Moscow, March 14, Interfax -The situation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has worsened considerable due to the granting of autocephaly to Ukraine's new church, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in its report, calling on the Kiev authorities to protect the rights of believers.
"Although tensions between Orthodox communities in Ukraine existed prior to the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, they have been significantly exacerbated by the ongoing autocephaly process," the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in its report entitled Civic Space and Fundamental Freedoms ahead of the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Elections in Ukraine in 2019-2020, which was posted on the official website of the Russian Orthodox Church on Thursday.
The report covers the period from January 1, 2018 to January 15, 2019. In that period, OHCHR documented ten situations of intimidation and threats against the clergy and the flock, primarily of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
OHCHR said in its report it is concerned about the fact that the current political situation increasingly promotes tensions, which negatively impact freedom of religion and belief and may have unfavorable consequences to other human rights before elections.
"In November 2018, following the refusal of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to join the newly established Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) launched a series of criminal investigations into allegations of incitement to religious hatred, with the additional charge of treason in at least one case, without issuing notices of suspicion. In the context of these investigations, SBU searched the property of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the homes of the clerical hierarchy. SBU also interrogated clergymen in different regions of Ukraine," the report said.
"On 20 December 2018, the Parliament voted to begin the mandatory renaming of the religious organizations affiliated with religious centers in the Russian Federation, primarily targeting the communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Parliament also adopted restrictions on the access of clergymen of such organizations to the premises of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the basis of national security considerations. This contravenes article 18(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as national security is not a permissible ground for a restriction of freedom of religion or belief," the report said.
OHCHR recommends that Kiev "promptly improve the protection of fundamental freedoms, not least ahead of the elections," in particular, "uphold Ukraine's international human rights obligations, i.e. not only to ensure the right to manifest one's religion or belief in worship, either individually or in community with others, observance, practice and teaching, but also to take effective measure to ensure that no one shall be subject to discrimination by any State institution, group of persons, or person on grounds of religion or belief," the report said.