Iryna Levchuk, a mother of four, has fought for years to evict her former husband, who had repeatedly subjected her to physical and psychological violence before her children, and secure her children’s right to a childhood without constant conflicts and threats. The couple divorced in 2015 but remained living in the same flat. Ms Levchuk took her fight through the local and national courts and ultimately, in 2018, to the Supreme court.  However, both the Ukrainian Court of Appeal and Supreme Court sided with her husband, and supported his right to housing. Ms. Levchuk refused to give up despite the Supreme Court ruling, and then took her fight to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg.

Attorney Natalia Bukhta, a beneficiary of IREX Europe and the Ukrainian Women’s Fund’s training and mentoring support for lawyers, worked with Ms Levchuk to fight the Ukrainian national courts’ decisions, which had considered the case for more than two years and had refused to force Ms. Levchuk’s former husband to move out of the family home, persistently puting his interests above those of Ms. Levchuk and her children.

From January 2018 till February 2020, IREX Europe, in cooperation with 4 partners including the Ukrainian Women’s Fund (UWF), implemented an EU-funded project to recognise, support and promote the emerging role of women Human Rights Defenders (W/HRDs) and Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) working for women’s and girls’ rights in Eurasia, including in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.

One of the project components aimed to improve the knowledge of lawyers working for women’s and girls’ rights, improving their understanding of ECtHR procedures and supporting them make use of international mechanisms for the protection of W/HRDs. The project team organized national and regional training sessions on ECtHR procedure to provide training to experienced lawyers working in the field of women’s and girls’ rights. The project partners then supported selected trained lawyers in writing applications and third-party interventions to the ECtHR, and putting cases before the court.

Attorney Bukhta was one of the selected lawyers and the project has supported her taking Ms. Levchuk’s case before the ECtHR. This outstanding, ground-setting result which has ruled that Ms. Levchuk’s husband should be evicted and she has the right to live in safety with her children, will now set a legal precedent for future domestic abuse cases at the ECtHR and in Ukraine. It is a remarkable victory for Ms. Levchuck, Atrorney Bukhta and our project. Levchuk vs Ukraine will serve as a model for further strategic cases in the fight for the protection of women’s rights.

Natalia Bukhta

This is definitely a new practice for Ukraine. The case was considered not by the Committee but by the Chamber of Judges. Such procedure is provided for only in exceptional cases where the ECHR wishes to initiate a new practice or draw attention to a particular legal issue. Only a year and a half passed from the submission to the adoption of a positive decision – this is a record speed result. The applicant had been complaining to the Ukrainian law enforcement authorities about the use of domestic violence since 2010, but her efforts to protect her rights and the rights of her children had been in vain. Thanks to the support of the Ukrainian Women’s Fund, trainings in Kyiv, Strasbourg, work in Council of Europe projects, effective mentoring, we have set a precedent of protection from domestic violence, in the case when all the opportunities of remedy in our country have been exhausted. Iryna Levchuk will forever go down in the history of the European Court of Human Rights as the first Ukrainian woman who has raised the problem of domestic violence in Ukraine at the European level. I hope that the decision in the case of Levchuk v. Ukraine will help thousands of Ukrainian women who suffer from domestic violence not to keep on silent about the problem, but to seek protection, defend their rights and achieve justice  

See the ECtHR decision here: https://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/2020/604.html