Human rights activists urged the OSCE to monitor religious persecution in Crimea and Donbas

On September 19, a special event dedicated to the issues of religious freedom in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories of Crimea and Donbas was held as part of the annual OSCE conference in Warsaw. The event, organized by the Center for Civil Liberties in partnership with the Institute of Religious Freedom, was attended by diplomats of OSCE participating countries, religious figures and social activists.

Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zoria), Deputy Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, lawyer of Crimean Tatars and Crimean political prisoners Lilia Gemendzhi, Program Manager of the Russian Human Rights Center “Memorial” Vitaly Ponomarev and Executive Director of the Center for Civil Liberties Oleksandra Romantsova provided information about the difficulties faced by Ukrainian believers of different faiths of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions (Donbas) due to the Russian occupation. It was reported by the Institute of Religious Freedom.

The lack of adequate international monitoring in Crimea and closedness to human rights organizations, especially in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, gives rise to complete impunity for the occupation authorities, who are not accountable to anyone for their numerous crimes on the grounds of religion. This encourages the Russian authorities in Crimea and illegal military formations in Eastern Ukraine, supported by Russia, to continue their violence against believers and religious minorities.

Human rights activists also noted that the current daily reports of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) do not even mention the outrageous facts of religious persecution in the military conflict zone in Eastern Ukraine.

The participants urged the audience of diplomats and OSCE structures, including ODIHR and the SMM, to establish a comprehensive and impartial international monitoring of freedom of religion or belief, documentation and public disclosure of violations and crimes based on religion in the territories beyond control of the Ukrainian government, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and in occupied Crimea.