DOCUMENT: DECLARATION OF RUSSIAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES, JOURNALISTS, AND CIVIL ACTIVISTS
150 thousand of our fellow citizens, peaceful and honest people, today are outlawed. At any moment, each one of them can be arrested and sentenced to incarceration. These people have not killed, have not used force, have not robbed, and have not committed acts of cruelty. They, like more than eight million of their fellow believers in the world, study and proclaim the Bible and try to live in accordance with it. Now they are being thrown into prisons. Their crime is that they are Jehovah's Witnesses.
Each of them can become right now a political prisoner.
More than a year ago, on 20 April 2017, a cross-mark was placed on religious liberty in Russia: the Russian Supreme Court ruled all 396 Jehovah's Witnesses organizations to be extremist and prohibited their activity because in their publications the Witnesses placed their religion above the others.
In a story about how a person found among Jehovah's Witnesses answers to questions that a Catholic priest could not answer, courts saw the propaganda of religious superiority—and that is all the extremism. Such "extremism," and far more brutal, may be found in doctrinal, liturgical, and other texts of a majority of confessions. If one approaches religious scriptures with the same yardstick, it is necessary to ban all religions.
Next a mechanism, senseless and soulless, has begun to work.
Agencies of law and order mounting raids and arrests and courts sanctioning searches in the homes of Witnesses and taking them into custody are appealing to the Supreme Court's decision regarding an unconditional ban of the activity of this religious organization. In banning the Witnesses, the Supreme Court cited decisions of regional courts finding texts to be extremist. Regional courts cited the conclusions of experts. Experts working for the F.S.B. and "E" centers are able to discover "signs of extremism" even in a borsch recipe.
In the end, the circular irresponsibility of authorities has led to a police operation spread out from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka against law-abiding citizens who are guilty of nothing. This special operation is being conducted, in essence, on the basis of several made-to-order expert analyses.
The logic is simple: if Jehovah's Witnesses are extremist, they should be put in jail. Participation in the activity of an extremist organization is punishable by up to six years incarceration, and "planning the activity of an extremist organization" by up to ten years. On 15 June 2018, 20 Witnesses were being held in custody by courts—the shame of Russian justice.
Jehovah's Witnesses profess their religion openly and freely throughout the world. They are banned in China, North Korea, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and now in Russia. Our country was included in this list essentially by its Supreme Court, and this is yet greater shame for a country within the Council of Europe.
Jehovah's Witnesses have often confirmed the strength of their faith even under the worst trials in nazi and soviet camps. They were prohibited in hitlerian Germany and in the U.S.S.R. It is sufficient to recall the mass resettlement of adherents of this religion in 1951, when in two days thousands of families were deprived of house and property, loaded into freight cars, and exported to Siberia and Kazakhstan. And they were completely restored to their rights immediately after the fall of the totalitarian regimes. According to the existing law of the RF "On rehabilitation of victims of political repressions," Jehovah's Witnesses have been recognized as "victims of the tyranny of a totalitarian state."
One of the fundamentals of the religious teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses is nonresistance to evil by violence. Although formally the Supreme Court did not prohibit the Jehovah's Witnesses for antimilitarism (after all the right to refuse military service, including for religious convictions, is enshrined in the constitution), one of the main reasons for persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses is their absolute pacifism and categorical nonparticipation in violence.
Actually there is nothing worse to be found to urge against this confession than malevolent comments about priests. In the U.S.S.R. this "especially dangerous anti-Soviet sect" was accused of refusing to serve in the army, to participate in election, to join labor unions, and to sign petitions "in defense of peace." But today Witnesses perform alternative civilian service instead of real military service and the other turns out to be voluntary work. The accusation of refusing blood transfusion, especially when the refusal affects a child, also is out of date: the leading Russian hematologist, Academician A.I. Vorobiev, supported the Witnesses' position regarding the use of blood substitutes in place of donor's blood.
Today fear of the "totalitarian sect of Jehovah's Witnesses" is created by outright fraud and distortion, for example, composing a black list of "evil religions" with a general list of their crimes so that the Jehovah's Witnesses are made to account for others' transgressions, real or imaginary.
What happens to them, in essence, happens to us: this is a test of the immune forces of society. Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses demonstrates the invalidity of anti-extremism legislation in general. If society does not protect the Jehovah's Witnesses and if they are not restored to their rights, this will mean that everybody can be declared to be an extremist.
The list of persons held in custody, charged on the basis of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code, while actually being held accountable for professing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses (as composed on 19 June 2018):
1. Dennis Christensen (Orel obl.) Rights advocacy center Memorial recognized as political prisoner
2. Anatoly Vilitkevich (Bashkiria) Rights advocacy center Memorial recognized as political prisoner
3. Roman Markin (Murmansk obl.)
4. Viktor Trofimov (Murmansk obl.)
5. Valentin Osadchuk (Primorie terr.)
6. Vladimir Kochnev (Orenburg obl.)
7. Alexander Suvorov (Orenburg obl.)
8. Dmitry Mikhailov (Ivanovo obl.)
9. Ilkham Karimov (Tatarstan)
10. Vladimir Miakushin (Tatarstan)
11. Konstantin Matrashov (Tatarstan)
12. Aidar Yulmetiev (Tatarstan)
13. Ivan Puida (Khabarovsk terr.)
14. Konstantin Petrov (Magadan obl.)
15. Evgeny Ziablov (Magadan obl.)
16. Sergei Erkin (Magadan obl.)
17. Sergei Klimov (Tomsk obl.)
18. Sergei Skrynnikov (Orel obl.)
19. Unidentified believer (Tatarstan)
20. Unidentified believer (Tatarstan)
21. Konstantin Bazhenov (Saratov obl.)
22. Aleksei Budenchuk (Saratov obl.)
23. Feliks Makhammadiev (Saratov obl.)
We urge and demand:
--to cease the prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses for their religious confession;
--to immediately release from custody Jehovah's Witnesses charged on the basis of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the RF (planning the activity of an extremist organization or participation in it), in effect, for professing their religion;;
--to overturn, using the existing procedural possibilities, the decision of the Supreme Court of 20 April 2017 regarding the liquidation and prohibition of the activity of Jehovah's Witnesses organizations.
19 June 2018
Liudmila Alekseeva, chair of Moscow Helsinki Group
Boris Altshuler, physicist and rights activist, member Moscow Helsinki Group
Valery Borshchev, member Moscow Helsinki Group
Alexander Verkhovsky, member Council on Development of Civil Society and Human Rights under the president of the RF; director of Sova Center for News and Analysis
Svetlana Gannushkina, Committee of Civil Cooperation, member of board of "Memorial"
Valentin Gefter, Institute of Human Rights
Aleander Daniel, historian, "Memorial"
Yury Dzhibaldze, Center for Development of Democracy and Human Rights
Sergei Krivenko, member of Council for Development of Civil Society and Human Rights under the president of the RF
Lev Levinson, Institute of Human Rights
Sergei Lukashevsky, director of Sakharov Center
Oleg Orlov, member of Council of the rights advocacy center "Memorial"
Yan Rachinsky, chairman of board of international society "Memorial"
Lev Ponomarev, executive director of all-Russian movement "For Human Rights"
Yury Savenko, president of Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia
Natalia Taubina, director of foundation "Public Verdict"
Alexander Cherkasov, chairman of rights advocacy center "Memorial"
Pavel Chikov, international rights advocacy group "Agora"
German Aletkin, chairman of organization of parents of conscripts of Tatarstan "For the Sons"
Dmitry Aleshkovsky, media manager, philanthropist, journalist
Svetlana Astrakhantseva, executive director of Moscow Helsinki Group
Viacheslav Bakhmin, member of Moscow Helsinki Group
Sergei Beliaev, member of organization "Litigator," Ekaterinburg
Andrei Blinushov, historian, chairman of Riazan "Memorial"
Vera Vasilieva, editor, director of project of Radio Liberty
Olta Gnezdilova, advocate
Leonid Gozman, politician
Vladimir Grabkov, Sakhalin department of movement "For Human Rights"
Natalia Guseva, coordinator of Cheliabinsk regional department of movement "Voice"
Natalia Dziadko, director Center for Cooperation of Reform of Criminal Justice
Natalia Evdokimova, member of Council for Development of Civil Society and Human Rights under the president of the RF
Polina Zherebtsova, writer, documentarian, author of Chechen Diaries
Olga Zimenkova, member of Moscow Helsinki Group
Irina Kizilova, independent journalist, Perm
Oleg Kozyrev, journalist, IT expert
Aleksei Kondaurov, politician, major general
Tatiana Kotliar, chair of council of Kaluga regional public movement "For Human Rights," Obninsk
Igor Kochetkov, rights advocate, director charitable foundation "Sphere"
Dmitry Kraiukhin, chief editor of "Center Rus"
Sergei Kryzhov, first commissioner for human rights in Moscow oblast
Mark Kuperman, Sakhalin department of movement "For Human Rights"
Elena Makei, Ekaterinburg society of "Memorial"
Liubov Moseeva-Elie, director of Kaluga affiliate of resource center for aged, member of international network AgeNet International
Alexander Nikitin, chairman of Saratov rights advocacy center "Solidarity"
Leonid Nikitinsky, journalist
Anna Pastukhova, coordinator of Urals "Memorial"
Ella Poliakova, Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg
Pavel Protsenko, writer
Andrei Rashevsky, lawyer
Timur Rakhmatulin, director of Orenburg department of organization "Committee against Torture"
Tatiana Rudakova, former chairman of organization "Mothers in Defense of Detainees, Persons under Investigation, and Convicts"
Vladimir Riakovsky, member of Council for Development of Civil Society and Human Rights under president of the RF
Igor Sazhin, chairman of Komi department of Russian "Memorial"
Alelsei Simonov, president of Foundation for the Defense of Glasnost
Alexander Soldatov, chief editor of Portal-Credo.ru, correspondent of "Novaia Gazeta"
Mikhail Tumasov, chairman of movement "Russian LGBT Net"
Liudmila Ulitskaia, writer
Emma Feldshtein, director of regional public organization "Dzerzhinsky Rights Advocacy Center of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast"
Valentina Sharipova, Tver "Memorial"
Viktor Sheiko, kandidat of biological sciences, Sakhalin department of movement "For Human Rights"
Viktor Yukechev, director of Institute for Development of the Press—Siberia
Andrei Yurov, international rights advocate,
member of the
Council for Development of Civil Society and Human Rights under
of the RF
(tr. by PDS, posted 20 June 2018)
Russian original posted on Portal-Credo.ru site, 19 June 2018
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