DOCUMENT: LETTER FROM LEADER OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES, VASILY KALIN
1 March 2017
TO: Counselor for human rights of the Russian president, Chairman of the Russian presidential Council for Development of Institutions of Civil Society and Human Rights, M.A. Fedotov
COPIES: Members of the presidential Council for Development of Institutions of Civil Society and Human Rights,
Esteemed Mikhail Alexandrovich!
A dramatic situation requires the most urgent measures, as discussed below.
From our first appeal to you, you maintained a principled position in defense of the constitutional rights of citizens who profess our religion. But despite all efforts, Russia is on the threshold of a total prohibition of the activity of our faith and the start of persecutions.
The office of the prosecutor general and the Ministry of Justice are preparing a judicial prohibition of all organizations of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. This refers to the Administrative Center and to local organizations and groups that are members of its structure. At the request of the office of prosecutor general, the Ministry of Justice conducted a massive unscheduled inspection of the activity of the Administrative Center and came to the following erroneous conclusion:
"Despite the warning of the office of prosecutor general of the Russian federation of 2 March 2016, structural subdivisions of the organization are conducting extremist activity, bringing about violations of human and civil rights and liberties, and causing harm to individuals, public order, and public safety, while the organization has not taken active measures to eliminate the causes and conditions of extremist activity. During the course of the inspection, the following was established: the organization's activity is conducted in violation of charter goals and purposes and also of current legislation of the Russian federation, including the federal law of 25 July 2002, No. 1140-FZ, "On combating extremist activity."
It is thoroughly evident that a lawsuit for the liquidation and prohibition of the activity of the centralized organization and all 397 local religious organizations will be filed in the Supreme Court of the RF and that the court will grant the suit. Previously, in 7 of 8 cases, the Supreme Court automatically adopted a decision for the liquidation of our local religious organizations, using a prejudicial approach based solely on prosecutorial warnings. The court refuses to take into account the actual circumstances of the cases—obvious planting of materials from the Federal List of Extremist Materials in the houses of worship.
The liquidation of just a few local religious organizations has already led to massive violations of the constitutional rights of citizens. Under the guise of operational search activity, officials have infringed upon the personal inviolability of believers (use of force, removal to police stations, personal search, coercion of photographing), on the inviolability of privacy (collection of information about persons professing the religion of the Jehovah's Witnesses and about their property), and on the inviolability of residence (surveillance and searches). Criminal cases have been instituted on the basis of articles 282, 282.2, and 239 of the Criminal Code of the RF (some believers have already been convicted and punished). Under the pretext of "combating extremism," the right of Jehovah's Witnesses to freedom of religious confession has been violated (denial of access to sacred books and to information, prevention of joint confession of faith and dissemination of convictions), and to property rights (confiscation of houses of worship and excessive fines).
At the foundation of all accusations are the illegal decisions to include printed materials in the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Jehovah's Witnesses have nothing to do with extremism. The decisions to include books in the Federal List of Extremist Materials have been made behind the backs of believers on the basis of conclusions of self-professed experts. Believers are being restricted in their right to a fair trial and defense of their rights. Law enforcement personnel and courts ignore the complaints of Jehovah's Witnesses against plants and falsifications. Courts do not endeavor to establish the truth.
As a result, news media, citing the decisions of courts, make generalizations about the criminal nature of the entire confession. Believers suffer moral damage: harassment at work and in educational institutions, hostility or suspicion of relatives and neighbors, and harm to physical and psychological health. Jehovah's Witnesses have become victims of attacks, beatings, and attempted murder on the part of hostile citizens; arson and acts of vandalism have been committed on their houses of worship. Some citizens, Jehovah's Witnesses, have been included by Rosfinmonitoring in the list of accomplices of terrorism. Intelligence services have openly reported in news media ("Life") that within the context of preparation for ChM-2018* Jehovah's Witnesses will be added alongside members of radical groups. "Such prohibited organizations and sects as Jehovah's Witnesses, RNE, DPNI** have been included in the list for preventive actions. . . People with such ideas will be undesirable on stadium platforms."
A total ban of the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses may lead to unpredictable consequences. We do not doubt that the above mentioned violations of the rights of believers will be multiplied many times over, considering that Jehovah's Witnesses is a religion that unites more than 170,000 active believers, men and women, young and old, who reside in all regions of Russia. Such a ban will be a conspicuous event for the entire country. And since Jehovah's Witnesses is a religion that is represented in practically every country of the world, a ban on the activity in Russia will evoke uneasiness throughout the world.
We ask you, esteemed Mikhail Alexandrovich, to intervene in the situation in a most decisive way! Please, protect the country from a catastrophic mistake. Put a stop to insanity while it still can be stopped!
We assure you that millions of our fellow believers are fervently praying to Almighty God about this alarming situation. We very much hope that God will bless your labor in your important office at this historic moment!
V.B. Kalin, Chairman of the Governing Body
(tr. by PDS, posted 3 March 2017)
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