Lawyers: Phanar’s petition on Sophia to UN is a cover for own helplessness

The Phanar’s petition regarding Hagia Sophia is not a legally binding action for the UN. Photo:

Human rights defenders commented on the statement of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to petition the UN to hold Turkey accountable for converting Hagia Sophia.

The petition, which is not a legally binding action for the UN, looks like an ineffective step to cover up its own helplessness or even unwillingness to work in this direction. This is stated in the commentary of the NGO "Public Advocacy" on the announced petition of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the issue of Hagia Sophia at the UN.

Acknowledging the fact that Turkey has violated the "status quo" in relation to the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul and that Orthodox Christians must take all measures to restore their rights, human rights defenders expressed perplexity that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has not taken any effective action in recent years to protect Orthodox communities in Turkey.

"Yes, one can observe occasional allegations of violations of the rights of structures of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but there are no systematic actions, such as applying to the judicial system at the national level or the European Court of Human Rights," the organization notes. “It seems that the Patriarchate of Constantinople does not protect its rights in the structures that can give at least some result but constantly declares at the media and political level that its rights are violated, mainly in the U.S.A."

In particular, the NGO "Public Advocacy" does not understand why the structures of Constantinople did not make a single statement about the problems of Hagia Sophia during the session of the UN HRC which is currently meeting in Geneva, "especially since on September 28, 2020, the UN HRC considered the state of Turkey in the UN Universal Periodic Review procedure, and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, having a permanent office in Geneva, could raise this topic in the right place and under the correct protection procedure, because during this period Turkey's actions are assessed by diplomats from all over the world and it is in these procedures that it is easiest to attract the attention of the UN and advance the cause of protecting their rights”.

Also, human rights activists added, "the message in the UN procedure system that one of the structures created to protect the interests of the Patriarchate of Constantinople did not submit the text of its statement ‘due to lack of time’ is unclear”.

"This situation may well indicate that the Patriarchate of Constantinople began to perform some actions to protect its own interests in view of pressure from the public, its parishioners and patrons of art. Against this background, the creation of some ‘petition’, which is not only not a legally binding action for the UN, but is not even within the framework of any formalized legal procedure, looks like an ineffective step in advance to cover up its own helplessness or, worse still, unwillingness to work closely in this direction," the NGO "Public Advocacy" resumed.

As reported, on September 29, 2020, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America stated that it was petitioning UN experts to hold Turkey responsible for its deliberate policy of destroying the cultural heritage of Orthodox Christians.

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