EU STICKS UP FOR RUSSIAN JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
Interfax.ru, 18 July 2017
Russian Jehovah's Witnesses, like all other religious groups, should have the possibility of enjoying freedom of assembly, the press secretary of the European External Action Service declared on Tuesday.
Yesterday the Supreme Court turned down the appeal of the Russian Jehovah's Witnesses of the ban of the organization and its liquidation on the basis of a lawsuit by the Russian Ministry of Justice.
"Jehovah's Witnesses, like all other religious groups, should have the possibility of peacefully enjoying freedom of assembly without interference, which is guaranteed by the constitution of the Russian federation and also by Russia's international obligations and international standards in the area of human rights" a statement of the press secretary of the European External Action Service, which was distributed by the embassy of the EU in Russia, says.
"This ban has already led to criminal prosecutions of Jehovah's Witnesses and also to police raids in places of worship, deliberate arson, and other forms of repression," the European Union's declaration says.
On 20 April, the Russian Supreme Court ruled, on the basis of a lawsuit by the Russian Ministry of Justice, that Russian Jehovah's Witnesses are an extremist organization and prohibited its activity on the territory of the country. On 17 July, the Supreme Court left without change its previous decision on the liquidation of all registered organizations. According to the ruling, the parent organization "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" is liquidated, as well as 395 regional divisions. The organization's property, according to the court's decision, was turned over as state income.
The lawsuit against the religious organization was filed on 15 March, at a time when, by order of the Ministry of Justice before consideration of the suit in the Supreme Court of the RF, the work of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia was suspended because of extremist activity. The press service of the ministry told Interfax that the lawsuit was filed on the basis of results of an unscheduled documentary inspection conducted from 8 to 27 February 2017, on the correspondence of the activity of the religious organization "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia" with the goals and tasks declared in its charter. According to information of the Ministry of Justice, "the activity of the organization is conducted with violations of charter goals and tasks and also of existing legislation of the RF, including federal law 'On combating extremist activity.'"
In addition to the appellate complaint in the Russian Supreme Court, Russian Jehovah's Witnesses have turned to the European Court of Human Rights, a representative of the organization, Sergei Cherepanov, told Interfax earlier. (tr. by PDS, posted 18 July 2017)
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