SUPREME COURT RECOMMENDS PERMITTING JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES TO GATHER PEACEFULLY FOR RITUALS
Znak, 29 October 2021
The Russian Supreme Court issued a directive recommending that law enforcement agencies soften their treatment of religious organizations that have been ruled to be extremist, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses. Attention to the document published on the website of legal information was called by the Telegram channel "We can explain."
The document says: "In the event that a court makes a decision that has taken legal effect concerning the liquidation or prohibition of the activity of a public or religious association or other organization because of the conduct of extremist activity, subsequent actions of persons not associated with the continuation or revival of activity of the aforesaid extremist organization and consisting exclusively of the exercise of their right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious confession, including by means of individual or collective profession of religion or conduct of divine worship or other religious rituals and ceremonies, by themselves, if they [i.e., those actions—tr. note] do not entail indicators of extremism, do not constitute the crime specified by part 2 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation."
It follows from this recommendation that now security agents will have to prove that the believers performed "specific actions that are socially dangerous."
According to information from Memorial (which
a foreign agent), in Russia 35 Jehovist believers have already
to real prison terms, 83 have been sentenced to suspended terms,
and another 69
are awaiting sentences while in custody or under house arrest.
day before the Supreme Court decision, a court in Astrakhan
four Jehovists to real prison terms of from 3.5 to 8 years of
sentences draw renewed attention to Jehovah's Witnesses"]
In 2017, the Supreme Court ruled the activity
Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia to be
banned the work of 395 of its regional divisions. (tr. by PDS,
SUPREME COURT ADOPTS DIRECTIVE WITH ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS ON APPLYING ANTI-EXTREMIST NORMS
SOVA Center for News and Analysis, 28 October 2021
. . . The most important modification was the recommendation pertaining to prosecution for participation in the activity of organizations that have been ruled to be extremist. It reads: "During proceedings on a criminal case concerning the crime specified by article 282.2 of the CC RF, courts should establish just which specific socially harmful actions were committed by a guilty person and their significance for the continuation or revival of the activity of an organization with respect to which a decision has been made by a court and has taken legal effect concerning the liquidation or prohibition of the activity involving the conduct of extremism and also the motives for committing said actions.
"In the event of a ruling that a religious association is an extremist organization and is liquidated or its activity is banned, actions by persons not connected to the continuation or revival of the activity of this extremist organization and constituting exclusively the exercise of their right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious confession, including by means of individual or group profession of religion or conduct of divine worship or other religious rituals and ceremonies, do not in and of themselves [i.e. those actions—tr.note] constitute the crime specified by part 2 of article 282.2 of CC RF."
In our view, the wording of this recommendation is not ideal and will hardly be able to completely eliminate numerous cases of prosecution for essentially non-criminal activity, such as the continuation of the activity of extremist organizations. This problem could be completely resolved only by the elimination of article 282.2 in its current form. And nevertheless, Russian courts have received the possibility, by appealing to this explanation by the Supreme Court, to avoid at least the most absurd verdicts for the continuation of religious practice that directly violate the constitutional right to freedom of religious confession. The same applies also to ensuring the possibility of continuing political activity not aimed directly at reviving the activity of banned organizations for former members of such organizations. (tr. by PDS, posted 31 October 2021)
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