Call to protect right of believers to peaceful assembly
On 10 July the Institute of Religious Freedom [IRF] addressed an appeal in writing to the Head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Inter-Ethnic Relations, Oleh Zarubinsky. The appeal stressed the need through legislation to ensure that believers can exercise their right to hold peaceful public gatherings.
The appeal was prompted by a draft law “On the procedure for organizing and holding peaceful gatherings” (No. 2450) passed in its first reading on 3 June. The draft law, which has been sent to the above-mentioned committee to be refined before its second reading excludes from the force of the law “religious rites and ceremonies in cases envisaged by the Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations”.
IRF states that “In the interests of the religious community of Ukraine, Churches, religious organizations and all citizens of Ukraine who are believers it is vitally important to introduce a single and standard legislative approach in the exercising the constitutional provisions on organizing and holding peaceful gatherings whether those involved are believers or not”.
It explains that the current provisions of Article 21 § 5 of the Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations” are out of date with respect to the Constitution, and that the discrepancy has over the last 10 years lead to erratic application by the authorities, and a number of violations of the right too peaceful assembly by bodies of local self-government. IRF states that some of these violations have even resulted in protests from the Prosecutor’s Office and the relevant appeals to the court.
IRF is therefore suggesting that the Committee extends the scope of the new draft law and introduces the relevant amendments to Article 21 of the Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations”.
Maxim Vasin, IRF Executive Director stresses that the changes the Institute is proposing are also in harmony with a new draft version of the law on freedom of conscience which has been prepared by a working group within the State Committee on Nationalities and Religion. The latter envisages that public religious gatherings fall under the same provisions as any other organizations, as per Article 39 of the Constitution.
From material at www.irs.in.ua