On September 13 2016 Constitutional Court of Ukraine put an end to the question of whether organizers of peaceful assemblies should obtain permission from local authorities. No it is enough to notify them about it.
The court considered the submission of the Parliament Commissioner for human rights Valeriya Lutkovska, in which she asked to declare unconstitutional the provisions of part 5 of article 21 of the law “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations” that provide that the conduct of public worship, religious rites, ceremonies and processions in places other than specified in the law is subject to approval from the relevant local authority.
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union also participated in this process.
“We have submitted expert report that questioned the constitutionality of the provisions that were contested”, the Director of Strategic Affairs of the UHHRU Mykhailo Tarakhkalo. “The Constitution contains norms of direct action, and there is notification of peaceful assembly. That is, individuals who planned to hold a worship service, and indeed any public meeting, over a certain period of time had to obtain permission from state authorities. In fact, there was discrimination, as the organizers of religious meetings were put at a disadvantage relative to all others. These provisions clearly contradict the provisions of the Constitution”.
The Constitutional Court noted that according to article 35 of the Constitution everyone is guaranteed the right to freedom of belief and religion, including freedom to practice any religion or not to profess any, freely to carry out individually or collectively religious rites and ceremonial rituals, and conduct religious activities.
However, article 21 of the law “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations” establishes that worship services, religious rites, ceremonies and processions are held freely in religious buildings and on adjacent territory, places of pilgrimage, in institutions of religious organizations, cemeteries, places of individual burials and crematoria, apartments and houses of citizens.
They can also be used in institutions, organizations and enterprises on the initiative of their labor collectives and with the consent of the administration; in hospitals, hospitals, nursing homes, detention and punishment are carried out at the request of citizens residing in them, or at the initiative of religious organizations, the commanders of military units shall provide an opportunity for military personnel to participate in the worship and performing religious rites. For worship in other places requires permission of local authorities. The Constitutional Court declared this provision unconstitutional.
The Court noted that the basic law gives citizens the right to assemble peacefully, without weapons, hold rallies, meetings, marches and demonstrations, which shall be notified in advance to the bodies of Executive power or bodies of local self-government. The Constitutional Court recalled that the ECHR recognized charges of religious views of peaceful assembly and, accordingly, invalidated restrictions on the right of citizens to conduct them.
Mykhailo Tarakhkalo, Director of Strategic Affairs of the UHHRU. Photo: precedent.in.ua
“The decision of the Constitutional Court is logical”, noted Mykhailo Tarakhkalo. “But in this case it was much more important and interesting, it's not limited to the mere recognition of these norms as unconstitutional. In addition, the Court on its own initiative declared unconstitutional the order of the days of the Soviet Union, which still operated on the territory of Ukraine”.
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