On 24 November 2009 Regional NGO “Man and Law” celebrates its anniversary. Ten years ago the organization was officially registered by the Russian Federation Ministry of Justice.
Many things happened in that period, there were victories, there were defeats, but it is certain: Regional NGO “Man and Law” is the flagship of the human rights movement in the Republic of Mariy El.
Behind this name there is a team of young goal-oriented people headed by Irina Simakova and Sergey Poduzov. Each team-member perceives oneself as an important part of a coherent mechanism working for one objective. Everyone who has at least once visited the organization’s office knows how good the climate is there. There you can find a pensioner seeking legal aid, a volunteer, a former fosterling of the Novotroitsk correction facility who feels almost like home in the organization’s office. The work does not cease for a second: a regular seminar for the staff of the Federal Penitentiary Service Administration has just finished, and another needs to be organized already, this time for officers of the Ministry of the Interior; the lawyers have hardly had time to celebrate a victory in court, there is a man standing in front of them who needs professional legal aid. Such operation speed is characteristic for all types of the organization’s activity. What’s the result? The organization is a force that is known far beyond the Mariy El Republic. Trainers of “Man and Law” teaching human rights are in demand in various Russian regions and even abroad. We can positively claim that the work of Mariy El human rights defenders represents best practices and furnishes a good example for other regions.
More than 10 000 citizens have applied to RNGO “Man and Law” for help within 10 years of its existence. Each individual had his/her own story. For some of them all ended well, human rights lawyers managed to restore their violated rights, under some cases the outcome was not up to the expectations.
There were rather odd cases, at first sight. For example, pensioner Boris Rzhavin was taken to the police-station in his underwear and slippers, although it was -20 degrees C outside. Another example is the story of a woman who was summoned to the psychiatrist only because she had written a letter to president Putin. We agree that these stories can be included into some comic magazine, but for the characters of these stories the situation was far from humorous. For eight years Mr. Rzhavin together with Man and Law lawyers had tried to restore his rights, but he fail to do that on the national level. The organization has filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of the pensioner. The second character had to prove that she was mentally sane and her letter to the president had been the last attempt to solve the housing problem.
This year Man and Law and the Mariy El Ministry of the Interior celebrate the fifth anniversary of their cooperation. This two “heteropolar” structures have implemented several megaprojects, carried out many joint actions, organized panel discussions, trips to the districts, participated in the sessions of the Community Board under the Mariy El Ministry of the Interior. This has helped law enforcement bodies to improve crime prevention, professionalism and morals of their personnel, and RNGO “Man and Law” – to contribute to the establishment of the civil society. The progressive experience of Mariy El human rights defenders and republican law enforcement bodies has been appreciated on the federal level.
On a regular basis the organization works with detention facilities, human rights defenders organize rehabilitation activities for convicts, civil expeditions, lectures and discussions, competitions. The organization has been cooperating with the Novotroitsk juvenile correction facility for 7 years helping the colony staff in their routine work with the fosterlings. The organization conducts trainings for the Federal Penitentiary Service Administration on implementation of international standards in this sphere. Besides, Irina Simakova is the chairperson of the Community Board under the head of the Federal Penitentiary Service for Mariy El and member of the Presidium of the Association Supporting Juvenile Correction Facilities under the Russian Federal penitentiary Service.
In 2006 the organization changed its legal status and became regional instead of Yoshkar-Ola city. Since that moment it has started working in the districts of the republic: the organization’s staff goes on trips to the districts to collect applications, conducts seminars and trainings on human rights for the public. Besides, as chairman of the Public Monitoring Commission, Sergey Poduzov supervises human rights observance in penal facilities on the territory of Mariy El. For example, in 2006 he, as a member of the Community Board under the Mariy El Ministry of the Interior, he visited remand prisons at all police stations, and in 2008 he went to all police call centres, remand prisons and administrative detention units.
At present RNGO “Man and Law” is greatly appreciated by its partner NGOs in various RF regions. Human rights defenders understand that in order to protect individuals from human rights violations, it is necessary to have good contact with the authorities. RNGO “Man and Law” has managed to establish such dialogue and thanks to fruitful cooperation with state bodies it discovers new prospectives in human right protection.