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UN Official 'Concerned' Newly Drafted Ukraine Laws May Undermine Right of Religion, Belief

© AP Photo / Manu BraboUkrainian demonstrators carry a giant Ukrainian flag during a pro Ukrainian demonstration in Donetsk, Ukraine, Thursday, April 17, 2014.
Ukrainian demonstrators carry a giant Ukrainian flag during a pro Ukrainian demonstration in Donetsk, Ukraine, Thursday, April 17, 2014. - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.01.2023
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris said she was concerned that two recent draft laws in Ukraine could undermine the right of religion as guaranteed by international law.
"We are concerned that two draft law recently taken by the Parliament - draft law 8221 and draft law number 8262 - could undermine the right of religion or belief as enshrined in article 18 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights," Kehris told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.
Kehris said that among the array of human rights concerns, the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is particularly concerned about the documents restrictions of freedom of religion, as well as freedom of association across Ukraine.
In November and December, the Ukrainian security service conducted searches in the places of worship of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) and the authorities criminally charged at least three clerics.
"We urge the Ukrainian authorities that any such searches on the premises and places of worship are in full compliance with international law, that fair trial rights are given to those facing criminal charges and that any criminal sentences are compatible with the rights of freedom of opinion, expression and religion," Kehris said.
Earlier, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzia commented during a UNSC meeting that Ukraine is now one step away from a religious catastrophe and can face the worst inter-confessional conflict in the history of Europe.
"Mr. President, the latest area of Kiev’s repressive policy is its war against canonical orthodoxy," Nebenzia said during a UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday.
"Ukraine has been brought to the brink of a large scale inter-religious conflict, which the history of modern Europe has not yet seen… Ukraine is now literally a step away from a fratricidal domestic religious catastrophe. However, the regime [of Volodymyr Zelenskyy] is simply pouring fuel into the fire."
Nebenzia underscored that Russia would never tolerate a "Russophobic and anti-Christian dictatorship" being established in neighboring Ukraine.
In 2022, some 129 churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church were taken hold of, the Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, Metropolitan of Volokolamsk Anthony.
Anthony added in an address that Ukraine is reducing the possibility for dialogue by attempting to destroy the UOC.
On December 28, President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a decree to suspend the Ukrainian citizenship of 13 UOC clerics. Zelensky called on Ukraine’s parliament to adopt a bill to ban the UOC within two months and such a bill has since been submitted. Meanwhile, some local authorities in Ukraine have decided to ban the activities of the UOC.
The UOC is the only canonical Orthodox church in Ukraine recognized by all other local Orthodox churches in the country.
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