Representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church visited Strasbourg and had several meetings in the Council of Europe

December 14, 2015. The representative of Ternopil and Kremenets diocese, hegumen Gerontius, rector of St. John Merciful Monastery, and the legal adviser of the Kyiv Metropolis and also chief of the human rights organization “Public Advocacy” Mr. O.Denisov had a meeting at the Council of Europe with the Commissioner of Human Rights Mr. Nils Muiznieks. The representative of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Council of Europe hegumen Philip (Ryabykh) accompanied them at the meeting, as reports website of the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church in Strasbourg (REOR).

On December 15th, the same Church representatives had a meeting with the Council of Europe’s Director General of Democracy, Ms Snežana Samardžić-Marković.

At the meetings there were discussed the situation of human rights in the Western Ukraine due to the increasing number of seizures of the temples of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). Special attention was paid to the consecutive statements of the Ternopil regional council, which contain conflictual language against Pochayiv Lavra. Members of the local government bodies are involved in its application and they claim that Laura is a “anti-Ukrainian centre”, which supports the separatism and the “russifying” the Ukrainian people. Such statements are examples of hate speech and, according to human rights defender, promote the religious hatred, and therefore inadmissible.

The attention of the Council of Europe was drawn to the egregious violations of human rights that occur in the village Katerinovka Ternopil region. The authorities used force unnecessarily and the police beat more than 13 parishioners of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church near the temple, which belongs to them. Another issue of discussion was the conflict in the village of Rivne region in which the UOC, cannot use the church building as the legal owner, despite the positive court’s decision because it is captured by the supporters of the so-called “Kiev Patriarchate”.

Mr Oleg Denisov mentioned that, “in all cases of violations of human rights the UOC addressed to the police, as well as to public authorities, to the Commissioner of Human Rights of the Supreme Council of Ukraine, sent applications to the President of Ukraine and to the governors of the respective areas and turned to the courts. However, if the courts considered the applications of believers quite objectively and if they defended justice, the executive and the law enforcement system which would have taken effective measures to bring to the justice the perpetrators responsible for the seizure of power, did nothing to prevent conflicts.

A human rights activist said: “It seems that in some cases the central government and regional administrations consciously support the Kiev Patriarchate in their initiatives to bring the communities of the UOC into their jurisdiction, even when the faithful claim that they did not take a decision on the transition to the Kiev Patriarchate and the local authorities surely know about the existence of the communities of the UOC. Some government representatives forced the parishioners of the UOC to transfer their property into the possession of the supporters of the Kiev Patriarchate, covering the so-called “alternate” use of the temple and ignoring the fact that the property owner is not required to “share” it with others, especially under the threat of violence. For this reason, there is a law enforcement system to protect citizens from such unlawful attacks”.

To summarize his words, Mr. O.Denisov said: “Due to the fact that conflicts become widespread, we addressed to the international human rights organisations, specially designed to deal with such cases. Such appeals are the undisputed right of believers and should be considered as part of the normal activity of any human rights group, which claims that its rights are systematically violated. In particular, we have already prepared and submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights, as well as in other international institutions”.

Following the meeting, an agreement was reached with representatives of the Council of Europe on future cooperation in the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Ukraine.

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