. Cooperation of all interested players is the key to victory. In our case, we colaborated with the National HIV Program, Moldova’s Chief Narcologist, partner organizations, representatives of regional networks and, most importantly, the patients themselves. ” – says Ruslan Poverga, General Director of OA “Positive Initiative”.

A lot of efforts were made, many meetings were held at various levels, many promises were heard and again many meetings … A video appeal was even recorded on behalf of the non-governmental sector in order to attract the attention of the public and the press.

Time passed, but the situation remained unchanged for a long time. But nevertheless, every action brought us closer to the goal. And finally, on October 25, 2021, the substitution therapy center in the city of Orhei opened!

The beneficiaries, in disbelief, came to the site yesterday and received theie medication. For most of them, it took 15 minutes, instead of the 4 hours previously spent daily. People who are overcoming addiction are grateful that now many of them can get a job near their home and they no longer need to spend money and time to travel to another city to get medicine. It is very pleasant that with joint efforts we managed to open this point! Every person in our country has the right to health, regardless of their place of residence and the degree of their vulnerability.

Categories
Response stories

Being physically abused and locked up at home for a week dares to fight for her rights

React reports show that violations of rights of sex workers, discrimination, and degrading treatment are frequent in Georgia. It is noteworthy that in many cases beneficiaries refrain from complaining to the police because of their affiliation with sex work, which is due to self-stigma in the community.

We would like to consider a success story, where a sex worker decided to fight for her rights, and with our help, the case was resolved positively for the beneficiary.

The story

The sex worker lived with her husband and three children. Because of the social and economic situation of the family, the wife decided to get involved in sex work to provide for their children. However, due to the stigmatization of sex work, she decided not to disclose that. The husband found out that she was involved in sex work, which resulted in her being physically abused and locked up at home for a week. Then, with the help of a neighbor, she managed to get out of the house and called the police. The beneficiary also contacted one of our Reactors, who took care of the beneficiary’s housing and her inclusion into the relevant shelter program. The husband received a warning in the form of a restraining order.

The beneficiary, accompanied by our lawyer, intends to fully protect her and her children’s rights to an adequate environment for their development. The beneficiary intends to file a lawsuit against the spouse and divorce him. Temporarily, their housing issue has been resolved, but they soon plan to move to live separately with the children.

Rather exception than a rule

Similar cases have been extensively documented within the React system, although only in a few of the cases the beneficiaries decided to fight for their rights and file a complaint. It is important for beneficiaries to learn more about their right to defend themselves or to dare and ask for help. The React Team in Georgia has been actively working to increase the awareness of beneficiaries.

The issue of stigma / discrimination and self-stigma is also important, it often prevents beneficiaries from disclosing cases of violation of rights. The React team is working as part of a social campaign to raise awareness of public stigma / discrimination/ self-stigma.

Raising awareness and sensitization of beneficiaries and the public will reduce the prevalence of violation of rights and increase the number of respondents.

What the Law says?

According to Article 9 of the Constitution of Georgia, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment of a person shall be prohibited, while Article 10 protects the physical integrity of a person. According to Article 126 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, violence against a family member committed by another one, insults, humiliation are punishable acts. In compliance with the law, detection and appropriate response to cases of violence against women and/or domestic violence must be exercised by law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, as well as victim identification groups.

Criminal, civil legal, and administrative legal mechanisms are used to detect and prevent violence against women and / or domestic violence. Administrative legal mechanisms apply if an offense, according to legislation, does not entail criminal liability and can be prevented under provisions of the Code of Administrative Offenses.

The law of Georgia refers to protective and restraining orders as a temporary measure to protect victims of violence and to ensure restriction of certain actions by the perpetrator by an authority or an official authorized to promptly respond to domestic violence cases. The state offers state-owned shelters for victims of violence against women and / or domestic violence, where victims are provided with psychological and social rehabilitation services, legal and medical aid, emergency medical and legal aid. It is also possible for a victim to stay temporarily at the place of residence and to have the abuser evicted from the abode, even if the abode is owned by the abuser.

Call!

If you are a victim of violence against women and / or domestic violence or have information about cases of violence, please call 24/7 LEPL Human Fund for Victims of Trafficking, Victims of Domestic Violence Advice Line at the Advice Hot Line: +995 32 116 006 or 112

Categories
News Response stories

Social campaign #FightStigma within REAct against stigma and discrimination is being successfully implemented in Georgia

The REAct team in Georgia is successfully implementing a social campaign #FightStigma to tackle the existing problems and raise awareness, which includes raising awareness of the problems of vulnerable groups, making videos to raise awareness among groups, preparing articles, media engagement, and many other activities that contribute to this group. In the process of fighting.

As part of the social campaign, information articles and posters were prepared and also, an online webinar on stigma and discrimination was conducted, which was broadcast on social platforms and media. Existing articles were advertised to increase awareness.

Change begins with you – the stigma surrounds you
Take a step and fight discrimination!
Fight HIV stigma
Self-stigma in vulnerable groups

Topics:

On 31 August the webinar within the framework of the social campaign of stigma/discrimination on the topic – “Time to act, time to remember” was held on the International Day of Overdose Awareness Day include important topics on this matter as well. The campaign also included planting trees (by the financial support of sos_project) in several cities of Georgia In honor of the memory of people who died of overdoses. Under the campaign public appeal was prepared to address the faced challenges and demand the active response of decision-makers.
Watch the webinar here.

SocialCampaign #FightStigma #SayNoToDiscrimination #REACT #GHRN
Appeal on International Overdose Awareness Day – Time to act, Time To remember
Categories
Response stories

The invisible barrier: how fear makes one silently endure

Human rights violations occur all over the world. And in most cases, this happens due to discriminatory laws and practices, although the government is supposed to protect – not do harm – ensuring equality for everyone without exception.

There is a key population that is at a greater risk than others. It includes people living with HIV (PLHIV), whose rights are violated almost everywhere, incl. by law enforcement agencies and at health care facilities. Moreover, the human factor ‘contributes’ as well – people, despite the generally available information about HIV, still treat PLHIV with apprehension, spreading discrimination and stigma against them, which are generally recognized barriers for this group’s access to prevention, treatment, and support.

Due to effective treatment (antiretroviral therapy), people living with HIV can now live long, healthy and active lives with little (or no) risk of transmitting the virus to their partners. This achievement has also contributed to the elimination of some aspects of discrimination. Nevertheless, the fear of negative attitudes of others is often stronger than that of the disease as such.

Tell me who your friend is…

In Tajikistan, violation of rights of PLHIV is criminally punishable, but people with HIV, just as before, are exposed to stigma and insults both from their relatives and from representatives of authorities (who are supposed to, on the contrary, protect their rights). Therefore, due to the fear of discrimination and stigma, they often either do not seek help or are afraid to take their case through to the end.

Our protagonist has been living with HIV for a long time, due to the fault of a man who failed to tell her about his disease. When Muhabbat (the name is changed) found out about her own positive status, she was confused, but she quickly pulled herself together and lived on. In December 2020, she was unexpectedly summoned to the district police department. Upon her entering the office, law enforcement agency representatives started referring to her as an ‘enemy of the people.’ She was interrogated in a rude manner about the disease, how she had got it, whom she had infected. The police requested that she wrote an explanatory note and narrated her entire story in it. Muhabbat refused to, as well as she refused to sign any documents. They continued interrogating her for a long time, then she was released. But the issue did not end there.

A week later, police officers requested that a telecommunication operator disclosed all phone numbers of this woman’s contacts, called her friends and relatives, and demanded that they be tested for HIV! All of them received negative results, but Muhabbat’s life changed dramatically since then. After the close ones had found out about the protagonist’s status, they started avoiding and stigmatizing her in every possible way. It got to the point that they stopped eating meals at the same table with her, each time they would remind her of her illness and insult her. Hoping for support, Muhabbat turned to REAct.

Fear and renouncement of one’s rights

The REActor suggested that the client drew up a statement to the highest public authority on the illegal actions of the operative staff, disclosure of the information by the telecom company, as well as against her relatives. Muhabbat took a break, but after much deliberation, she decided not to contact law enforcement agencies because of her fear.

Alas, this is not the first time: PLHIV often refuse to seek help because they have no trust either in law enforcement agencies, or the judicial system. After all, lots of cases have been documented where a victim wrote a complaint against the offenders, but no adequate action was taken by the police (i.e. there is no effective mechanism in the state to protect the rights of its citizens).

Lawyer’s comments

Were the actions of the police officers legal? Do they have the right to ask such questions?

Police officers cannot summon or interrogate a person without any reason. But if there is a reason or a grievance or complaint has been filed against a person, then law enforcement agencies have the right to summon the person for interrogation. However, summoning one without any reason, i.e. ‘just like that’, without a statement (notification) of a crime or offense that would have been received and that required verification, is illegal. Summons must always be justified. Quite often, a citizen is not summoned but invited by phone. Whether or not to appear for such an invitation is up to each and every one. According to regulations, summons must be official, and they must indicate in which quality the citizen is summoned.

Interrogating a woman having the HIV status where she got HIV from and who she could infect is already illegal and is interference with privacy. Article 17, ICCPR states: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

Besides, according to Article 23 of the Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan, “Collection, storage, use, and dissemination of information about a person’s personal life without his/her consent shall be prohibited.” The woman has the right to apply to the prosecutor’s office with a statement about interference with her personal life, as well as to court to recover compensation for moral damage and disclosure of her status.
Under Article 8 of the Law of the Republic of Tajikistan On Field Investigative Activities, operative staff shall have the right to perform field activities (conducting field investigative measures that restrict constitutional rights of a person and a citizen to the privacy of correspondence, telephone conversations, postal items, telegraph and other messages transmitted by electrical and postal communication networks, as well as the right to inviolability of the home) based on a substantiated resolution of authorities performing field investigative activities at the request of an authorized prosecutor and sanction of an authorized judge, and if the following information is available:

  • on signs of a criminal offense being prepared, being committed, or having been committed, in respect of which preliminary investigation is mandatory
  • on persons preparing, committing, or having committed criminal offenses, in respect of which preliminary investigation is mandatory;
  • on events or actions (inaction) that pose a threat to public, state, military, economic, informational, or environmental security of the Republic of Tajikistan.
How should a person behave in such a situation?

If summoned to the police, one – especially a woman – just needs to know one’s rights. According to the Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan, “Everyone is equal before the law!” No one has the right to interfere with personal life. To request the participation of a lawyer, without the participation of a lawyer to not sign any documents and not write explanatory reports.

Just to say to the police officers: “I will not say anything, I will not sign any papers without the presence of a lawyer.” Under Article 46 of the Code of Criminal Procedures of the Republic of Tajikistan, if a person is considered a suspect, he or she shall have the right to give or not give explanations or testimonies and to be informed about this right before interrogation.

Is a person obliged to write an explanatory report by order of a police officer?

In practice, situations often arise associated with summons to law enforcement agencies for testimony, questioning, explanations, etc. Offering explanations is a voluntary communication of information of interest to law enforcement agencies not regulated by law. This is a certain form of documenting evidence in writing. Any information received from a person is drawn up by a law enforcement officer in the form of a written explanation. This is done in order to compile verification materials, where all collected documents are filed, including explanations.

If you believe that your rights were violated when writing an explanatory report (for example, the pressure was exerted, obscene language was used), you can submit a complaint about the actions (inaction) of the police officers to the manager or to the prosecutor’s office.

Moreover, you can go to court with a statement about the illegality of the actions of law enforcement agencies and recover compensation for moral damage.


In 2020, in Tajikistan, REActors documented 165 cases of human rights violations. 121 of them were cases involving PLHIV. Most violations documented were by their relatives, spouses, and neighbors.
In Tajikistan, REActors represent 8 NGOs located in different cities of the country, one REActor per region. REActors can make trips to cities and towns of the region in order to collect information and provide services to clients. Cases are also documented via the hotline on the protection of key populations’ rights by the Human Rights Center. A REActor in Tajikistan is a community representative, an NGO employee who – in addition to providing services and outreach work – documents cases of rights violations when community members submit complaints to them. A REActor can provide counseling, psychological support, or referral. If a case requires more professional legal intervention, it is referred to the national legal coordinator from the Human Rights Center.
The REAct system is being implemented in Tajikistan within the framework of the #SoS_project Sustainability of Services for Key Populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (2019-2021) and the UNDP Project to reduce human rights-related barriers to HIV services in the Republic Tajikistan (04/2020-31/2020). The framework’s implementation is supported by NGO “SPIN Plus” in cooperation with the Human Rights Center and coordinated at the regional level by ICF Alliance for Public Health.
You can report a case of your rights’ violation and get support using REAct Feedback. Describe details of the situation that happened to you, how and when your rights were violated, and a reactor will contact you to help solve the problem. Don’t keep silent and help will be provided!

Categories
Response stories

Is it a crime to divulge HIV status by medical staff?

In everyday life, people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Uzbekistan are still often subjected to stigma, abuse and domestic violence. During the first half of 2021, within the framework of the project “Reducing Barriers Associated with Violation of Human Rights (REAct)”, implemented by the NGO “ISHONCH VA HAYOT”. 217 appeals from PLHIV and representatives of risk groups were recorded. Of these, 140 were qualified as human rights violations. In addition, 168 cases reported stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV: for example, relatives do not allow to eat at a common table, use common tableware, or even kick out of the house, and this is during the open access with scientifically proven information about the transmission HIV.

Today in Uzbekistan, despite the efforts of the government and civil society, there remains a difficult situation with public awareness of the methods of transmission, prevention and treatment of HIV, hence there are many outdated stereotypes about the infection and the ways of its transmission.

HIV-related stigma and discrimination often stems from healthcare workers who willfully or unintentionally disclose the HIV status of patients. In one of the cases registered in the REAct system, a woman was stigmatized by her neighbors due to the carelessness of the medical staff. The nurse of the family polyclinic, where the client is receiving ART, disclosed the client’s information (HIV status) because of the personal hostility and condemnation of the woman “who contracted HIV”. The nurse and the client lived in the same mahela (district), they have common acquaintances among the neighbors, to whom the nurse told the client’s status. The nurse did not have any obvious reason to divulge the secret of her patient’s diagnosis. It is assumed that the incident happened due to professional negligence and lack of complete and high-quality information about HIV infection and life with HIV.

The client turned to REActor for help and asked how this issue could be resolved. First of all, REActor informed the client about human rights issues and why it is important to defend them in the context of HIV.

The client was advised to write a statement for disclosing medical information and go to court. The woman refused out of fear that an even wider circle of people who would be involved in the trial would find out about her status. Then the client was asked to contact the chief doctor of the healthcare facility so that the distribution of confidential medical information was stopped by the staff of this medical institution. If this does not help, then REActor and the project’s lawyer have indicated their willingness to assist in drafting a complaint to the Ministry of Health on this situation.

After talking with the project staff, the client made up her mind and came to the chief doctor of the family polyclinic. The chief doctor invited a nurse and held an explanatory conversation with her with a warning of dismissal in the event of a repeated similar violation of medical ethics. The nurse apologized for her actions and confirmed that this would not happen again, as a result, the parties were reconciled.

Remember!

According to the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan on the protection of citizens’ health

Article 45. Medical secrecy:

Information about the fact of seeking medical help, the state of health of a citizen, the diagnosis of his illness and other information obtained during his examination and treatment constitute a medical secret.

It is not allowed without the consent of a citizen or his legal representative to disclose information constituting a medical secret by persons who became aware of it during training, the performance of professional, official and other duties, except for the cases established by part three of this article.

The provision of information constituting a medical secret without the consent of a citizen or his legal representative is allowed:

  • for the purpose of examining and treating a citizen who, due to his condition, is unable to express his will;
  • with the threat of the spread of infectious diseases, mass poisoning and injuries;
  • at the request of the bodies of inquiry and investigation, the prosecutor’s office and the court in connection with an investigation or trial;
  • in case of rendering assistance to a minor under the age of fourteen to inform his parents or legal representatives;
  • if there are grounds for believing that harm to the health of a citizen was caused as a result of unlawful actions or an accident.

Persons to whom information constituting a medical secret has been transferred in accordance with the established procedure, along with medical and pharmaceutical workers, are liable for disclosing medical secrets in accordance with the law.

Also, the Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Administrative Responsibility:

Article 46. Disclosure of information that may cause moral or material damage to a citizen

Disclosure of medical or commercial secrets, secrets of correspondence and other messages, notarial actions, banking operations and savings, as well as other information that may cause moral or material damage to a citizen, his rights, freedoms and legal interests, in the absence of signs of an offense provided for in Article 461 of this Of the Code, – entails the imposition of a fine on citizens from one second to two, and on officials – from two to five basic calculated values.

Article 461. Violation of inviolability of private life

Illegal collection or dissemination of information about the private life of a person, constituting his personal or family secret, without his consent – entails the imposition of a fine from ten to forty basic calculated values.

The Uzbek government recognizes the need to combat stigma and discrimination against people, especially women living with HIV. The topic of women’s rights is highlighted in the priority of the National Development Strategy of Uzbekistan.

Categories
News Response stories

How legal aid helps end TB and HIV

Under the Global Fund grant, UNDP’s “Street Lawyers” project is defending the rights of key population groups, people living with HIV and TB patients on an innovative, peer-to-peer basis led by local NGOs. Stories of successful responses were published on the UNDP information resource in Kyrgyzstan. Read the original article or check it out in the publication below.

People living with HIV, tuberculosis patients, and key population groups* face many problems other than health issues. Problems that keep them from receiving quality and timely prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care. Problems that hinder the fights against TB and HIV worldwide.

To overcome these problems and make it possible to control HIV and TB in Kyrgyzstan, UNDP, together with the Global Fund, is financing and coordinating a legal aid project for these vulnerable groups of the population. Founded in 2016, the “Street Lawyers” project has considerably changed the game, defending the rights of many clients and giving them hope for justice.

Obtaining justice for one, giving hope to others

“People from key population groups are very vulnerable. They are scared to go somewhere and demand something. To a certain degree, they do not want to fight for their rights, because they don’t believe in justice. They don’t believe that someone will back them, that someone will help them, advise them. And when the rights of these people are infringed, they do not turn to state agencies. Before all, representatives of key population groups turn to service organizations,” explains Ilimbek Sadykov, coordinator of the “Street Lawyers” project.

Street lawyers are trained employees of service NGOs working with key population groups, people living with HIV, and TB patients. Although most of them do not have previous legal education, thanks to constant training organized by UNDP, to their mentors, and to the lawyers involved in the project, they are able to successfully defend the rights of their clients. What is more, many of them are themselves, representatives of vulnerable communities, have first-hand experience of their client’s difficulties, and are able to gain their trust. This peer-to-peer legal service has proved to be efficient over the past years.

 “Before, representatives of key groups didn’t trust anyone and considered that one cannot stand against the system. But when they see that their acquaintances received help, their opinion changes,” says Ilimbek Sadykov. Shamil Ibragimov, executive director of the Soros-Kyrgyz Foundation, which is implementing this project for HIV communities, adds: “Beneficiaries, who have received the help of public defenders, later refer their acquaintances to street lawyers, which means that people now understand that one can, and should, fight for their rights.”

Over the years, the number of clients who ask for legal aid keeps growing, as well as the number of successfully resolved cases. A case won does not only change the client’s life for the better, but also shows others that there is justice, and there is a reason to claim it. People who had given up on their rights even before trying to obtain justice now believe that things can be otherwise: they turn to NGOs and street lawyers to denounce discrimination, record rights violation, and take their life back into their hands. This is essential, as legal barriers keep undermining HIV and TB control programs.

Cases ranging from administrative issues to serious rights violations

Street lawyers, or public defenders as they are also called, work with their clients on different cases, ranging from administrative issues, such as obtaining passports and benefits, to more complex rights violations, brought to court with the help of professional lawyers.

As a matter of fact, many representatives of key population groups lack basic ID documents, as a result of which they cannot obtain benefits, receive medical services, or find a job. And in many cases, they are not able to obtain these documents without help, due to difficult life situations coupled with discrimination. “I’m glad that, even without a legal education, I am able to help people. For example, we helped one person living with HIV obtain a passport. He hadn’t been able to get one for many years, because he had no relatives to prove his identity. People without documents cannot appeal anywhere or receive assistance; de facto, they simply don’t exist,” says Elmira, a street lawyer in the city of Osh.

Since 2021, the project was also extended to TB patients, under the leadership of the National Red Crescent Society. “Many TB patients face administrative and legal issues: they don’t have passports, birth certificates, and have nowhere to live. Those who do not have passports cannot receive the monthly motivational payment of 1000 soms from UNDP / Global Fund, since they cannot open a bank account. But many need this money to survive and continue taking their treatment,” adds Kumarkul, who works as a public defender for TB patients.

Other administrative issues solved by public defenders include obtaining state allowances and benefits for disability or HIV, or registration, without which it is particularly difficult to find a job and make use of all civil rights. Sometimes, street lawyers also fight against violations at the medical level: for example, one patient was requested to pay for an X-Ray which should have been free. And for representatives of key communities, who are often in very difficult financial situations, every penny counts.

Photo from UNDP website
 Getting their lives back together

“I understand our beneficiaries’ problems and know how to tackle them. Before, when I had to deal with rights violations in regards to representatives of key groups, I looked for help and turned to lawyers. But then, I understood that I can protect my clients myself,” says Ali, who works in Osh. One of the cases he remembers the most is when he helped a client obtain legal guardianship for his orphaned nephew: “One of the most memorable cases I worked on was when an HIV positive boy lost his parents, and his father’s brother decided to obtain guardianship. It was problematic for him to gather all the required documents; he had been trying to do so for eight months. Then he turned to me for help. In one month, we were able to help him obtain guardianship and benefits for the child.”

Street lawyers often work on cases of illegal detention as well, and do their best to have their clients freed. As they explain, their clients, in particular sex workers, people who inject drugs or ex-detainees are often charged for crimes they did not do as “easy suspects”, sometimes agree to take the blame because of poverty and deprivation, or, in certain cases, see no other solution but theft to put bread on the table. For example, Olga helped free a man who had just been released from jail and detained again for the exact same charges. “I will never forget his mother’s tears. We shouldn’t leave people to their fate. Their life is already hard enough.”

Generally speaking, representatives of key population groups are vulnerable to discrimination, rights violations, and abuse on the part of society, healthcare workers, and law enforcement agencies. But thanks to the “Street Lawyers” project, they are now less afraid to report such cases and stand up for their rights. For more complicated cases, street lawyers can turn to their mentors – professional lawyers – for help and advice, and to advocates who can take cases to court.

Documenting rights violations

One of the lawyers, Erkingul, remembers having sued a T.V. channel for having published a video of an LGBT+ person on YouTube without their consent – a video which destroyed many aspects of this person’s life. “I was scared reading all of the threats in the comments. I was seriously afraid for my client’s safety.” Winning such cases matters not only to the client involved, but also sets precedents to avoid similar rights violations in the future. 

What is more, all of these cases are registered into an electronic database called “React”“We document all cases,” explains Maria, a street lawyer who has been so inspired by her participation in this project that she’s decided to take up legal studies. “These documented cases are our chance to reach out to authorities, to decision-makers, and to show with facts what is the situation with the rights of key groups.” Some of the cases registered in the system include clients who were not allowed to go through roadblocks for medical services during the lockdown, sex workers who were collectively beaten up and robbed, and people living with HIV set up and unjustly blamed for crimes.

“When a person is on their own, it is very hard for them to fight. But they have us. I am sure that we can make things right and, seeing this, others will also be able to obtain justice,” says one of the project participants, Georgiy. Case by case, street lawyers, with the help of their mentors, professionals, NGOs and the UNDP / Global Fund project are working to ensure equal rights for vulnerable people, eliminate stigma and discrimination, and obtain social and legal justice for HIV and TB communities.


*Key population groups or key communities: Groups of the population at higher risk of HIV infection, including people who inject drugs, people living with HIV and their partners, men who have sex with men, sex workers, and (ex) prisoners. Most cases of HIV infection are registered within these groups, who are often socially, materially and legally vulnerable.

Statistical data and analytical reports on the documentation of rights violations and on how they were addressed are available on the REAct website.  

Read more on the “Street Lawyers” project.

Categories
Response stories

Do prisoners have the right to quality health care? The successful story in REAct

In 2020, REActors received 225 requests for help from representatives of key groups from Georgia. Out of that, 191 were qualified as human rights violations, of which 8 were related to prisoners. It is still extremely difficult to even record such cases – the country’s penitentiary system remains one of the most closed, there is practically no access to information, and people themselves are reluctant to share painful issues. But REAactors still manage not only to document the fact of violation of rights, but also to help in solving the situation. One of the real stories below:

Help my child!

The beneficiary’s parent applied to the Service Center of the Harm Reduction Program in *** city, saying that his child, who is HIV positive, is serving his sentence in Penitentiary Establishment #***. His health condition is particularly deteriorating, he is malnourished and his eyesight is impaired. Numerous appeals and requests for a medical examination were followed only by humiliation and an invariable “no” from the local doctor.

The REActor immediately accepted the case and contacted a lawyer and a regional coordinator, who contacted the Penitentiary Service and the Public Defender to address the issue. After our intervention, the convict was examined by doctors, underwent all the needed examinations, X-ray and computer examinations. The beneficiary has the right to use the necessary medical services. If necessary, the medicines allowed in the penitentiary institution should be available to him.

What does the Law say?

According to Article 53 of the Law of Georgia on Medical Activities, when providing medical services to a prisoner, detainee, or captive, an independent medical practitioner is obliged to provide protection and treatment of his / her physical and mental health to the same quality and medical standards as non-detainees or detainees.

It is important for patients to be aware of their rights in the penitentiary system:

  • The accused / convict has the right to receive the necessary medical services.
  • In the penitentiary institution, as soon as the accused / convict is admitted, his / her health condition is checked.
  • The medical care of the accused / convict is provided in accordance with the penitentiary health care standard, in compliance with the requirements for medical care established in the country in the field of health care.
  • • The accused / convict has access to the necessary medications in accordance with the list of basic medicines allowed in the penitentiary institution, approved by the order of the Minister.
  • If it is deemed appropriate to use branded medicine as prescribed by a doctor, the Ministry shall ensure the purchase of appropriate medicine and delivery to the prisoner.
  • In case of a substantiated request, the accused / convict has the right to invite a personal doctor at his / her own expense with the permission of the Director of the Penitentiary Department.
  • If the accused / convict cannot be treated at the medical unit of the detention / imprisonment facility, he / she may be transferred to the Accused / Convicted Medical Institution under the Penitentiary Department or to a general hospital.
  • A person placed in a penitentiary institution enjoys all the rights provided by the Law of Georgia on Patients’ Rights.
Vulnerable means limited?

Unfortunately, in our penitentiary system, there are very frequent cases of restriction of access to medical services, which in itself extends to vulnerable groups who are serving their sentences. In this case, fortunately, our response was immediate, although it should be noted that not all convicts have the opportunity to vote for fans outside the facility. Consequently, it is possible for such a person to be left without assistance.

REAct (Rights – Evidence – Actions) is a tool for monitoring and responding to human rights violations at the community level. In the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region, the system is being implemented by the Public Health Alliance through the #SoS_project regional project. REAct enables you to document and respond to barriers related to human rights, access to services, HIV prevention and treatment.
In Georgia, the main implementing partner is the Georgian Harm Reduction Network (GHRN), which works in partnership with 14 other nongovernmental organizations to provide a wide range of services to key populations, including legal support and women’s rights services.

Categories
Brochures Useful materials

Information Brochure for Beneficiaries on Rights and Legal Aid

The REAct team in Tajikistan has developed information brochures and posters for beneficiaries of partner organizations to raise awareness of typical rights violations, as well as the services that victims can receive from REActors (paralegals).

The brochures contain the contact phone numbers of REActors in the regions, which can provide legal advice by phone or provide emergency legal assistance in cases of illegal detention, violence, or other human rights violations.

Download the brochure in Russian here.
Download the brochure in Tajik here.
Categories
Response stories

Breakthrough in human rights protection in Tajikistan: court fined 20,000 somoni from husband for disclosing wife’s HIV+ status

Currently, in Tajikistan, despite the efforts of the government and civil society, there remains a difficult situation with public awareness about the methods of transmission, prevention, and treatment of HIV, hence there are many outdated stereotypes about infection and people living with HIV (PLHIV).

Thus, in 2020, 165 appeals about human rights violations were registered in the online system REAct, in 121 cases the victim was a person living with HIV, and 48 cases had signs of discrimination due to positive HIV status. In addition, 48% of these violations were done by relatives, spouses, and neighbors. In everyday life, people living with HIV are exposed to stigma, insults, and domestic violence. There were cases when relatives, roommates didn’t allow to eat at a common table, use common utensils, or even kicked out a person with HIV of the house, and this is during open access with scientifically proven information about HIV transmission.

At the same time, it is important to note that in Tajikistan there are a number of laws condemning the violation of the rights of PLHIV, but the statistics of offenses and the history of a married couple from the Tajik hinterland, received by the human rights defenders REAct, outlines the need for active information work among the population under the laws of protecting HIV-positive people.

Trust, but defend your rights

This story began well for the heroine of the story, but the echoes of ignorance around HIV affected her simple desire: a warm home, mutual understanding with her husband, and the happy life of a family with children. This was the second marriage for a woman living with HIV, and she decided to enter into it with a revelation: she warned the groom about her HIV-positive status and he accepted this. In 2016, she married according to the Muslim nikah custom and later gave birth to two children. Despite the pre-wedding frankness between the spouses, her husband began to mock her HIV status and beat her in front of the children. In the hope of preserving the marriage for the sake of children, she silently endured violence and humiliation.

All her attempts to preserve the marriage were unsuccessful. The husband’s aggression only grew and, as a result, led to a logical separation. For six months they lived separately, and the woman mentally prepared herself for a quiet life without a husband.

She started to work and took care of the children, but there was another test ahead of her. Before marriage, her HIV status was known only to her parents, but now her life has changed dramatically. After parting from her husband, relatives began to ask her about HIV, neighbors avoided her in every possible way, the attitude of relatives changed radically. It turned out that her ex-husband began to tell everyone that she was sick with AIDS and for this reason, he did not want to live with her. All hopes of our heroine for a quiet life began to be distorted under the public pressure exerted.

The ice has broken or a breakthrough in the judicial practice of Tajikistan

In despair and in an attempt to restore justice, our heroine turned to a lawyer from the REAct team. There was drawn up and filed a statement of claim to the court “on the recovery of moral damage, illegal disclosure of personal life and health.”

The ex-husband, without good reason, did not appear at the court sessions, dragging out the trial. In the end, the defendant appeared at the trial and began to beg the woman to withdraw the statement of claim, promising a happy life together, but she made a firm decision and did not succumb to his emotional manipulation.

Tajik human rights activists called this case “a breakthrough in the judicial practice of Tajikistan”: on the basis of a court decision, the woman’s claim of her HIV status was disclosed, and recovering moral harm was satisfied. For violation of Article 23 of the Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan, “The collection, storage, use and dissemination of information about a person’s personal life without his consent is prohibited,” the court exacted 20,000 somoni (approximately $ 1,754) from his ex-husband.

Lawyer’s comments: why is this case a breakthrough in the judicial practice of Tajikistan?

“Considering my practice, in which there were many similar claims to protect people living with HIV, the court made an important decision in favor of the victim and this case became a breakthrough in the court practice of the Republic of Tajikistan. The very statement about the recovery of moral damage always evokes a sharp reaction in society. The fact is that there is no established clear amount that can be used to assess the honest name and psychological state of a citizen. In some lawsuits, judges estimate the victim’s moral damage at $ 400, another judge can recover several thousand dollars from the offender, and there are also lawsuits in which citizens are simply denied such claims.

If earlier in cases of dissemination of information about a person’s personal life without his consent, medical workers acted as offenders, then this case is unique due to the rule of law over all subjects of the state who violated the article of the Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan, in this case, the victim’s ex-husband” says the lawyer.

Small victory and ongoing battle of PLHIV

The Government of Tajikistan recognizes the need to combat stigma and discrimination against people, especially women living with HIV. Tajikistan’s National Development Strategy prioritizes women’s rights and the new National AIDS Program 2021–2025 contains a separate section on reducing stigma and discrimination against women living with HIV.

Recognition of the problem at the state level is already having a positive effect on litigation. But there is still insufficient awareness of the country’s population about HIV, which is why people living with HIV continue to discriminate and stigmatize society, they are not invited to family events, they are not approached by neighbors, they are subjected to additional psychological pressure in the family, they are not taken to work and so on. The case of our heroine with a positive HIV status, who heroically stood the trial against her ex-husband, shows the working mechanisms in the legal system that protect people living with HIV. At the moment, the court is considering her statement on a private charge of domestic violence from her ex-husband. And the current case gives hope for a fair victory in this lawsuit as well.

At the same time, there is a downside: the price of a public victory is high – nerves, pressure from her ex-husband, disclosed HIV status, which will negatively affect her interaction in society. The heroine with HIV status intends to go to the end and then live peacefully with her children, trying to provide them with the best future. Her example will definitely give a positive impetus to other women living with HIV who are in fear of threats from their loved ones who know their status because judicial practice now proves the inviolability of this information.

Categories
Education courses Useful materials

REAct (Rights – Evidence – Action): Implementing a human rights documentation and monitoring system

This course has been developed by Frontline Aids in partnership with the Open University as part of the work of the ACCESS Consortium.

The ACCESS Consortium (Approaches in Complex and Challenging Environments to Sustainable Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights) was funded by UK Aid from the British people.

This course will be a available for people identified by Frontline Aids partner organisations as future ‘REActors’.

Learners on the course will receive additional support in the form of synchronous webinar sessions from Frontline Aids trainers and will also make use of the Course forum. You will be emailed separately by Frontline Aids before the course starts with all the details you need.

The six units that make up the course will introduce you to REAct and your role as a REActor.

Printable PDFs of each unit and a separate PDF summarising all of the course activities are provided in the resources folder of the website for offline access of the course content. However, please note that the PDFs do not offer the full functionality of the online activities and your completion of the course will not be tracked.

If you complete all six units online and both the start-of-course and end-of-course surveys you will be eligible to claim a Certificate of completion.

Visit a course page

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News

REAct team strongly condemns violence against civil activists, journalists and minorities, that happened on July 5 in Georgia

#SoS_project team, as well as national project partners in Georgia – Georgian Harm Reduction Network – respond to the events of July 5. We categorically condemn violence and aggression against civil activists, journalists, minorities, and any member of society. We express our solidarity with the people who have been restricted, guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia, the right to express their opinion, which is the foundation of the country’s democracy.

On July 5th Tbilisi Pride march was planned, but right-wing groups coordinated contraction against the planned activity.  The attacks targeted civic activists, community members, and journalists who were peacefully exercising the rights guaranteed to them by Georgia’s Constitution. Hate groups attacked citizens and also broke into and vandalized the offices of the Shame Movement, the Human Rights Center, and Tbilisi Pride, and attacked a long-term opposition tent protest outside of Parliament. At least 50 journalists were reported injured following anti-LGBTQ protests. On July 11th an injured journalist died.

“We call on the state to take appropriate measures. Any form of violence against any group, no matter how unacceptable, is not allowed.”- says Kakha Kvashilava, the Executive Director of the Georgian Harm Reduction Network.

This situation is just one of the hundreds of cases of hate crimes and violence that regularly happen in Georgia against LGBTIQ representatives. Despite the adoption of Laws against discrimination in both the public and the private sector, in education, in employment (Law on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, 2014) and Legislation on hate crimes (Article 531 (3) of CC) the level of stigma and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is still very high in Georgia. In 2017, amendments to the Georgian Constitution were adopted that changed the gender-neutral language of the constitution and effectively prohibited the recognition of same-sex marriages, although the Georgian Civil Code already contained a definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. (Art. 1106 Civil Code of Georgia). Discussions that took place against the background of political changes showed a high stigma towards LGBT people both in political life and in general from the community

Starting from December 2019 and by today there were recorded in REAct 67 cases of human rights violations of LGBTIQ representatives. Numerous cases are related to violence, beating, mockery, drubbing, and hate speech by unknown people on the street, in nightclubs, or other public places. Abusers call MSM and trans*people sick, humiliate them, throw stones and even beer bottles at them, threaten to kill them. Even though the victim dares to declare to police – rarely officers respond to the hate crimes properly. Another frequent situation is the exclusion of MSM and transgender people from their families and eviction from homes, as well as physical and psychological violence by their relatives. 

Read the REAct reports to find out more evidence and statistics about human rights violations of vulnerable communities in Georgia. 

Categories
News

The REAct tool is included in the first paralegal guide

The partners of the #SoS_project  “100 % LIFE”, in cooperation with the Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS, launched a training hub on HIV decriminalization for representatives of the community of people living with HIV in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Also, a unique practical guide “Support for people living with HIV affected by the criminalization of HIV infection in the EECA region” was published, which has been developed over the past six months directly by activists from the countries of the EECA region. It is based on the successful (and not) experience of community support of HIV-positive people in courts, which serves as an incentive and a tip for other activists in the region.

The aim of the training is to develop the community’s potential for self-defense and self-sufficiency: by forming a group of highly qualified specialists (primarily among people living with HIV) who are able to provide qualitative support for cases of human rights violations or paralegal assistance to people affected by HIV criminalization. Also, the initiators of the training course aim to guarantee the participants of the hub both the knowledge and practical skills of advocating legislative changes in the field of decriminalizing HIV transmission at the national level.

According to HIV Justice Worldwide, 18 out of 19 countries (except Malta) of the world belong to the EECA region with legislation that criminalizes the risk of HIV transmission, non-disclosure of information about the presence of HIV infection and HIV transmission. Many of these countries allow criminal prosecution for acts that pose no real risk or pose little risk. At the same time, there are very few professional lawyers in the EECA region who deal with court cases related to the criminalization of HIV transmission. Accordingly, HIV-positive people and their loved ones seek help, first of all, from activists from their community.

“We are no longer public defenders in the generally accepted concept since we provide qualified advice on legal issues. However, we are not lawyers and we do not have diplomas of specialized education “, – says Anatoly Leshenok, head of the RPO” People PLUS “, Republic of Belarus.

Every day in our countries, criminal cases are initiated against people living with HIV, under the article about knowingly putting another person at risk of HIV: which makes PLHIV solely responsible for the transmission of HIV. And this at a time when in reality the majority of new HIV transmissions are committed by people who do not know about their status. Thus, the criminalization of HIV discourages testing, contributing to the emergence of new cases and the development of the HIV epidemic.

“This kind of training has no analogs and is taking place for the first time. Considering the situation with the criminalization of HIV transmission in the EECA region, we see a great and continuous need for it. In order to qualitatively change the situation now and overcome the scale that is measured by approximately 1 million victims in the world annually, we must simultaneously both train a great quality of human rights defenders and convey to the public, government agencies, the donor community the need to support such events and mentor paralegals ”, – convinced Sasha Volgina, program manager of the Global Network of People Living with HIV.

The activities of the training hub and the publication of the practical guide “Supporting people living with HIV affected by the criminalization of HIV infection in the EECA region” became possible thanks to the regional project “Sustainability of services for key groups in the EECA region”, which is being implemented by a consortium of organizations from the EECA region under the leadership of the ICF Alliance for Public Health in partnership with the 100 %  LIFE, the Central Asian Association of People Living with HIV and the Eurasian Key Groups Health Network with financial support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Categories
Reports Useful materials

Analytical Annual Report for 2020, Georgia

Download the Analytical Annual Report for 2020, Georgia

Categories
Reports Useful materials

Analytical Annual Report for 2020, Kyrgyzstan

Download the Analytical Annual Report for 2020,  Kyrgyzstan

Categories
News

Extensive updating of the human rights online system REAct interface from July 1, 2021

Now in its second year, the online system REAct assists human rights defenders in Georgia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Ukraine to support the people from key groups and from late 2020, such support is also provided in Russia and Uzbekistan.

It should be noted that during the documentation period, the questionnaires in the countries were adapted and improved several times but the most extensive updating of the system functional became available on July 1, 2021.

“We received almost 2000 applications just for the first year. The difficult day-to-day work of 120 REActors-paralegal providing advice and legal assistance to representatives of key groups is growing rapidly. We make all possible modalities for efficient and convenient activities of the REActors. – Victoria Kalyniuk, REAct Regional Coordinator in Eastern Europe and Central Asia countries, explains – The number of member organizations and providing services REActors is steadily increasing in each country. We are confronted daily with new and specific types of violations and seek to broaden the types of services for the clients. For this reason, it is time for a significant upgrade of the online system.”

Note:  In REAct, the cases of human rights violations are documented on the basis of an online questionnaire standardized for the country, which is filled by the REActor after an interview with the victim. The questionnaire consists of a text (narrative ) part for qualitative examination of information and an indicator (“check signs”, which then work as filters and indicators in charts) part for quantitative examination.

During verification of cases, there is periodically a need to complement the questionnaire that it enables to collect information qualitatively and generate statistics quickly that will display a real picture of the specifics of rights violations in any given key group.

Well, what new appeared in the system for the REActors of the EECA countries’ work?

• Communication lines with clients

The issues concern about how the client gets information on services and how he applied (called/wrote in social networks / came in person) have been added. This information will help us understand which communication lines and means of acquiring information worked best in a given country.

• List of key groups was expanded

The system allows you to select several key groups for one client, indeed, in practice, about 25% of clients belong to two or more key groups. In Russia, for example, it became necessary to register homeless people as a separate key group, because exactly the lack of registration is a barrier in accessing ART therapy.

• List of perpetrators and types of incidents was expanded

If we can see by the description of cases that one or another specific perpetrator or type of human rights violation is quite frequent, we make a separate filter in order in the future to be able to quickly find precisely those cases that include this type of perpetrator. For example, in Russia – “Federal National Guard Troops Service”, “Federal Bailiff Service”, in Moldova – “Guardianship and custody bodies”, in Kyrgyzstan – “Souteneur, “mom”, in Tajikistan – “Bureau of civil registration” were added to the list of perpetrators. The specific violations are added to the list of types of violations such as “Unreasonable fines”, “Forced confession”, “Civil rights restrictions on grounds of drug recording” etc.

• There was created a detailed list of subtypes of Refusal in medical care provision and social assistance.

Previously, the system had an overall filter “Refusal in the provision of health-care services” and “Refusal to provide social services”. It had been clear for some time that there needs to be a more detailed list of these subtypes in order to see more clearer in which one healthcare sector refusals due to discrimination most often occur.

• The process of monitoring of the activities of REActors has been optimized by the national coordinator

A separate cluster for financial reporting and for case validation by the coordinator has been created through which the process of calculating the monthly fee of the REActor and compensation of transportation costs will become a lot quicker and a lot easier.

• A library for REActors with useful publications and materials is added .
• It became possible to do announcements for all REActors within the country
• The monitoring of the case management by the reactor has been optimized

The dates of the latest updates for the case and the possibility to send a reminder when to update this case have been added. In this way, we could reduce the number of cases that are “in a hang state” in the database and were not updated by the REActors

The standard functional is also available in the database.

• Structured collection and storage of information about cases of criminalization and rights violation
• Instant monitoring of the collected information and provided legal services to the client
• Possibility of instant and teamwork of several specialists on one case to provide an integrated response
• Monitoring of the client redirection to receive medical and social services
• Qualitative and quantitative analysis of cases
• Enhanced visualization capabilities (graphs, diagrams, maps)
• Data application for planning and implementing human rights protection interventions and preventing similar cases in the future
• Evidential base for planning and implementing programs, policies and advocacy initiatives

REAct specificities:

• Online access / offline access / access from mobile phone
• Information saved up in the cloud which rules out data loss
• Confidentiality, strict surveillance of access to the database and two-factor authentication that rule out data theft / breach
• User-friendly interface and availability of different language versions
• Without paid licenses and updates
• Free use, instruction and customer support

Categories
News

REAct Coordinators in Georgia held a webinar “Change begins with you – stigma/discrimination against drug users”

On June 26, on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, GHRN held a webinar “Change begins with you – stigma/discrimination against drug users”. The webinar preparation process was coordinated by the Social Campaign Coordinator, Georgia REAct Coordinator, and Media Communications Manager with active engagements of community representatives.

The webinar covered the following main topics:
  • Historical context, how HIV prevention started. Presentation of the study results – stigma towards PWID among medical staff;
  • Legal understanding of stigma/discrimination;
  • The role of stigma/discrimination on working with PWID, stigma/discrimination and NSP programs; (4) Case studies: Self-stigma and assessment of the current situation;
  • Stigma against female PWID – double stigma.

At the end of the webinar, a video produced in collaboration with GENPUD production where community members talk about their challenges on stigma/discrimination was presented.

The webinar recording can be found here

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News

Social campaign #FightStigma within REAct against stigma and discrimination is launched in Georgia

Fighting stigma is important!

Today, different groups of people are becoming victims of stigma and discrimination on a daily basis, and the way to save them is in our hands! Discrimination as a restriction or violation of human rights on the basis of social, racial, national, sexual, political, religious, or other character often occurs before us, but it may be difficult to identify.

The REAct team in Georgia is launching a social campaign #FightStigma to tackle the existing problems and raise awareness, which includes raising awareness of the problems of vulnerable groups, making videos to raise awareness among groups, preparing articles, media engagement, and many other activities that contribute to this group. In the process of fighting.

Within the framework of the GHRN social campaign, there were shared life stories, facts, statistics about the situation in Georgia today, what challenges do people from vulnerable groups face with and what we can do with that!

On June 26, on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, GHRN is planning to hold a webinar “Change begins with you – stigma/discrimination against drug users”.

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News

Recommendations of the REAct report were discussed with representatives of law enforcement authorities in Tajikistan

The team of the Public Association “SPIN Plus” in cooperation with the Republican Center for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control organized a three-day training course for police officers on HIV and the rights of representatives of vulnerable groups.

The separate section of the training was the presentation of REAct results for 2020 and the discussion of evidence of human rights violations by law enforcement bodies based on this report.

“The training had been useful not only to improve theoretical skills –” one of the participants of the training shared. – We have received practical recommendations that we will try to apply in our work. In the framework of the training, information on HIV/AIDS was presented, as well as a new report on the violation of the rights of representatives of key groups and recommendations for improving the situation.”

It should be noted that the data presented in the REAct report should offer illuminating insights into directions for improving the human rights-oriented system in Tajikistan. The report contains specific recommendations that can be used by stakeholders to carry out step-by-step advocacy work to defend the rights of key groups.

Also during the three-day training course held with the support of the UNODC project, the following clusters of information were presented:
• Epidemiological situation in relation to the dissemination of HIV in Tajikistan. Ways that HIV is transmitted. HIV prevention efforts.
• Review of legislation on issues related to HIV/AIDS. Reforming the practices of criminalization of representatives of key population groups
• Cooperative actions to implement the purposes and tasks of the National Program of Counteracting the Spread of HIV/AIDS for 2021-2025

Following the event, the training participants emphasized the importance of conducting such events for representatives of law enforcement agencies.

The training was held within the framework of the UNODC project “Development of sustainable partnerships with law enforcement officials, healthcare sector and social sector to facilitate access to HIV prevention and provision of care for people who use drugs.”

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Brochures Useful materials

Response methodology in REAct tool

The REAct tool is designed not only to document human rights violations but also to monitor the response and response to such incidents.

The “response” in the REAct methodology means any legal action on the part of the REActor or its organization, aimed at achieving justice, restoring the victim’s rights, and also re-educating or punishing the perpetrator so that such cases do not repeat in the future.

The response can also include advocacy and activities that achieve a comprehensive solution to similar incidents.

The most common response is:

  • Writing complaints and letters to the higher management of the culprit
  • Preparation of statements to the police and prosecutor’s office
  • Educational conversations with the perpetrator in order to re-educate him/her
  • Filing lawsuits
  • Solving cases using advocacy at the local level

A case is considered “resolved” if the REActor and/or its organization have taken all legal steps in their power to resolve the case. The outcome of events can be positive (everything was resolved in favor of the client) or negative (despite the efforts of the REActor, it was not possible to achieve the desired result). In case of a negative decision, REAct records the reasons why equity was not achieved in order to plan appropriate programmatic interventions in the future.

Read more about the types of case status, which is an assessment of the quality of the response, in the brochure below.

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Reports Useful materials

Analytical Annual Report 2020, Moldova

Read the Analytical Annual Report 2020, Moldova

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Response stories

Positive marriage: in Tajikistan, HIV-positive status is an obstacle to marriage registration

Description of the situation

In December 2020, a young couple came to AIDS Center of the city *** for HIV testing under compulsory medical examination before the wedding. According to the results of testing, the man revealed HIV-positive status. The man informed his bride and she supported him. The detection of HIV+ status did not affect their decision to get married in any way and they continued to collect the documents necessary for marriage. In AIDS Center, the man was given a certificate and the girl wrote a receipt that she knew of the man’s HIV status and that she intended to marry him.
Then the couple went to the polyclinic to get a medical examination report. However, they received a refusal by the deputy chief medical officer of the polyclinic who, having learned of the bridegroom’s HIV status, refused to issue a document confirming a medical examination. According to him, an HIV-positive person should not enter into marriage with healthy people. The following day, the doctor called the girl’s parents and told them about the HIV+ status of the future bridegroom. The parents supported their daughter, pointing out that, if their daughter agrees then they also agree to the registration of marriage. However, the situation was not resolved, the doctor refused to issue the conclusion necessary for the official wedding.

Resolving the problem

In desperation, the couple sought legal assistance from REActor, peer counselor of NGO providing services for PLHIV. After legal advice, REActor, together with the young people, met with deputy chief medical officer and explained to him that he had no right to refuse to issue a document. The REActor backed up its words with the relevant articles of the Constitution and the Family Code of the Republic of Tajikistan. He also emphasized that a doctor has no right to disclose the HIV status of any person and to show discrimination of any kind against people living with HIV.
The meetings produced an understanding. The polyclinic issued the necessary certificate for marriage registration and the doctor apologized to the man. A few weeks later, the couple married.

Lawyer’s comment

In 2016, because of the growing number of cases of sexual transmission of HIV, measures have been taken at the legislative level under which a prenuptial medical examination is made an obligatory part of the marriage procedure in Tajikistan (art.15 of FC RT).
In accordance with the Government decision of the Republic of Tajikistan dated August 23, 2016, No. 374 “On approval of the rules for carrying out the compulsory medical examination of the individuals entering into the marriage”, paragraph 5 states that the civil registry authorities of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Tajikistan accept a marriage registration form only if there is a certificate giving an assurance that each person, entering into marriage, completed a medical examination.

An HIV test is also mandatory during a medical examination.

Paragraph 4 states that individuals entering into the marriage can undergo a medical examination in health facilities non-location-dependent. On the one hand, this may preserve confidentiality for HIV-positive persons but on the other hand, according to the doctors, such confidentiality endangering another person who marries him. That’s why, doctors unreasonably consider it a necessity and their duty to disclose the status to the second person of the couple and even to inform their family members about the status. Such actions of doctors do not help adherence of PLHIV to treatment in any way but rather, entail the marriage agreements dissolution and manifestations of the profound stigma by relatives.

IMPORTANT:
– The doctor has no right to not issue medical examination findings in the case of a positive HIV status in one of the couple.
– The doctor has no right to disclose the positive HIV status to anyone except the patient himself.
– The doctor is obliged to carry out high-quality pre and post-test counseling and in case of a positive result – to do everything in his power in order to the patient was dedicated to ART therapy.
– During the epidemiological examination, PLHIV sexual partners or some persons at risk may be invited to undergo voluntary HIV testing. At the same time, the identity of a contact HIV-positive person cannot be disclosed in any case.

Furthermore, because of the legislative requirements for medical examination at marriage, the number of unofficial “Nikokh” religious marriages is increasing. These marriages do not entail legal liabilities for the married but lead to the vulnerability of women and children in such marriages. In regard to civil registration, such a requirement can cause a decrease in the number of official marriages in the country. The family is the natural and fundamental nucleus of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.


In 2020, almost 2,000 infractions were documented by REAct system (ReAct = Rights + Evidence +ACTion) in 5 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 165 of them were documented in Tajikistan.
The strategic analysis of cases of rights violations based on the data collected by means of REAct system allows not only to help specific people but also to formulate recommendations for the revision of legislation in countries based on real facts.
In doing so, the seriously challenge to the expansion of human rights protection in Tajikistan remains that nearly a third of the victims, after contacting human rights defenders, do not dare to defend their rights further on and refuse legal assistance due to fear of interaction with law enforcement agencies.

 

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News Response stories

Violations of the rights of women who use drugs were presented at a side event of the 64th UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

During the side event “The critical situation of violation of the rights of women who use drugs in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: urgent action is needed” of the 64th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, representatives of government agencies and non-governmental organizations discussed problems and current best practices in the provision of shelter and psychosocial services for women who use drugs.

During the event, an overview of the most common types of human rights violations against representatives of a key group – women who use drugs, collected using the REAct monitoring and response system, were presented. According to the evidence recorded in 5 countries: Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, violations are related to:

There were also recorded cases of police violence and humiliating attitudes in health care institutions. These data were presented by Victoria Kalynyuk, Regional Coordinator of REAct in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. She noted that the REAct system not only records cases of violation of the rights of key populations, but also helps to solve each case individually.

Event organizers: Альянс громадського здоров’я Alliance for Public Health и Eurasian Harm Reduction Association — EHRA

Event recording:

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Response stories

Responding to human rights violations under the REAct system in Kyrgyzstan (statistics for 2020)

In 2020, 503 appeals from representatives of key groups about violations of their rights and discrimination were registered in Georgia.

Out of the 503 appeals, 76% were qualified by the professional lawyer coordinating the implementation of REAct at the country level as such that do show signs of human rights violations. However, 119 cases do not have such signs but record the need for legal advice to clients on everyday issues.

Cases resolution status at the end of 2020

Of all 503 appeals, in 21% of cases response and legal assistance were successfully provided by a REActor or a professional lawyer, while in 20% of cases after receiving legal assistance, the situation was resolved positively for the client.

Medical – social assistance to the victim is provided in the form of consultations, redirection, and escort to partner organizations or health facilities to receive other necessary services for prevention and treatment.

Primary legal aid by REActors is to advise on legal matters and assist in the preparation of complaints or applications. However, both the victims and REActors themselves (also being representatives of vulnerable groups) are afraid to interact with police officers yet again because of the negative experience of such interaction in the past as well as due to fear for their safety.

Legal support of the case by REActor, first of all, is in intermediation between the victim and the perpetrator. In this way, most cases are resolved where the perpetrator is a medical professional, a representative of the education sector or other services as well as neighbors and family members. REActors give an enlightening talk with the perpetrator with a view to educating about HIV and reduce stigma. If the client is ready to defend his rights or he needs the protection of a professional attorney (cases on criminalization) then such client is redirected to specialized lawyers.

The part (27%) of cases remained unanswered since the client himself refused to take further actions to protect his rights, due to the fear of interaction with law enforcement agencies and mistrust of the law enforcement system as a whole. Victims also prefer to endure systematic violations of their rights rather than disclose during the proceedings their HIV status, sexual orientation, or membership of key groups.

It is also important to note that 8% of cases were left unanswered due to a lack of resources (human, financial) in organizations for an effective response. The demand for legal services for representatives of key groups remains incompletely covered, and this gap must be taken into account when planning projects and interventions in countries for the future.

At the time of writing the report, 26% of cases are in the process of providing assistance and active work with the client. Therefore, it is not yet possible to assess what the outcome of events will be.

Examples of cases and reactions

Read the full Annual Analytica Report, 2020, Kyrgyzstan
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Reports Useful materials

Analytical Annual Report, 2020, Tajikistan

Read the Analytical Annual Report, 2020, Tajikistan

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Response stories

Responding to human rights violations under the REAct system in Tajikistan (statistics for 2020)

In 2020, 165 appeals from representatives of key groups about violations of their rights and discrimination were registered in Tajikistan.

Out of the 165 appeals, 90% were qualified by the professional lawyer coordinating the implementation of REAct at the country level as such that do show signs of human rights violations. However, 17 cases do not have such signs but record the need for legal advice to clients on everyday issues.

Cases resolution status at the end of 2020

Of all 165 appeals, in 33% of cases response and legal assistance were successfully provided by a REActor or a professional lawyer, while in 7% of cases after receiving legal assistance, the situation was resolved positively for the client.

Medical – social assistance to the victim is provided in the form of consultations, redirection, and escort to partner organizations or health facilities to receive other necessary services for prevention and treatment.

Primary legal aid by REActors is to advise on legal matters and assist in the preparation of complaints or applications. However, both the victims and REActors themselves (also being representatives of vulnerable groups) are afraid to interact with police officers yet again because of the negative experience of such interaction in the past as well as due to fear for their safety.

Legal support of the case by REActor, first of all, is in intermediation between the victim and the perpetrator. In this way, most cases are resolved where the perpetrator is a medical professional, a representative of the education sector or other services as well as neighbors and family members. REActors give an enlightening talk with the perpetrator with a view to educating about HIV and reduce stigma. If the client is ready to defend his rights or he needs the protection of a professional attorney (cases on criminalization) then such client is redirected to specialized lawyers of the State free legal service.

The big part (38%) of cases remained unanswered since the client himself refused to take further actions to protect his rights, due to the fear of interaction with law enforcement agencies and mistrust of the law enforcement system as a whole. Victims also prefer to endure systematic violations of their rights rather than disclose during the proceedings their HIV status, sexual orientation, or membership of key groups.

It is also important to note that 2% of cases were left unanswered due to a lack of resources (human, financial) in organizations for an effective response. The demand for legal services for representatives of key groups remains incompletely covered, and this gap must be taken into account when planning projects and interventions in countries for the future.

At the time of writing the report, 6% of cases are in the process of providing assistance and active work with the client. Therefore, it is not yet possible to assess what the outcome of events will be.

Examples of cases and reactions

Read the full Annual Analytica Report, 2020, Tajikistan
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Response stories

Responding to human rights violations under the REAct system in Moldova (statistics for 2020)

In 2020, 235 appeals from representatives of key groups about violations of their rights and discrimination were registered in Georgia.

Out of the 235 appeals, 88% were qualified by the professional lawyer coordinating the implementation of REAct at the country level as such that do show signs of human rights violations. However, 34 cases do not have such signs but record the need for legal advice to clients on everyday issues.

Cases resolution status at the end of 2020

Of all 235 appeals, in 33% of cases response and legal assistance were successfully provided by a REActor or a professional lawyer, while in 31% of cases after receiving legal assistance, the situation was resolved positively for the client.

Medical – social assistance to the victim is provided in the form of consultations, redirection, and escort to partner organizations or health facilities to receive other necessary services for prevention and treatment.

Primary legal aid by REActors is to advise on legal matters and assist in the preparation of complaints or applications. However, both the victims and REActors themselves (also being representatives of vulnerable groups) are afraid to interact with police officers yet again because of the negative experience of such interaction in the past as well as due to fear for their safety.

Legal support of the case by REActor, first of all, is in intermediation between the victim and the perpetrator. In this way, most cases are resolved where the perpetrator is a medical professional, a representative of the education sector or other services as well as neighbors and family members. REActors give an enlightening talk with the perpetrator with a view to educating about HIV and reduce stigma. If the client is ready to defend his rights or he needs the protection of a professional attorney (cases on criminalization) then such client is redirected to specialized lawyers of the State free legal service.

The part (12%) of cases remained unanswered since the client himself refused to take further actions to protect his rights, due to the fear of interaction with law enforcement agencies and mistrust of the law enforcement system as a whole. Victims also prefer to endure systematic violations of their rights rather than disclose during the proceedings their HIV status, sexual orientation, or membership of key groups.

It is also important to note that 10% of cases were left unanswered due to a lack of resources (human, financial) in organizations for an effective response. The demand for legal services for representatives of key groups remains incompletely covered, and this gap must be taken into account when planning projects and interventions in countries for the future.

At the time of writing the report, 39% of cases are in the process of providing assistance and active work with the client. Therefore, it is not yet possible to assess what the outcome of events will be.

Examples of cases and reactions

Read the full Annual Analytica Report, 2020, Moldova
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Response stories

Responding to human rights violations under the REAct system in Georgia (statistics for 2020)

In 2020, 225 appeals from representatives of key groups about violations of their rights and discrimination were registered in Georgia.

Out of the 225 applications, 85% were qualified by the professional lawyer coordinating the implementation of REAct at the country level as such that do show signs of human rights violations. However, 34 cases do not have such signs but record the need for legal advice to clients on everyday issues.

Cases resolution status at the end of 2020

Of all 225 appeals, in 28% of cases response and legal assistance were successfully provided by a REACTOR or a professional lawyer, while in 24% of cases after receiving legal assistance, the situation was resolved positively for the client.

Medical – social assistance to the victim is provided in the form of consultations, redirection, and escort to partner organizations or health facilities to receive other necessary services for prevention and treatment.

Primary legal aid by REActors is to advise on legal matters and assist in the preparation of complaints or applications. However, both the victims and REActors themselves (also being representatives of vulnerable groups) are afraid to interact with police officers yet again because of the negative experience of such interaction in the past as well as due to fear for their safety.

Legal support of the case by REActor, first of all, is in intermediation between the victim and the perpetrator. In this way, most cases are resolved where the perpetrator is a medical professional, a representative of the education sector or other services as well as neighbors and family members. REActors give an enlightening talk with the perpetrator with a view to educating about HIV and reduce stigma. If the client is ready to defend his rights or he needs the protection of a professional attorney (cases on criminalization) then such client is redirected to specialized lawyers of the State free legal service.

A fairly large part (31%) of cases remained unanswered since the client himself refused to take further actions to protect his rights, due to the fear of interaction with law enforcement agencies and mistrust of the law enforcement system as a whole. Victims also prefer to endure systematic violations of their rights rather than disclose during the proceedings their HIV status, sexual orientation, or membership of key groups.

It is also important to note that 15% of cases were left unanswered due to a lack of resources (human, financial) in organizations for an effective response. The demand for legal services for representatives of key groups remains incompletely covered, and this gap must be taken into account when planning projects and interventions in countries for the future.

At the time of writing the report, 20% of cases are in the process of providing assistance and active work with the client. Therefore, it is not yet possible to assess what the outcome of events will be.

Examples of cases and reactions
Read the full Annual Analytica Report, 2020, Georgia
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News Response stories

Community-based monitoring in action: how REAct helps to detect human rights violations and solve systemic gaps in the provision of health services

In 2020, thanks to the REAct system, 234* reports of violations of the rights of PLHIV and representatives of key groups were recorded in Moldova. 27 cases out of that were violations of the right of opioid substitution therapy patients to health services in the city of Orhei. There is no OST site in Orhei, so patients were forced to travel 106 km (2 hours way to and back) every day to get their medicines in Chisinau. The situation was further exacerbated during COVID-19 quarantine restrictions on movement.

“The REAct system helps us to understand the scale and the nature of abuse against key populations in a country and enables us to directly influence systemic gaps in health services provision. In Orhei people were trapped by quarantine, so thanks to teamwork, prompt measures were taken to solve the problem. We reached an agreement with the Ministry of Health, and the OST-site in this city will be opened in the nearest future” – says the “Positive Initiative”, the partner of Alliance for Public Health for  REAct system implementation in Moldova.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has partially helped to resolve this issue. Thanks to the decision on prolonged dispensing of drugs for 7 days, patients no longer had to travel to Chisinau every day. The transition to the dispensing of drugs for a long period has shown its advantages both in terms of logistical expediency and in terms of a wider geographical coverage of patients.

Nevertheless, a new complexity has emerged: it is economically unprofitable for OST sites to issue drugs for a long period, since funding is charged for each patient visit. Less visits – less funding.

That is why, the partner organization of the #SoS_project in Moldova is developing and will soon submit a proposal to the State Insurance Service on the feasibility to change the approach of calculating funding for OST sites, due to the dispensing of drugs for a longer period.


REAct system is being implemented in the EECA region, within the framework of the regional project “Sustainability of services for key populations in the EECA region” (aka #SoS_project) by the Public Health Alliance in cooperation with national partners in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Tajikistan.

* as for the beginning of  December 2020

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Brochures Publications Reports Useful materials

Brochure about the project “Street Lawyers”

The “Street Lawyers” project is implemented by the “Public Health” program of the Foundation Soros-Kyrgyzstan with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme. This initiative emerged as a response to current issues of vulnerable groups.

Street lawyers – trained employees of kyrgyz NGOs, representing and defending the interests of vulnerable groups, that are key in deterring the HIV epidemics.

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Response stories

Discrimination against pregnant women living with HIV in a maternity hospital

During the period February-May 2020, the REAct system recorded five cases of violations of the rights of pregnant women due to their positive HIV status. Four cases out of five were recorded in the same medical institution in *** in Moldova.

Anna *
Moldova, May 2020
” **.05.2020 woman at the 36th week of pregnancy was admitted to the obstetrics department of the Center for Maternal and Child Health of *** city. She was placed in solitary confinement because of her HIV-positive status. The paid ward was denied. It was forbidden to stay in contact with other women pregnant in the department, use the same bathroom. After giving birth, Anna and the child were staying in the birth operation room for more than two days, as the isolator was occupied. The staying in a common ward was rejected. During her entire stay in the obstetrics and gynecology department, she was treated with disrespect by junior nurses due to her HIV status.

*name changed

In documented cases, discriminatory manifestations were clearly visible during treatment of women living with HIV by junior medical staff due to the background of stigma towards people living with HIV.

Marina *
Moldova, March 2020
The woman was admitted to the maternity department of the Mother and Child Center in *** a few days before the expected birth. Due to her HIV-positive status, she was forcibly placed in solitary confinement. Throughout her stay at the Center, Marina heard reprimands from junior medical staff that, as she should not have children at all, she was forbidden to use the shared toilet and shower, and was forced to wipe the tiles on the walls if she touched them. The newborn was not properly examined because they were afraid to touch him to take tests. Marina and her child were discharged without having done all the necessary examinations and tests.

*name changed

All women who sought help from the REActor were referred to a friendly physician for the necessary postpartum examinations, which were not performed qualitatively in the maternity hospital.

Also, after the registration of four such cases of discrimination and humiliating treatment of HIV-positive women in the maternity hospital in *** city, local non-governmental organizations began to regularly monitor the situation in this medical institution. A meeting was held with management to inform them of the discriminatory practices that junior medical staff and obstetricians regularly exhibit against HIV-positive women. Representatives of NGOs warned that in case of re-detection of such incidents, a collective complaint would be filed with the Ministry of Health on behalf of NGOs.

Results

The management of the medical institution took note of this information and held an explanatory talk with the participation of NGO representatives for the medical staff about the ways of HIV transmission, as well as about a non-discriminatory approach to HIV-positive patients.

Six months have passed since that conversation, and no more complaints have been received from patients at the facility, although REActors are actively monitoring the situation and interviewing HIV-positive pregnant women who are being screened at the facility.


You might be interested in:

In 2020, 235 complaints of violations of the rights of people living with HIV, as well as representatives of at-risk groups, were registered in Moldova.


Related topics:

Analytical Annual Report 2020, Moldova