On November 30 we reported on the proceedings against the Kirhisi Jehovah's Witnesses, guilty of using publications that, according to the General Prosecutor's Office, are "extremist", in accordance with the intolerant and anti-cult line of neighboring Russia. Today we are pleased to announce that the District Court of Pervomayskiy has rejected the request of the Prosecutor's Office, also thanks to an expert opinion written by Massimo Introvigne and Rosita Šorytė, respectively director and deputy director of Bitter Winter.
Will Kyrgyzstan Abide by the Rule of Law or Merely Follow in the Footsteps of Russia by Restricting Religious Freedom? - The test case of the Publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In Kyrgyzstan, the Pervomayskiy District Court is expected to rule on Thursday 2 December on a claim from the General Prosecutor’s office to ban 13 publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses as “extremist,” with the apparent aim of following in Russia’s footsteps and banning the Witnesses simply for their peaceful Christian worship.
Press Release by the Registrar of the Court — The applicants are the Centre of Societies for Krishna Consciousness, a religious organisation under Russian law based in Moscow, and a Russian national Mikhail Aleksandrovich Frolov. The case concerns the applicants’ attempts to challenge hostile descriptions of the Krishna movement and the refusal of permission to hold public religious events promoting the teachings of Vaishnavism.
Once again the European Court stigmatize and condemns the intolerant behavior of Russia towards the new religious movements present on Russian territory disliked by the ruling Orthodox class and the Russian anti-cultists headed by Alexander Dvorkin, vice-president of FECRIS and director of the Saint Irenaeus of Lyons Centre for Religious Studies, a Russian association affiliated to FECRIS. We publish below an article by HRWF about the ruling of the European Court.
October 28, 2021 will be remembered as another day when David defeated Goliath. The Supreme Court of Russia has ruled that Jehovah's Witnesses who pray in groups do not commit a crime and therefore cannot be prosecuted. The sentence opens a breach in art. 282.2 of the controversial Yarovaya law. The hope is that now all Jehovah's Witnesses detained in Russian prisons for praying or reading the Bible as a group will be released as soon as possible.
By Tabitha Berg — The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has once again affirmed the rights of Scientologists in Russia to practice their religion based on Article 9 of the ECHR Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, announced the Church of Scientology International.
Six scholars look at the European anti-cult federation, and conclude it is seriously dangerous for religious liberty.
By Luigi Berzano (University of Torino, Italy), Boris Falikov (Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia), Willy Fautré (Human Rights Without Frontiers, Brussels, Belgium), Liudmyla Filipovich (Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European National University, Lutsk, Ukraine), Massimo Introvigne (Center for Studies on New Religions, Torino, Italy), and Bernadette Rigal-Cellard (University Bordeaux-Montaigne, Bordeaux, France)
by Massimo Introvigne — I had never heard of Professor Roman Kon, from the Moscow Theological Academy, until somebody called my attention on the fact that he got in trouble after having been accused of “taking the side of Massimo Introvigne,” apparently a serious crime in Russia. From the answer he posted among the comments to the article attacking him by Vladimir Martinovich, lecturer on “cults” in Belarus’ Minsk Theological Academy, it seems that Kon did indeed his homework in reading what I wrote on the issue of brainwashing, and came to conclusions that are a matter of course among Western scholars of new religious movements.
by Massimo Introvigne — There is a different administration from last year in Washington DC but the yearly survey of religious liberty produced by the U.S. Department of State in 2021 (covering events of 2020) is as strong as last year’s report, or stronger. Secretary Blinken introduced the report on May 12 by singling out China as a country that “criminalizes religious expression” in general. Blinken did not avoid two politically significant definitions: “crimes against humanity” for how China treats religion, and “genocide” for what is being done to “Uyghurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups.”
RUSSIA: A case of violation of the right to freely practice one’s faith in community pending in Strasbourg
by Willy Fautré (HRWF) — The case against a Protestant pastor deprived of his right to organize religious meetings in his home in Russia is pending at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The case was filed by ADF International and is under review of the Court. Over the course of several years, a registered group of Evangelical Christian Baptists used to gather in a private house in Verkhnebakansky in Southern Russia. In September 2018, the local authorities filed a lawsuit against the former owner of the building asking the court to ban its use for religious purposes. The administration claimed that there were violations of fire safety and anti-terror provisions, that the building was registered as a residential house and could not be used as a church.
by Halya Coynash — A Russian-controlled court in Simferopol has placed 42-year-old Ukrainian Taras Kuzio under house arrest following mass armed searches of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ homes in occupied Yalta. The occupation regime has slightly varied the charge this time, although Kuzio is facing the same persecution as other believers for practising his faith. The hearing on 12 March at the ‘Kievsky District Court’ took place behind closed doors, and with a lawyer appointed by the ‘investigators’.
by Massimo Introvigne — Imagine if Cheng Quanguo, the CCP Secretary in Xinjiang who is under sanctions in the United States for his crimes against humanity, appeared in the West claiming he is persecuted by the Uyghurs and their friends in the democratic world, and hailing his concentration camps as model practices other countries should imitate. Or, in the 1930s, if Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels had lectured at a conference in Paris introducing themselves as victims of a persecution by the Jews, their American supporters, and the scholars who had written against Nazi anti-Semitism. Comedians who would propose this as a satirical show would be accused of bad taste.
One of the tragic aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the limitation of individual freedoms at almost all latitudes. In some countries this adds up to the deplorable and blamed limitations on freedom of belief. The 2020 report on the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia tells of a long history of abuses that do not seem to diminish, indeed, they seem to be getting worse and worse.
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):
Despite criticism it has received from mainline international scholars of new religious movements, anti-cultism is a dominant force in Russia. Its origins date back to the repression of groups labeled as sekty in the Russian Empire. In Soviet times, the State dealt directly with religious groups it regarded as dangerous, and offers of collaboration by the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) were rejected. However, cooperation between the ROC and the State in the fight against “cults” was resumed in the 21st century, and focused particularly on Jehovah’s Witnesses.
On December 10, 2020, we announced an appeal signed by 14 NGOs, including FOB, to the authorities of China, Iran and Russia to release the religious prisoners, at risk of being infected with COVID-19. This appeal was based on HRWF's annual report: “In Prison for Their Faith 2020”. Today we are publishing a brief summary of the HRWF report.
HRWF (10.12.2020) – Fourteen human rights NGOs call upon the authorities of China, Iran and Russia to release religious prisoners under threat of being infected by COVID-19. These are the three countries that have the highest number of believers of all faiths behind bars, according to Human Rights Without Frontiers’ (HRWF) database of FoRB prisoners which documents thousands of individual cases.
Washington, DC, November 10, 2020 – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report: “The Global Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses” Issue Update. This update describes official discrimination against Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world, with a particular focus on countries where members have been imprisoned for their beliefs.
A 66-year-old Jehovah's Witness has already been given nearly two years in pre-trial detention. From the mists of this controversial judicial case now comes to light an outrageous detail that confirms the worst hypotheses feared by the defenders of religious freedom: the Vice President of the French FECRIS (Fédération Européenne des Centres de Recherche et d'Information sur le Sectarisme, i.e.