Anti-evangelism law enforced in Russian-occupied Crimea


RISU, 6 July 2017


The Crimean Rights Advocacy Group has identified incidents of harassment and prosecution of believers in Russian-occupied Crimea.


On the Crimean website of de facto agencies of authority "Magistrate Courts of the Republic of Crimea" there is information about six decisions in administrative cases initiated in 2017 for religious activity in Crimea on the basis of part 3 of article 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the RF (Conduct by a religious organization of activity without an indication of its official full denomination) and part 4 of article 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the RF (Conduct of missionary activity with violation of the requirements of legislation). Violation of these point entails the assessment of fines of from 30,000 to 50,000 rubles [for religious organizations ?] and from 5,000 to 50,000 rubles for individuals, respectively.


On 9 February 2017 a "magistrate judge of Bakhchisarai district," Artem Cherkashin, ordered an administrative fine of a resident of Crimea, Muslim Arsen Ganiev, on part 4 of article 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the RF for distribution of calendars and leaflets about a "Maulid" event (Nativity of Muhammad's) that was being planned and the book "Mevliud aiy Hajyrly olsun" (Nativity greetings). Judge Cherkashin viewed this as missionary activity in an inappropriate place.


On 18 February, a "magistrate judge of the Yalta court district," Elena Bekenshtein, fined the director of a local religious organization "Church of Seventh-Day Adventist Christians of the city of Yalta," Grigory Stasiuk, 30,000 rubles for the lack of a sign on the building where preaching of the church was being conducted (part 3 of article 5.26).


On 11 May 2017, a "magistrate judge of the Bakhchisarai district," Elena Esina, made the decision to fine a pastor of the local religious organization "Regeneration Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith," Nikolai Blyshchik, 30,000 rubles for lack of a sign on the premises where preaching was conducted (part 3, article 5.26).


In June 2017, a "magistrate judge of the Kerchensk court district," Khazret Chich, fined S.V. Martiushov and E.A. Kudin 5,000 rubles each for participation in a service of the local division of Jehovah's Witnesses (part 4 of article 5.26).


On 19 June 2017, a "magistrate judge of the Yalta court district," Petr Kireev, ordered to fine D.G. Sazonov 5,000 rubles on the basis of part 4 of article 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the RF. The judge charged Sazonov that he read the Bible, sang songs, and prayed while not having authorization from the Jehovah's Witnesses organization and attending worship services. The judge viewed this as missionary activity.


"Prosecution for religious activity is a violation of article 9 of the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights, according to which each person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom of confessing one's religion or convictions both individually and jointly with others, in a public or private manner. Restrictions of this right are possible only in the interests of national security and public order. However, in all enumerated cases, there was no such threat," explains an expert of the Crimean Rights Advocacy Group, Alexander Sedov.


"In addition, restriction by occupation authorities of the possibility of conducting religious rituals and prosecution of residents of the occupied territory for this violates article 27 of the Geneva Convention regarding protection of the civilian population during time of war," the rights advocate noted.


We recall that on 27 June 2017, in Dzhankoy, which is controlled by the Kremlin, Magistrate Judge Alkhaz Tulparov conducted a court session in the case of Vitaly Arseniuk, who was accused of illegal missionary activity on the basis of part 4 of article 5.26. Arsenkuk was the leader of the local committee of Jehovah's Witnesses before the ban of this organization in Russia. That same night, after the court session, Arseniuk died from a massive heart attack.


All of the above enumerated prosecutions were conducted within the framework of the "Yarovaya Package" that was adopted in July 2016. It is a package of changes establishing responsibility for "extremist" and "terrorist" activity. The "Yarovaya Package" includes the addition of parts 3 and 4 of article 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law.


On 20 April 2017, the Supreme Court of Russia ruled the activity of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization to be extremist and banned it, which also is a violation of freedom of conscience and religion. (tr. by PDS, posted 9 July 2017)

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