City: Stara Zburivka, Ukraine
The village of Stara Zburyivka from southern Ukraine, has attained nationwide fame in the struggle against corruption, bureaucracy through unprecedented grassroots mobilization and exercise of self-government. Their response was the creation of the Stara Zburyivka Self-Defense Committee aimed at fighting the expropriation and squandering of their agricultural lands and challenging the legal proceedings against the village mayor who took an uncompromising stand in this matter.
The community of Stara Zburyivka village in Hola Prystan District, Kherson Oblast were involved in a conflict with the regional officials who illegally distributed 29 hectares of community’s best land among figureheads. Viktor Marunyak, the head of the village council, who filed a lawsuit against them, was put to prison. In response, the villagers have mobilized and created the Committee of Self-Defense of Stara Zburyivka and launched a campaign in defense of their rights and in support for their village head. The investigation was unable to prove Viktor Marunyak’s guilt. None of the fabricated accusations were confirmed and he was released from prison, following the pressure from his local community.
Despite the resistance, threats and blackmailing from the regional officials, the village deputies re-elected Viktor Marunyak as the village head at the 2010 elections. Due to his persistence in fighting for the lands that were illegally taken from the community, the Prosecutor General’s Office found the transfer of lands into ownership to be illegal.
As a consequence of this dispute, a Center for Legal Information and Consultations was created in the village of Stara Zburyivka. Today, the center is providing legal support to more than 12 surrounding villages in the Holoprystansky Raion. As this story evolved, the village community underwent considerable changes. The farmers are aided to stand up for their rights by Stara Zburyivka Community Law Center, founded by Kherson Regional Charity and Health Fund.
Community Law Center was created under the support of International Renaissance Foundation in cooperation with Open Society Justice Initiative (Budapest) within the “Legal Empowerment of the Poor” Initiative in Ukraine. At the moment, as part of this initiative, there are 27 Community Law Centers in 12 region of Ukraine.