Member of Putin's human rights council sees Jehovah's Witnesses' victory in ECHR


by Anton Skripunov

RIA Novosti, 21 April 2017


The European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) will likely take the side of the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses," since the grounds for the ban by the Russian Supreme Court are feeble, thinks Alexander Verkhovsky, a member of the presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights and director of the Sova Center for News and Analysis.


The Supreme Court found the activity of the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" to be extremist and banned its work. The court also confiscated the center's property. The center of Jehovah's Witnesses may appeal this decision. If it files an appeal, the order regarding the ban will, for a time, not take legal effect. However the Ministry of Justice earlier had already suspended the work of the center until the final resolution of the dispute in court. Representatives of the organization told journalists that they intend to appeal the decision of the Russian court in the European Court for Human Rights. According to Verkhovsky, by law they must first appeal in the presidium of the Russian Supreme Court.


"If they lose in the presidium of the Supreme Court, then they will go to the European Court for Human Rights, and there they are practically sure to win, because the grounds for the ban are simply feeble. . . . The reason there is exactly one: the organization must be banned for the reason that, before this, several of their regional (organizations) and a whole range of materials were banned. But they nevertheless continued to distribute the same ideas—even if in different materials—despite the ban," Verkhovsky suggests.


The expert thinks that the prohibitions by the Russian Supreme Court were issued on one and the same basis: Jehovah's Witnesses, in their doctrine, in their preaching, in their texts, "assert that their faith is the best of all, it is correct, and the others are incorrect."


"In terms of our legislation, this assertion is religious superiority. This kind of accusation can in no way be sustained in the European Court for Human Rights," the expert suggests. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 April 2017)

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