Rights advocates: Obstructing UOC Cross Procession is a criminal offence

Provocateurs are throwing stones and eggs at the Sviatogorsk icon of the Mother of God during All-Ukrainian Cross Procession of 2016

Commenting on media reports on precluding by authorities of participation of the UOC believers in the procession, human rights activists say it is a criminal offense.

According to the explanatory note made by NGO Public Advocacy, precluding a religious rite is a criminal offense under article 180 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. This is stated on the organization's website.

The clarification states that according to the Constitution, every person has the right to participate unhindered in any worship or religious rite, a cross procession being a form of such a rite.

Any facts of blocking vehicles, pressuring carriers to refuse to provide transport services, threats of dismissal pertain to the violation of constitutional rights.

In addition, the document states that Article 155-8 of the Criminal Code provides for liability for counteracting legitimate business activities, i.e. transport services in this case.

Article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine provides for liability for direct or indirect restriction of rights or granting privileges on the basis of religious beliefs.

Owing to this fact, human rights activists come to the conclusion that "actions aimed at blocking or forcing believers to refuse to participate in the cross procession, hampering the constitutional right to freedom of religion are criminal and should cause a backlash in society."

The organization reports that in view of this, NGO Public Advocacy has sent inquiries to regional administrations of the regions where the media recorded facts of preventing the believers from participating in the procession, "demanding to confirm or refute such facts, as well as explaining the unacceptability of using administrative resource by the exercise of the constitutional rights of believers to freedom of religion."

"We draw the attention of state agents to the fact that cases of threatening and blocking the procession have already occurred earlier, as reported, for example, in the press service of Odessa eparchy of the UOC. Such facts should not happen again," urge human rights activists.

It is reported that the feedback of regional administrations upon inquiries will be published and included in the international monitoring of the observance of the believers’ rights in Ukraine.

Earlier, NGO Public Advocacy handed over statements and reports on the observance of the believers' rights in Ukraine, Macedonia, Montenegro, Turkey and Israel to the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, as well as within the procedure of the UN Universal Periodical Review.

As reported by the UOJ, in Zaporozhye, Zhitomir, Rovno and other regions, the UOC believers are barred from getting to the procession to the capital, including putting pressure on carriers.

Also, many sources receive information that the authorities have used the administrative resource to provide a "mob scene" for the actions of the Kiev Patriarchate, which will be held on July 28.

Earlier, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church called on believers to take part in the Cross Procession on the occasion of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus. Metropolitan Anthony of Borispol and Brovary explained: it is very important to offer a joint prayer.

NGO Public Advocacy is a human rights organization with special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council, permanent accreditation at the UN headquarters in Geneva, New York and Vienna, has an international mandate to make statements and communications to the bodies of the international human rights mechanism.

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