Large international organization criticizes Supreme Court decision


RIA Novosti, 25 April 2017


The head of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Michael Link, expressed concern over the finding in Russia of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses to be extremist, says a statement of the ODIHR.


"I am upset by the groundless criminalization of the peaceful activity of members of the community of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and the liquidation of this community in the country," his press service quotes Link.


"The decision of the Supreme Court represents a threat to the values and principles on which democratic, free, open, pluralistic, and tolerant societies are founded," he thinks.


In his turn, the personal representative of the chairman of the OSCE for combating racism, xenophobia, and discrimination, Ingeborg Gabriel, declared that "the ban and prosecution of peaceful people for simple divine worship clearly violates the fundamental right to freedom of religious confession, and also international standards in the area of human rights, guaranteed by the constitution of the Russian federation, and therefore it is necessary to reconsider it as soon as possible."


Also the ODIHR expressed concern with the information that police have put a stop to religious services of Jehovah's Witnesses.


"I emphatically urge the Russian authorities to ensure the exercise of the right to freedoms of religion or convictions, opinions and their expression, and peaceful assembly and association of persons belonging to the community of Jehovah's Witnesses. Their rights should be respected in accordance with the obligations of the OSCE and international law in the area of human rights," Link declared.


On 20 April, the Supreme Court of Russia found the activity of the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" to be extremist and it banned its work. Attorneys for the Jehovah's Witnesses declared their intention to appeal this decision in the European Court for Human Rights. The foreign ministry of Germany and the Foreign Policy Service of the EU spoke out in defense of the organization. (tr. by PDS, posted 27 April 2017)

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