Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia – 2020 Report

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia

Below is a 2020 year-end report illustrating the scope of Russia’s crackdown on Jehovah’s Witnesses. For its incessant persecution of Witnesses, among other offenses, Russia is listed on UN Watch’s 2020 “Top 10 Human Rights Abusers.”

As of December 31, 2020 (Russia and Crimea):

  • 188 criminal cases, involving 147 believers, initiated in 2020 (often, there are two or more accused in one criminal case, and some believers are being prosecuted in more than one case). Since 2017, 428 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been criminally charged in 60 regions, territories, etc. (see infographic)
  • 39 men and women were convicted in 2020 under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (more than double the 18 convictions in 2019)
  • 72 were imprisoned temporarily or due to conviction, with 44 still behind bars (35 in pretrial detention centers and 9 in prison)
  • 477 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses were raided in 2020 (1,274 since the 2017 Supreme Court ruling that liquidated the Witnesses’ legal entities)

Jarrod Lopes, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, says: “In 2020, Russian authorities beat several Jehovah’s Witnesses and jailed over 70 Witnesses simply for their peaceful Christian beliefs. Russia has tried to dupe the public into thinking the 2017 Supreme Court ruling that liquidated the Witnesses’ legal entities gives them license to target individual believers. But the international human rights community has not been fooled. Russia continues to receive international criticism for making a mockery of the rule of law—both international human rights law as well as its own constitution, which protects religious freedom. Hopefully in 2021, Jehovah’s Witnesses will be allowed to freely worship in Russia as they do in nearly 200 other lands around the world.”

The World is Watching, Here’s What They Said in 2020

October 2020

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
USCIRF Troubled by Russia’s Ongoing Imprisonment of Jehovah’s Witness Dennis Christensen

September 2020

Secret witnesses, wiretaps and banned literature: how Russian law enforcement prosecutes Jehovah’s Witnesses

July 2020

United States Mission to OSCE
On Violations of Freedom of Religion or Belief in the Russian Federation

UK Delegation to OSCE
Situation of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Russian Federation: UK statement

March 2020

European Union Delegation to OSCE
EU Statement on the situation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Russian Federation and allegations of torture and ill-treatment

January 2020

Human Rights Watch
Russia: Escalating Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses