UOJ Statement on Pressure from the Authorities

An address to the President of Ukraine, deputies of the Verkhovna Rada, public activists, human rights defenders, journalists, as well as bodies and representatives of the UNO and EU international advocacy mechanism, and to all representatives of the international community.

We draw your attention to flagrant violations of human rights in the sphere of freedom of expression, conscience and belief, which continue to take place in Ukraine. Despite repeated court trials, appeals to the law enforcement bodies of different levels, believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ptichya village in Rovno region, as well as aggrieved persons from over 40 other populated areas up to the present day cannot practice their religion and pray freely in worship buildings that belong to them.

Evidence of human rights infringements include, inter alia, such offences as bashing of the faithful in Katerinovka village of Ternopol region; non-compliance with the court decisions with regard to the case of Ptichya village, Rovno region; unlawful use of special means by law enforcers toward civilians and brutal force toward journalists; obstructions of All-Ukrainian Cross Procession, accompanied by public incitements to the carnage over its participants.

Simultaneously with the offences cited above, there have been submitted odious draft laws, set to undermine the identity of the UOC believers, who are willing to remain Ukrainians within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

We are extremely concerned about the fact that despite numerous appeals to the law enforcement bodies none of the persons, who assaulted the UOC believers or seized their property, – temples and other constructions – has not been brought to justice yet, at least to the administrative responsibility. The assault case of the UOJ journalist in Ternopol region has not been investigated so far, alongside with numerous facts of hampering journalist activities by their coverage of conflict developments around the UOC shrines. Discriminatory rhetoric with respect to the UOC denomination is getting systemic and wide-scale, having crossed the critical line, and appears de facto as an incitement to commit new offences in relation to this confession.

At the same time, the international law, commitments and obligations of the State Ukraine, arising from the concept of “an obligation to defend” as a necessary prerequisite for the state sovereignty, includes specific requirements for the state bodies and civil servants given frequented assaults and conflicts around the UOC.

In particular, according to the report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (A/HRC/28/66 29 December 2014), human rights can be violated not only by the state; violations are committed quite often by non-state actors. Nonetheless, the liability for such acts is born by the state, since they can bear witness to loopholes in the human rights protection system.

The first step in the matter of defense against violence for the sake of religion consists in the immediate and unconditional condemnation by the state power of all acts of such kind, wherever they might occur. State agents must play a leading role in the elimination of violence, expressing their sympathy for the victims and ensuring support to persons and groups being subject to this violence. Violent assaults of the group members, who fall prey to systemic discrimination in behalf of religion, should be understood as an offence against the society at large.

Contrary to the cited obligations, current functionaries not only fail to condemn publicly violations of human rights of the UOC believers, but always turn a blind eye to both the information about such offences and written applications on the crimes perpetrated, demonstrating a formal approach to their consideration, and in a number of cases declaring about the “political inappropriateness” of taking actions to defend the UOC.

Despite the fact that government authorities have been duly notified of all infringement evidence, which can be proven by the significant quantity of criminal proceedings and court trials, opened upon applications of the UOC believers, state bodies, instead of ensuring justice, have imposed an unprecedented pressure on journalists and human rights defenders, who provide legal assistance and information coverage of the facts, related to violations of the UOC believers’ rights.

Today, on 25 January 2017, SBU (National Security Service of Ukraine) representatives have conducted searches in residential premises, which belong to journalists from the Union of Orthodox Journalists, to staff members of the press-service of Rovno UOC eparchy, to human rights defenders, engaged in a court defense of interests of the UOC communities, and expropriated professional technical devices – PCs, mobile phones, and documentation. Grounds for searches, described in the court definition and brought forward upon investigations, we assess as a falsehood, framed up by the SBU with a view to receiving a formal reason to block the work of journalists and defenders, collect more detailed information about activists and laymen, who are loyal to the UOC, and to further put unlawful individual pressure, including with the support of wrong-doing radicals.

The risk of data leakage about particular persons who stand with the UOC, as well as the confidential information file and personal data, contained in journalists’ materials, private and official correspondence, legal documents, can pose a threat to the life and security of witnesses and other individuals.

Forfeitures and searches have been large-scale. As a result of the SBU actions, journalists, human rights defenders, and lawyers of Rovno eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church cannot carry out their professional activity properly, which testifies to an actual prohibition of their work on the part of the state.

Pursuant to Article 1 of the Declaration of the UN General Assembly of 09.12.1998 “On the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” (hereinafter referred to as “Declaration”), “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.”


According to Article 5 of the Declaration, “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels:
(a) To meet or assemble peacefully;
(b) To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups;
(c) To communicate with non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations.”

Pursuant to Para (c) of Article 6, “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters.”

Under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

In accordance with Article 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine, “Everyone is guaranteed freedom of expression and opinion”; with Article 2 of the Law of Ukraine “On Information Agencies”, “Information agencies are guaranteed freedom of activity.”

Expropriation of professional equipment and personal communication devices, as well as documentation, appears as an essential restriction of the right to freedom of speech and infringes guarantees relevant to the professional activity of journalists.

As regards searches and forfeitures of the property with clergymen, lawyers and laymen – believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – having been engaged as claimants, applicants, judicial representatives etc in the matters related to the UOC rights violation, such actions bear witness to unlawful pressure from the state in view of the professional activity of human rights defenders, violate the rights of witnesses and physical entities, including possible leakage of their personal data.

It’s noteworthy, according to the “Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders”, prepared by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutes and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), all persons acting with the view of rights protection are recognized as human rights defenders, enjoying the following guarantees:

"54. Journalists who promote human rights are human rights defenders, regardless of their accreditation status and the media through which they work (print, radio, television or the Internet). Journalists who report on human rights violations, corruption or mismanagement or on the work of whistleblowers should not face prosecution, arbitrary legal actions or other repercussions for doing so. Authorities should acknowledge the importance of independent and investigative journalism in uncovering abuses and misuse of power, and they should support it in order to enhance accountability. They should ensure that journalists are not subjected to arbitrary criminal prosecutions and have access to legal aid and other means of support to enable them to carry out their work without interference and fear of reprisals. In particular, they should take steps to ensure the safety of journalists and ensure that journalist human rights defenders are effectively protected from attacks and other abuses both by state and non-state actors. Any crime committed against human rights defenders, including against journalists defending human rights, must be promptly, effectively and independently investigated in a transparent manner, and those responsible must be brought to justice.
85. States are obliged to refrain from any unlawful or arbitrary violations of privacy and family life of human rights defenders, their homes or the secrecy of correspondence, including e-mails, and to protect them from such abuses by third parties through the adoption of legislative and other measures. Any violation of the inviolability of private and family life, as well as home and his correspondence must be prescribed by law and be necessary to achieve a legitimate purpose in accordance with international standards of human rights and proportionate to this purpose."
In connection with the aforesaid, the Union of Orthodox Journalists news agency, realizing the right to protection under Art. 9(4) of the Declaration of the UN General Assembly of 09.12.1998 "On the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms", under which "in accordance with applicable international instruments and procedures, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others on unimpeded access to international bodies with general or special competence to receive and consider communications on matters of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as keep in touch with them ":

1. Submits a communication on the offence against journalists and human rights defenders to the UN Human Rights Council under Resolution 5/1 of 18.06.2007.
2. Submits a communication on the offence against journalists and human rights defenders to the UN Special Rapporteur on the protection of the right to freedom of expression.
3. Submits a communication on the offence against journalists and human rights activists to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
4. Submits a communication on the offence against journalists and human rights defenders to the European Parliamentary Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI).
5. Submits a communication on the offence against journalists and human rights defenders to the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.
6. Submits a communication on the offence against journalists and human rights defenders to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief.
7. Submits a communication on the offence against journalists and human rights defenders to the parliamentary groups of the European Union and the individual parliamentarians.
8. Submits a communication on the offence against journalists and human rights defenders to other bodies and human rights organizations of the international human rights system.
9. Urges public authorities to stop illegal pressure and refrain from further unwarranted actions against journalists and human rights defenders engaged in the protection of the rights of UOC believers.
10. Appeals to the President of Ukraine, deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, public authorities, national and international community to protect freedom of expression and stop persecution of Christians-believers of the UOC, as well as human rights defenders and journalists engaged in protecting the rights and freedoms of the UOC.
11. Draws attention to the fact that under Art. 7/h) of the Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute): crimes against humanity, include "persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious ... or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court ". Under persecution, according to Art. 7/g) 2 of the Statute, see "the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of a group or collectivity". In this connection, the Union of Orthodox Journalists in case of increased non-legal pressure on journalists and human rights defenders, as well as UOC believers, reserves the right to immediately inform the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the violation of the rights of religious groups, journalists and human rights defenders – in the proceedings commenced by the State Ukraine, in accordance with the competence of the ICC, as defined in Para 191 of the Report of the International Criminal Court on Preliminary Examination Activities (2016), under which: "Given the indefinite nature of the adoption by Ukraine of the jurisdiction of the ICC, the Office of the Prosecutor will also continue registration charges of crimes committed in Ukraine, to the extent that they fall within the Court's jurisdiction. At this stage of the analysis, in accordance with the rules of the preliminary investigation, the Office of the Prosecutor may collect further information about relevant court proceedings at the national level ".
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor.

Poll

What will happen if the Church of Greece recognizes the OCU?
it will put itself out of Orthodoxy
51%
it will give rise to global recognition of the OCU by Local Churches
17%
nothing will happen, the Greeks will be the first and the last to recognize the OCU
31%
Total votes: 467

Archive

Система Orphus