On consideration of the issue of observance of religious freedoms in Ukraine within the framework of the meeting of the working group of the Universal Periodic Review of the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council
On 15.11.2017 representatives of NGO "Public Advocacy" took part in the meeting of the Working Group of the Universal Periodic Review of the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
According to the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights submitted to the UNCHR Working Group:
"The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) expressed concern about draft laws Nos. 4128, 4511, 5309 and 1244 on amending the Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations”, which it considered as violating the rights of believers and potentially dangerous for the interreligious peace in Ukraine. The UOC also expressed concern over the illegal seizure by the authorities of some of its churches and property 61. The NGO "Public Advocacy" (NPA) expressed similar concerns and also mentioned cases of hate speech against members of the UOC and incitement to violence against them.”
The concern about violations of the UOC rights was also raised by non-governmental organization ADF International (USA), being the leading expert in the sphere of religious freedom in the world, as well as a number of other organizations.
In particular, ADF International noted that "Orthodoxy in Ukraine is split into three main branches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP is the only Ukrainian Church recognized as legitimate by the other Orthodox Churches of the world), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) ... Friction and disputes over legitimacy and identity led to legal clashes around property and other issues, in some cases this entailed extortion and social divisions ... In this regard, the state of Ukraine is recommended to protect the right to religious freedom of all citizens and residents of Ukraine, ensure religious harmony and inter-confessional tolerance and ensure both legally and practically that all believers and groups realize their rights to freedom of expression and association in a guaranteed way in all spheres of the society ...
In this context the delegation of Greece noted that the state of Ukraine needs to undertake follow-up steps to defend religious rights, journalists and ensure the right of all religious communities based on the autonomy procedures. The delegation of Italy underscored that Ukraine needs to secure free activity of journalists and human rights defenders, while the Dutch delegation stated that crimes against mass media, journalists and human rights defenders should not go unpunished.
Therefore, the situation of the UOC communities, the activities of their representatives, as well as journalists and human rights defenders highlighting this issue, received support at the international diplomatic level from the States participating in the meeting.
In view of violations of the rights of the UOC believers, non-governmental human rights organizations called on the state of Ukraine:
- to ensure an objective and impartial investigation into the facts of committing violent acts against believers and religious organizations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to legal responsibility;
- withdraw draft laws Nos. 4128, 4511, 5309 aimed at restricting rights and establishing new duties that discriminate against religious organizations of the UOC;
- publicly condemn hate speech, seizure of temples, damage and destruction of property of religious organizations of the UOC from the side of radicals, representatives of the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate and certain civil servants;
- to ensure the free exercise of the right of religious organizations and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to profess their faith, as well as to carry out a full range of other rights within the existing identity, including preserving the canonical connection with the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate without any discrimination or defamation;
- to ensure the free activity, protection and safety of journalists, human rights defenders and activists, and inform about cases of offenses, including cases and situations of conflicts relating to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The listed actions are stipulated by the norms of international law and their implementation is a confirmation of Ukraine's adherence to the rule of law and European democratic values.
Thus, the international community, through high-level independent experts, based on information and reports from various sources, established facts of violations of the rights of believers in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and stated the need for additional and intensive efforts on the part of the state of Ukraine to overcome this negative phenomenon.
Attention to the issues of observance of the rights of believers from the delegations of several states testifies that this issue has reached an international level and further violations of rights towards the Ukrainian Orthodox Church cannot be disregarded. Despite the fact that international human rights procedures sometimes take a long time to effectively and publicly respond to the problems of victims, in this case the information received under the UPR procedure of the UN HRC has no statute of limitations and can be used as a source of evidence to bring to justice those responsible for crimes against humanity and other human rights violations.
NGO "Public Advocacy" is a human rights non-governmental organization with consultative status within the UN Economic and Social Council, regularly monitors observance of rights and freedoms in the sphere of religion in Ukraine in cooperation with the OSCE SMM and other organizations of the international human rights mechanism.
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