Ukrainian news reports American criticism of Russian rights violations


RISU, 13 May 2021


On the territory of the ORDLO [Separate region of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts], which is under the control of the groupings of the "Donetsk People's Republic" [DPR] and "Luhansk People's Republic," [LPR] which are being supported by Moscow, religious groups that are not approved by Russia confront restrictions, says a report of the American department of state on freedom of religion in the world in 2020. This is reported by Radio Liberty.


"According to press reports, religious groups not approved by Russia continue to confront restrictions, especially religious groups that are legal in Ukraine but are illegal in Russia, such as Jehovah's Witnesses and the independent Muslim society Hizb ut-Tahrir, whose members continue to be threatened with arrest, detention, and prosecution," the report says.


According to the information of the state department, the PTsU [Orthodox Church of Ukraine], which struggled with the UPTsMP [Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate] for the faithful, has continued to report unjust treatment and persecution in 2020. Earlier, the office of the prosecutor general reported that it is investigating harassment of priests of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in the occupied territories.


"Sources report that the agencies of government of the DPR and LPR, supported by Russia, continued to arrest and imprison Jehovah's Witnesses and also leaders of other religious groups. According to Jehovah's Witnesses, the LPR continued to ban the group as an 'extremist' organization while the Supreme Court of the DPR maintained a similar ban," the document says.


According to reports of protestant groups and the Jehovah's Witnesses, many of their members have fled from these regions in order to avoid restrictions and to gain more freedom of religious confession, the American state department explained.


"According to information of the office of the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, a majority of religious groups recognized in accordance with Ukrainian legislation have continued to not have the possibility of reregistration because of the strict legal requirements of Russian legislation, which prevent or delay reregistration. Many religious groups continue to be refused reregistration because they have not recognized the governments in the DPR and LPR, which were established by Russia," the state department reported.


In its report on freedom of religion in the world for 2019, the American state department indicated that Russia persecutes and intimidates religious minorities, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and Crimean Muslim Tatars in Crimea, which it annexed.


Earlier, in a report of the American Commission on International Religious Freedom, it was stated that Russia is among 14 countries of the world that the American state department includes in a list of "countries evoking special concern." In particular, the report speaks about violations on Russia's part of the right to freedom of religion in the annexed Crimea.


Among the most prominent cases as to violation of human rights and rights of religious confession, rights advocates cite cases opened by Russian occupying authorities primarily against Muslims of "Hizb ut-Tahrir," prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses, and violation of the rights of parishes of believers of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.


In 2017, the Russian Supreme Court ruled that the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses is extremist and banned its activity in the country. Rights advocates noted that the court's decision "did not cite a single case of believers' violation of public order, or manifestation of aggression or violence on their part, or evidence that their activity threatened the security of the Russian Federation." (tr. by PDS, posted 16 May 2021)

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