We seek to defend freedom of religion in Ukraine

The #SaveTheUOC campaign is led by international lawyer Robert Amsterdam on behalf of his client, the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church first announced the appointment of Robert Amsterdam on October 18, 2023, following a series of raids, unlawful arrests, and seizures of church property by the Ukrainian government. The efforts to form a public information campaign became urgent once the Ukrainian Parliament (Rada) passed its second reading of the controversial Draft Law 8371, which would allow the state the powers the arbitrarily ban an entire religion.

Draft Law 8371 seeks to amend the Ukrainian law “On the freedom of conscience and religious organizations” in certain respects, allowing the legislature to selectively punish religious communities and interfere with their rights to worship freely.

“Protecting freedom of religion of all Ukrainians is essential to the continued support for Ukraine in both Washington and key European capitals,” said Amsterdam. “Draft Law 8371 represents a significant step backwards, a violation of Ukraine’s international legal commitments and the nation’s own constitution.”

Amsterdam continued: “Contrary to the Ukrainian government’s propaganda, the UOC is an independent church – instead we are witnessing pure political persecution and opportunism, which has nothing to do with Ukraine’s national security.”

The Key Facts

The right to outlaw an entire church can in no way be seen as a necessary and proportionate response to a pressing social need.

Article 9.2 of the ECHR states: “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

The Ukrainian government’s conduct in this case, its politically motivated attack against the UOC, violates numerous national and international law.

“The banning of an entire religion during wartime represents among the worst human rights crimes.” – Robert Amsterdam

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