The HRC asked the Prosecutor General to check the validity of criminal prosecution of followers of “Jehovah’s Witnesses”

Moscow. June 21. INTERFAX Presidential Council on human rights (HRC) has asked the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation to intervene in the situation around the criminal prosecution “Jehovah’s Witnesses” recognized extremist organization.

“The Council under RF President on development of civil society and human rights appealed to the Prosecutor General with a request to check the legality and validity of criminal prosecution of citizens professing the religion of “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, – said in a statement posted on the website of the HRC.

It is noted that information about the mass persecution of believers was set forth in the collective appeal, received by the Council.

The HRC recalled that on 20 April 2017, the Supreme court ruled on the elimination of religious organizations “Administrative center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia” and within its structure of local religious organizations.

“This decision contains an exhaustive list of legal persons subject to liquidation. At the same time, the court’s decision does not contain conclusions about the banning of the religion “Jehovah’s Witnesses” as such”, – underlined in the message.

A similar conclusion is formulated and the determination of the appeal the Supreme court of the Russian Federation of July 17, 2017 in the case, where it is noted that the court of first instance did not assess the legitimacy of religious beliefs of “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and their expression.

It is in this same position, the Russian government in its response to the ECHR of March 23, 2018 on the issue of the admissibility of the complaints of religious organizations “Administrative center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia”, said that the government of the Russian Federation proceeds from the assumption that the acts of the Supreme court of the Russian Federation does not provide estimates of the doctrine of “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, does not contain a restriction or prohibition to practice individually the above teachings.

However, as noted in the HRC, “in practice, operational services and investigative authorities of SK of Russia, MVD of Russia and FSB of Russia use the decision of the Supreme court of the Russian Federation of 20 April 2017 for criminal prosecution of believers.”

According to the Council for information, with reference to the decision of the court in respect of persons who profess the doctrine of “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, was initiated at least 17 criminal cases in the cities of the Russian Federation.

In these cases arrested 19 people, one of them being held in detention for over a year. More than 20 people under house arrest or under house arrest, reported in the HRC.

The faithful filed charges in all cases are based on the allegation that a group of believers held worship.

Allegations of citizens that they together read the Bible and pray to God, interpreted as “continuation of an extremist organization”. The Council believes that this interpretation is not consistent with the legal position of the Supreme court.

The HRC stated that it “cannot but cause concern, since criminal prosecutions and arrests have become systematic”. “The situation is associated with the Soviet period, when “Jehovah’s Witnesses” was subjected to unreasonable repression on the basis of religion, with the result that they were extended to the action of the RF law “On rehabilitation of victims of political repression”.

In this regard, the Board requests the attorney General “to entrust to check the legality and validity of criminal prosecution of believers and to take measures for the protection of their constitutional rights to freedom of religion”.