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Defense Ministry creates new role of military ombudsman

by Elsa Court April 3, 2024 9:36 PM 2 min read
Defense Minister Rustem Umerov during the presentation of State Rear Operator SE, the state agency that will deal with all non-lethal procurement, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Dec. 18, 2023. (Eugen Kotenko/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
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Ukrainian military personnel will soon have access to a military ombudsman, ensuring they can report violations of their rights, the Defense Ministry announced on April 3.

Ensuring that the needs and rights of soldiers were met was one of the key priorities President Volodymyr Zelensky gave Defense Minister Rustem Umerov when he was appointed in September 2023.

Umerov held a meeting with Human Rights Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets to discuss the creation of the Protection of Servicemen's Rights Department, which will be headed by the military ombudsman.

The ombudsman "will be responsible for considering appeals and complaints of servicemen, providing primary legal assistance, conducting inspections, and investigating violations of the rights of servicemen and their family members," the Defense Ministry said.

The Protection of Servicemen's Rights Department will primarily investigate cases of insufficient medical care, gender discrimination, the denial of the right to go on leave, abuses by commanders, and issues relating to basic guarantees like wages and pensions.

The department will operate a hotline and monitor social media for reports of military personnel whose rights have been violated, and cases of suspected violations will be immediately referred to law enforcement, Umerov said.

The Defense Ministry said that the experiences of countries that already have a military ombudsman have been taken into account.

These countries include Norway, Austria, Czechia, Belgium, and Sweden, which has had a military ombudsman for over 110 years.

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Editor’s Note: This story is based on dozens of interviews with Ukrainian active servicemen, veterans, and experts with knowledge of Ukraine’s military medical system. Some of the soldiers and veterans in the story are identified by their first name or callsign only because they fear retribution as…
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