The Situation in Ukraine: Threats to international peace and security
I thank the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Madam Brands Kehris for her briefing. We have also taken note of the information shared by the Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow. As the war on Ukraine evolves, worrying accounts of human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law continue to emerge. We are concerned by the attack, on 14th January, of a residential facility in Dnipro in a wave of missile attacks on several cities of Ukraine. Reports indicate that more than 40 people, including children have been killed and many others have suffered threatening injuries. We express our sincere condolences to the people of Ukraine, in particular to the families of those who died unjustly from such a heinous act. We would continue to emphasize that attacks against civilians are unacceptable and therefore, expressly prohibited under international law by the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in time of war. We urge international support to ensure accountability for this and the many other humanitarian and human rights violations that have occurred as a result of the war.
The relations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine have for a long time been marked by religious tensions which have intensified since February, last year when the Russian Federation launched full scale attacks on Ukraine. The war has deepened existing religious schisms that have struck at the very core of the belief systems of many Ukrainians. We note that recent developments in connection with the activities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), which is part of the Russian Orthodox Church have been a concern to the Ukrainian authorities, have necessitated regulations aimed at combatting suspected acts of subversion by some members of the Church. We hope that those measures would be temporary and only related to the war efforts to ensure public order. We have also heard reports of restrictions being imposed on some religious sects, especially in Russian-controlled areas in Eastern Ukraine.
Apart from these tensions, UNESCO has reported that more than one hundred religious sites have been damaged or completely destroyed as a result of the war. The freedom of religion, thought and conscience are fundamental rights guaranteed under international law with the exception, however, that the exercise of such freedom may be regulated to protect public safety, public order of the exercise and realization of other fundamental rights and freedoms. Historically and in contemporary times, some of the worst forms of crimes have been committed against people on the footing of religion. This is more the case when the lines between religion and politics appeared to be blurred. Although religion is not of itself violent, religious excesses, misguided interpretations of beliefs and religious intolerance have precipitated gross violations of human rights in many parts of the world. It is for this reason, that we urge all actors to exercise tolerance and mutual respect of other faiths, beliefs or religious preferences. We believe that religion must not only bring hope in times of suffering and disarray, such as that brought about by this war, but should be an enabler of peace.
All claims of human rights violations as well as religious violations should be submitted to appropriate international channels such as the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Council of the Europe for redress. We are of the view that the sooner the war ends, the better the chances that religious freedoms would not deteriorate any further for all religious groups. I end, by reiterating Ghana’s call for the cessation of hostilities and urge the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Russian Forces from the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine. We remain deeply concerned by the trend of the war and the deepening mistrust that it is fueling between the parties and other relevant international actors and urge, in this regard, the continuing support of the Council and the international community to assist the parties to resolve the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy.
I thank you for your kind attention.