Council of Europe cross-party initiative: Parliamentarians from 14 European countries call upon Russian government to put an end to religious freedom violations against minorities
On Friday 13 October, 28 parliamentarians at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, coming from 14 European countries and members of the four main political groups at the Assembly, signed a written declaration published on the Council of Europe’s website, calling respectfully upon the Russian government to intervene to “put an end to violations of the Right to Freedom of Religion or belief of members of religious minorities in Russia”.
The declaration reads that “Evangelicals, Lutherans, Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Presbyterians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Scientologists and others have been targeted, with some of their members sentenced to pre-trial imprisonment based on the 2002 Extremist law, while in reality being held for simply engaging in peaceful religious beliefs and activities.”
This declaration, of which signatories are members of national parliaments in Portugal, Spain, Italy, UK, and 10 other countries, appears in a context of strong religious discrimination in Russia, where religious minorities suffer unlawful treatments by some authorities. Recently, Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination that rejects violence, has been banned as “extremist,” by a decision of the Supreme court. Protests from Russian human rights defenders have risen throughout the Russian Federation, as discriminatory treatments are increasingly unfair towards Russia’s own citizens.
Recently, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a very well-known Russian human rights activist whom Putin personally visited on her 90th birthday this year, has published an open letter to the President in the top National magazine the Kommersant, followed by 100 Russian human rights activists, protesting against the unfair treatment of Scientologists in Russia, following the arrest of five of their religious leaders on the spurious charges of “extremism”, based on the law on extremism of 2002, which, according to the European Parliamentarians, “provides no clear definition for the term ‘extremism,’ thus rendering virtually any group or individual vulnerable to political and legal harassment.”