Arrests and torture of Jehovah’s Witnesses: Russia challenges Europe

Jehovah’s Witnesses persecution in Russia: building burning

There have been numerous declarations of condemnation of the discriminatory and illiberal attitude that the Russian Federation has shown for years towards Jehovah's Witnesses. Among these statements, the one issued on 11 December 2018 by Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, stands out, in which he states that "Jehovah's Witnesses are also Christians and I do not understand why they should be persecuted". Previously, on 23 March 2018, the government of the Russian Federation had declared that “The acts of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation [of 20.04.2017 and 17.07.2017] do not evaluate the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses and do not contain any restrictions or prohibition to practice the aforementioned doctrine individually ”. And again, on June 19, 2019 the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation stressed that "These events make us think of the existence of a conflict between the constitutional right to profess one's religion, individually or jointly with others, and the signs of extremist activity specified in article 282.2 of the penal code of the Russian Federation. [...] The vague criteria for classifying religious materials as extremists are unacceptable, since practically any federal judge, at his discretion, can ban any book, image, video or audio recording."

So if even Putin "does not understand" the reason for the Russian persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses (the images in the video below need no further comment), why does this persecution continue? Who wants and feeds it?

Over the years, FOB has repeatedly pointed to FECRIS and its vice-president, Russian Alexander Dvorkin, as proponents of this and other hate campaigns against religious minorities. Now, the United States government, through the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), has also published a detailed report on Russian religious freedom violations in July 2020, highlighting the role of Dvorkin and the FECRIS in creating and exporting even outside Russia their unqualified and unmotivated hate campaigns that should no longer find asylum in modern society.

Below is a video reportage on the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia published by the newspaper Il Quotidiano Italiano.

Violence, torture, arrests, humiliations of all kinds and threats. It’s the treatment that the Russian authorities have been reserving for over 170,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses for 3 years. The images that you are seeing are those filmed by some video surveillance cameras. They tell a drama that takes place without media hype among the protests of the international community.

On June 10, 2010, the European Court condemned the Russian authorities for arbitrarily denying the legal recognition of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow on the basis of the same charges that are used today to persecute them. The ruling stated that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a “well-known Christian religion” and stated that the Russian authorities had not acted in good faith towards them neglecting their duty to be neutral and impartial. All this in violation of the religious freedom recognized by international law.

Regardless of that historic ruling, the Russian authorities have since sparked severe persecution against Jehovah’s Witnesses, exacerbated on April 20, 2017 by a ruling by the Russian Supreme Court which sanctioned the dissolution of the legal entities of the Witnesses in Russia. Since then the violence has increased dramatically forcing some of them to flee to other European countries including Italy in which they have been granted political asylum with international protection. Margarita is a Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses who lives in Italy. The opposition suffered in Russia by the Jehovah’s Witness community makes us go back to the Soviet Union period.

Today there are international conventions guaranteeing certain fundamental rights, but they must be enforced. In this regard, recently Professor Vladimiro Zagrebelsky, judge of the European Court of Human Rights at the time of the 2010 ruling, said that Religious freedom is guaranteed by the European Convention of Human Rights and includes the freedom to believe and not to believe, to change religion or belief, to manifest one’s religion or belief in private and in public with the rites the teaching and practice. State neutrality and the absence of preference for one religion or another are essential conditions of religious freedom, as well as the legal recognition of religious associations.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have long encountered serious difficulties in the exercise of the freedom guaranteed by the Convention in the Russian Federation and elsewhere – continues Zagrebelsky. It is desirable that the governing bodies of the Council of European rights are active in supervising the correct execution of the judgments of the European Court and, in general, on guaranteeing the freedoms provided by the Convention.

Any form of discrimination should concern everyone, religious and otherwise, because each of us somewhere in the world are a minority!

Source: Il Quotidiano Italiano