SEARCHES AT JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES' HOMES IN MOSCOW
How will they affect ministers of foreign affairs of countries of Europe?
Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 25 November 2020
On 24 November, in Moscow, at least ten searches were conducted in believers' homes. Among the four persons arrested is 65-year-old Ivan Chaikovsky, who was the plaintiff in the case of "Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow v. Russia." In 2010, the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) required Russia to completely rehabilitate the congregation, although now the ruling of the ECHR is considered to be unfulfilled and has been taken under the enhanced oversight of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
"We have confirmed information about ten searches in apartments of believers in northeastern Moscow, conducted during the day of 24 November," says Yaroslav Sivulsky from the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses. "We have not received confirmed news about searches in other regions of Russia."
According to preliminary information, four believers were left for a night in a holding cell: 65-year-old Ivan Chaikovsky, 51-year-old Sergei Shatalov, 57-year-old Yury Chernyshev, and 44-year-old Vitaly Komarov. Searches were conducted in their apartments. Chaikovsky was arrested at his dacha in Tula oblast. Among the investigators is Valery Bashaev, from the department for investigation of especially important cases (dealing with crimes against persons and public safety).
Ivan Chaikovsky was the elder of the Moscow congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses at the time of its liquidation by the Golovin court in March 2004. Information disseminated in news media regarding the ties of the detainees with any other centralized or local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses do not correspond with reality. They all ceased their existence in 2017. Since then, believers living in Russia have exercised their constitutional right of freedom to profess their religion without the formation of a legal entity.
Ivan Chaikovsky has belonged to the confession of Jehovah's Witnesses since 1977. From 1998 to 2004 he had to defend his faith, as well as the congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses that was registered in Moscow, from false accusations in the Golovin court, as part of a civil proceeding. In 2001 this court issued a decision in the Jehovah's Witnesses' favor, but in 2004, under pressure of the Moscow city court, the congregation was liquidated.
"Later, in 2010, a convincing victory was won in Strasbourg," Yaroslav Sivulsky relates. "The Russian authorities paid out to believers through Ivan Chaikovsky an enormous financial compensation. But now Ivan Stepanovich has been arrested in a criminal case and a search was conducted in his home. It is not surprising that the Committee of Ministers has taken the fulfillment of this decision of the ECHR under its enhanced oversight."
The committee, consisting of ministers of foreign affairs of the countries of the Council of Europe, is an international body that oversees how countries fulfill decisions of the ECHR. On 1 October 2020, this committee issued a decision in which, now not for the first time, it stated that the Russian Federation has not fulfilled the final decision in the case of "Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow v. Russia." The Committee of Ministers indicated that the decision of the Supreme Court of 2017 regarding Jehovah's Witnesses effectively nullified the progress previously made on this case and it creates the legal basis for repeat violations, which earlier the European court had assessed and ruled as illegal. The Committee of Ministers stated its serious concern in connection with the imposition of a ban on Jehovah's Witnesses, who are a known religion and, in accordance with the precedent of the ECHR's practice, have the right to profess their religion.
According to point 4 of article 46 of the Convention on Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties, such repeated nonfulfillment of final decisions of the ECHR give the Committee of Ministers the right to place before the ECHR the question of the violation by Russia of the obligations it has taken upon itself within the framework of the Council of Europe.
A number of Russian and international organizations have urged Russia to cease religious persecutions of Jehovah's Witnesses. (tr. by PDS, posted 25 November 2020)
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