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02.10.2006

Religious freedom and the right of peaceful assembly violated in the Luhansk region

   

In the settlement Ivanivka, Antratytivsk district of the Luhansk region, notification from the local Protestant community that they planned to hold a concert of Christian songs near the settlement club has met with opposition from the local authorities. The latter have banned “any activities of totalitarian sects on the territory of the Ivanivka Settlement Council”.  This is the exact wording in the official decision taken by the fifth meeting of the current session of the Ivanivka Settlement Council “On prohibiting totalitarian activities on the territory of the Ivanivka Settlement Council” No. 5/12 from 22.08.2006, as was stated by the Religious Information Service of Ukraine [RISU].

Despite support from residents of the settlement for such a concert of Christian songs, the local authorities and particular individuals have twice succeeded in disrupting the event, stopping the equipment from working and shouting abuse at the believers. They based such behaviour on the above-mentioned decision of the settlement council. At the same time, officers from law enforcement agencies called by the concert’s organizers to ensure public order have taken no measures against individuals trying to disrupt the concert and provoke a fight.

RISU points out that the decision of the Ivanivka Settlement Council is unlawful and exceeds its authority since it contravenes the Constitution of Ukraine which guarantees each citizen, regardless of their faith, the right the right to assemble peacefully without arms and to hold meetings, rallies, processions and demonstrations (Article 39).  Furthermore, only the court has the right to restrict the right of believers to peaceful assembly. Experts believe that the issue of such unlawful acts by the local authorities is artificially creating social tension and provoking confrontation on religious grounds.

Members of the Protestant community have turned to the prosecutor’s office of the Luhansk district, Y.V. Udartsov over this violation of their constitutional rights, asking him to defend their legitimate interests and to register a protest at the decision of the Ivanivka Settlement Council of the Luhansk region  No. 5/12 from 22.08.2006.  As of today, the response of the prosecutor’s office to this appeal is not known.

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