European court asks Russia to answer Jehovah's Witnesses' challenge


SOVA Center for News and Analysis, 12 December 2017


On 1 December 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (E.C.H.R.) partially communicated the appeal by the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and its chairman, Vasily Kalin, filed on 3 February 2017.


The plaintiffs challenged the warning about the impermissibility of extremist activity issued to the Administrative Center by the prosecutor general's office on 2 March 2016. A challenge to this warning failed in Russian courts: on 16 January 2017 the appeal by Jehovah's Witnesses against the warning was finally turned down by a Moscow city court.


On 20 April 2017, the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and 395 of their local congregations were liquidated as an extremist organization with structural subdivisions. On 17 July 2017 this decision was confirmed by the Russian Supreme Court. These actions of the Russian authorities were also protested by Jehovah's Witnesses within the context of the same appeal.


On the basis of article 9 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention), which guarantees the right to freedom of religion, along with article 11, guaranteeing the right to freedom of association, and article 14, prohibiting discrimination, the plaintiffs appealed against the illegal, unjustified, and discriminatory interference in their right to freedom of religion connected with the liquidation of the Administrative Center. In addition, on the basis of article 1 of the Supplementary Protocol to the European Convention, protecting the right of property, the confiscation of the property of the Administrative Center was appealed.


The E.C.H.R. posed to Russia the question whether in this case violation of all aforesaid provisions of the European Convention had really occurred. The appeal will be considered on an accelerated basis (priority). Answers to the E.C.H.R.'s questions must be presented by the Russian side before 23 March 2018.


We recall that we consider that the liquidation of the organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses for extremism, prosecution of the members of their congregations, and prohibition of their texts do not have legal bases and are a clear manifestation of religious discrimination. (tr. by PDS, posted 13 December 2017)

Background articles:
National Jehovah's Witnesses center rebuffed in court
January 16, 2017
Supreme Court upholds decision liquidating Jehovah's Witnesses
July 17, 2017
European court takes up Jehovah's Witnesses' case
September 18, 2017

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