Draft law restricting freedom of conscience tabled in parliament
The draft law “On amendments to some legislative acts on countering extremism” permits restriction of freedom of conscience in cases involving terrorism, extremism and fundamentalism. The document suggests imposing administrative and criminal liability for propaganda of extremism and fundamentalism. The Institute of Religious Freedom in Kyiv notes that the draft law also envisages restrictions on freedom of conscience in cases involving terrorism, extremism and fundamentalism, yet does not provide a definition or the characteristics of such activities.
Draft law No. 5276, tabled by National Deputy, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and Head of Police for the Crimea Gennady Moskal, proposes supplementing the Code of Administrative Offences and the Criminal Code with provisions on liability for the preparation and possession for the purpose of sale or circulation of information and material containing ideas of extremism and fundamentalism, as well as for leadership and participation in extremist, fundamentalist and other banned organizations, as well as for material, organizational or other encouragement of the activities of such organizations.
The draft law envisages amendments to the Law “On citizens’ associations”, and the Law “On political parties in Ukraine” which prohibit political parties from receiving property, services or financial assistance from any religious organizations, foreign states and their citizens, enterprises, institutions, organizations, international organizations, stateless persons or enterprises with foreign investments.
With regard to the Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations”, the author suggests amending Article 3 of the Law by making it possible to legislatively prohibit particular religions, as well as to restrict the right to freedom of conscience in cases involving terrorism, extremism and fundamentalism. The draft law, as mentioned, neither defines nor describes the activities meant.
Article 5 of the draft law would prohibit “the functioning of religious organizations which foster manifestations of terrorism, extremism, fundamentalism, the drug business and other criminal activities”, while Article 18 – forcing “the making of mandatory donations of money or property to religious organizations”.
According to the bill’s author, Gennady Moskal, “the draft law has been drawn up with the aim of preventing the spread in Ukraine of extremism and fundamentalism, after all extremist groups under the banner of Islam already exist in Ukraine”.
This is not Gennady Moskal’s first initiative in this area. He previously tabled in parliament a draft law on amendments to the law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations “on preventing religious cults of a destructive nature and totalitarian sects” (No. 2419). According to the Institute for Religious Freedom, such moves were not supported among religious communities and by specialists and the draft law was seen as an encroachment on freedom of worship in Ukraine. This was also the view of the profile Committee on Culture and Spirituality which recommended that the Verkhovna Rada reject the bill, noting that the current law was considerably more democratic than the changes proposed.