The following press release was distributed to media today:
WASHINGTON DC, JANUARY 3, 2024 – Warning of the Ukrainian government’s imminent passage of the controversial Draft Law 8371, the law firm of Amsterdam & Partners LLP is today releasing a new white paper detailing sweeping abuses of human rights and violations of religious freedom by the Ukrainian government aimed against their client, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).
According to the white paper, clergy and members of the UOC have faced harassment, intimidation, sanctions, and imprisonment since the outbreak of the war. But the proposed Draft Law 8371, which is expected to be passed by the Ukrainian legislature in mid-January 2024, would go much further, effectively giving the government powers to arbitrarily shut down a church that has been the main religious body in Ukraine for centuries.
“As Ukraine stands on the front lines of the free world, this must not be a place where a rapacious government is allowed to put chains on the gates of its churches,” said Robert Amsterdam, founding partner of Amsterdam & Partners LLP. “Draft Law 8371 is likely to be passed soon, and it represents an outright ban of the UOC, entirely based on political motives of a small ruling clique and the corrupt interests of a select few. This constitutes a dangerous precedent for undermining religious freedoms that should not be tolerated by the allies of Ukraine, including the United States.”
In October 2023, the Ukrainian legislature passed the first reading of the law. Draft Law 8371 seeks to introduce two new articles to Ukraine’s 1991 “Law of Ukraine On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations,” including Article 3.1, contains specific language aimed at prohibiting any church believed to be a threat to the “public safety and order on the territory of Ukraine,” which appears written specifically to ban the UOC, despite the Church’s clear separation from Moscow and its outsized role raising funds and aid in support of Ukraine’s sovereign defense.
“Let’s be very clear. It is indeed a violation of Ukrainians’ rights to freedom of religion when the state forces language changes to the liturgy, when they change the official date of Christmas, and when they seize and lock up their churches, violently assault the priests, and expect members to just switch over to a fake new state-sponsored church,” said Amsterdam. “This white paper is a wake-up call to Western leaders who for too long have ignored corrupt conduct on behalf of the Ukrainians. We are asking for supporters of this cause to stand up and take action.”
The report titled, “Freedom of Religion under Attack in Ukraine: A White Paper on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” is available for download on https://savetheuoc.com.
The release of the white paper is accompanied by a short documentary video, “Christianity under Attack: Ukraine.”