Human Rights Ombudspersons Report ignores freedom of conscience issues
On 24 June 2009 Nina Karpachova, Human Rights Ombudsperson presented to the Verkhovna Rada something which she called an “annual report”, although it was in fact her first since 2005. The Institute for Religious Freedom [IRF] has analyzed it and found it seriously wanting as regards religious freedom issues. It points out that the report does not pay any particular attention to ensuring the right to freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed in Article 35 of the Constitution.
The report cites no cases of violation of believers’ rights during the period in question. There is no consideration, for example, of the following:
- issues concerning privatization and sale to outsiders of former places of worship which are municipal property and which are supposed to be returned to their historical owners in accordance with Ukraine’s commitments to the Council of Europe;
- the difficult conditions imposed on religious organizations (commercial tariffs on natural gas and communal services);
- the abuse by the law enforcement agencies of their authority (the events in Yevpatoria, Kyiv, etc (see, for example, http://www.khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1198707471 ));
- obstruction by bodies of local self-government of the right of peaceful assembly (Berdyansk, Mariupol, Donetsk, as well as the Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and other regions);
- Some cases where religious communities have encountered obstacles in registering;
- Preference given to certain religious organizations due to the denominational leanings of local officials.
There is only one mention of a submission having been made by the Ombudsperson to the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs regarding believers’ rights in the village of Rokhmaniv in the Ternopil region, and no detail is given.
The Institute points out that the annual reports prepared by Ukrainian human rights organizations – Human Rights in Ukraine – for the given year, particular cases of violations of freedom of thought, conscience and religion are cited, while the Religious Information Service of Ukraine [RISU], together with IRF produce reports monitoring religious freedom in the country. The US State Department in its reports on religious freedom for 2006 and 2007 also cited a number of violations of religious freedom.
IRF does stress, that despite particular infringements, most Ukrainian and international experts agree that there is a relatively high level of freedom of conscience in Ukraine, and also welcome the interest of the leadership of the country and of the authorities in further harmonizing relations between State and religious organizations in Ukraine.
From information at http://www.irs.in.ua