On July 23, 2020 the so-called “bailiffs service” of Crimea handed to archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) Clement a resolution on the demolition of the OCU temple in Yevpatoria.
The decision to demolish the worship house, contrary to international law, was made by “Crimean court” due to the alleged lack of evidence from the defendant, which confirms the “legality of the use of land and buildings” by the religious community of the OCU in Yevpatoria.
This fact is another confirmation of the systemic policy of the Russian Federation in order to destroy the OCU and Ukrainian culture on the occupied peninsula. For instance, last year the pressure on OCU was increased when on the 3d of March 2019 employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation unreasonably detained Archbishop Clement for 7 hours. Also, in April, the Crimean Department of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation refused to register a local religious organization at the request of Archbishop Clement. On June 8, the “Arbitration Court” of Crimea decided to terminate the lease agreement for the premises where the current cathedral of the OCU was located. The reason was a debt of 2.3 hryvnias (approx. 0,071 EUR). On July 24, 2019, Archbishop Clement announced that all the church utensils of the diocesan administration had been stolen from the Cathedral of Saints Volodymyr and Olga in Simferopol under the guise of repairs. Now the occupying authorities are trying to destroy the temple in Yevpatoria.
The Russian government’s policy of freedom of religion in occupied Crimea is discriminatory and intolerant to almost all religious denominations except the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. All other religious organizations are constantly confronted with violations of religious rights through Russian law aimed at significantly restricting religious freedom, moreover Muslims and supporters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are being persecuted and imprisoned solely because of their religious beliefs.
By obstructing the activities of the OCU and other “undesirable” denominations in the occupied Crimea, the Russian Federation violates international obligations to ensure freedom of religion and non-discrimination (in particular, Articles 9 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights; Articles 18, 19, and the International Covenant on Civil and political rights, as well as the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, 1981). The Russian Federation also violates the IV Geneva Convention 1949 (Article 58), which obliges the occupying power to permit ministers of religion to give spiritual assistance to the members of their religious communities.
According to this, we demand from the Russian Federation and the occupying authorities of Crimea:
- cancel the illegal resolution on the demolition of the OCU temple in Yevpatoria;
- immediately stop interfering in the activities of the OCU and other denominations in Crimea;
- ensure the right of Crimean residents to freedom of religion, expression and non-discrimination in accordance with international obligations.
We call on international organizations and foreign governments to:
- condemn the actions of the Russian Federation regarding interference in the activities of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and other religious denominations in the occupied Crimea;
- continue to put pressure on the Russian government to stop persecuting the OCU and other denominations in the temporarily occupied Crimea.
We call on the Government of Ukraine:
- conduct an on-going monitoring of the situation regarding the violation of the rights of the OCU in the occupied Crimea and to respond to such violations in a timely manner;
- take all available measures to protect the Crimean Diocese of the OCU and the property in its use.
Crimean Human Rights Group
Human Rights Center ZMINA
Center for Civil Liberties
Union of Relatives of Kremlin’s Political Prisoners
Center for civil education “Almenda”
Human rights house Crimea
Regional center for human rights
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group