Geneva, March 2, 2018
Ukraine commends the activities of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and fully supports this important mandate.
In Ukraine, Russia continues to use religious repressions in the temporarily occupied territories of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions where religious freedom appears to be at the whim of armed militants untethered to any legal authority.
A prime example of how religious activists and scholars can fall afoul of the authorities in the Russian-occupied areas is the case of sixty-three years old professor Ihor Kozlovsky, who in January 2016 was kidnapped by illegal security forces in Donetsk and sentenced to three years in prison for alleged weapons possession. His only “crime” was civic activity on behalf of religious groups. He was released only about two months ago.
Religious freedom in Russian-occupied Crimea is seriously curtailed. Although Russian occupying authorities’ repression of Crimean Tatars is mainly motivated by political rather than religious concerns, it disrupts Crimean Tatar religious activities and institutions. Russian authorities have assimilated the spiritual life of the Muslim Crimean Tatar minority and arrested or driven into exile the community’s representatives.
We expect the Russian Federation to fulfill the International Court of Justice’s order of 19 April 2017 by, in particular, revoking the decision on banning the activities of Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People.
With the mind of above, we invite the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to visit Ukraine, including temporarily occupied territories of Crimea and Donetsk and Luhansk regions, to estimate the situation of the right of people living there on freedom of religion or belief.