Lawyers: bills to prohibit "russian world" contradict national and international law

On 18 October 2018 the Verkhovna Rada supported, by 234 votes, the inclusion of two bills prohibiting the propaganda of the"Russian World" in Ukraine in the agenda of the session.

The two bills registered under #9200 and #9139 propose amendments to the Law of Ukraine on the Condemnation of the Communist and National-Socialist (Nazi) Totalitarian Regimes in Ukraine and the Prohibition of Propaganda of Their Symbols.

Petro Poroshenko Block members Alexander Briginets and Refat Chubarov and Narodny Front members Andrey Teteruk and Sergei Vysotsky authored the bill #9200, submitted to the parliament on 16 October 2018. It should be reminded that Refat Chubarov is also the chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People. The bill proposes supplementing the original law with the prohibition of "imperial ideology of the aggressor state".

Ukrop party members (Alexander Shevchenko) submitted to the parliament almost identical bill #9139 on 28 September 2018; the bill uses the term "condemnation of the Russian world".

According to lawyers of Uspishna Varta human rights platform, the proposed amendments contradict national and international law; the contradictions are mostly related to the very term proposed for introduction in the said bill:

- "Russian world" is a form of National-Socialism (Nazism), the Russian neo-imperial geopolitical, cultural-historical idea of international and interstate community united by belonging to Russia and devotion to the Russian language and culture, under slogans of unity and protection of carriers of Russian language and culture, Orthodoxy, common historical memory and common views on social development"

According to the experts, the definition above would lead to possible groundless prohibition of the use of the Russian language and culture, and prohibition of Orthodoxy, justified by alleged belonging and devotion to Russia, which contradicts the Constitution of Ukraine and international judicial practice.

In particular, the bill contradicts Articles 10 and 11 of the Constitution of Ukraine, and the Law of Ukraine on Culture dated 14 December 2010 #2778-VI, paragraph 2 Article 5 of which provides that the state provides for comprehensive development and functioning of the state language in the sphere of culture, and guarantees free use of languages of all national minorities of Ukraine.

In global practice, there are several precedents when the European Court of Human Rights stood with citizens, supporting their legitimate right to the freedom of expression.

- ECHR judgement in Ulusoy and Others v. Turkey (# 34797/03, 3 May 2007) the Court found that the ban on a Kurdish production of a play in municipal buildings was in breach of freedom of expression.

- In Khurshid Mustafa and Tarzibachi v. Sweden (# 23883/06, 16 December 2008), related to the eviction of tenants because of their refusal to remove a satellite dish that enabled them to receive television programmes in Arabic and Farsi from their country of origin (Iraq), the Court stressed the importance of that freedom for a family of immigrants with three children who have the right to maintain contact with the culture and language of their country of origin.

In addition, Uspishna Varta experts believe that the definitions of "propaganda of the "Russian world" and "imperial ideology of the aggressor state" contained in the bill contradict the legal norms of the Constitution of Ukraine (Article 35), under which everyone has the right to freedom of worldview and religion, and may lead to the incitement of a social conflict:

- "propaganda of the"Russian world" means dissemination of ideology of exclusive status of Moscow's Orthodoxy, of alleged status of the Russian Orthodox Church as the pillar of Universal Orthodoxy and as the only church that has preserved authentic faith, as well as the use of such ideology to substantiate the union of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples".

This can be substantiated by ECHR judgement in Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia and Others v. Moldova, where the Court notes that the state has no right to assess the legality of religious beliefs and forms of their expression. In addition, attempts to unite religious organizations under single leadership and other similar interferences are inadmissible.

Earlier, Uspishna Varta lawyers provided legal assessment of the prohibition of teaching in Russian in Ukrainian schools.

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