UN agency documents an increase in violence against believers in Ukraine

19 November 2023 15:14
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Ilze Brands Kehris. Photo: a screenshot of the UN YouTube channel Ilze Brands Kehris. Photo: a screenshot of the UN YouTube channel

Human rights activists said that of the 44 criminal cases against UOC clerics they are monitoring, there are concerns about the fairness of the proceedings in 26 cases.

At a UN Security Council meeting on freedom of religion in Ukraine held on 17 November 2023, Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), noted an increase in violence against UOC believers. The report was published on the UN website.

She noted that since the beginning of the Russian Federation's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, there have been growing tensions between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

She also mentioned the investigations against 68 clergymen of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. According to Kehris, the OHCHR is monitoring 44 such cases. And of those 44, "in at least 26 cases involving the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, OHCHR has identified concerns about the fairness of criminal proceedings."

According to Kehris, since February 2022, OHCHR has documented 10 cases of physical violence and six cases of threatened violence resulting from disputes between parishioners of different Orthodox communities. "Ukrainian law enforcement’s response in these cases has failed to sufficiently investigate incidents and take action to protect members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church," Kehris stressed.

She also touched upon the problem of Bill 8371 adopted by the Rada to ban the UOC. She called on the Ukrainian authorities to revise the text and "determine the specific legitimate purpose of the proposed restrictions".

As reported, the US Commission on Religious Freedom appealed to DESS because of the situation with the UOC.

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