BEFORE E.C.H.R. RUSSIA REJECTS JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES' DEMAND FOR COMPENSATION
Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 19 December 2018
In connection with the prohibition of the activity and seizure of the property, Jehovah's Witnesses filed in the European Court of Human Rights (E.C.H.R.) two appeals with a total sum of demands for compensation of more than six billion rubles (79,215,679 euro). In its response comments, sent to the court of 7 December 2018, the Russian Federation rejected all material claims.
The sum is composed in the main of the value of houses of worship converted to state income (the believers emphasize that their basic demand is not money in return for real estate). Thus, from the believers was taken a large liturgical complex in the village of Solnechnoe (St. Petersburg) worth about two billion rubles. Russia converted it to its own property, although it denies this before the E.C.H.R. How is this possible?
Deputy Minister of Justice of the RF Mikhail Galperin declared in writing to the European court: "All of the listed property at the time of the liquidation of the organization did not belong to the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. In particular, according to the certificate from the Russian register, the real estate listed in point 1 of appendix 18 belongs to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, an organization that is not a claimant in the appeal to the European court. Consequently the appeal of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia with respect to objects of immovable property at 6 Srednaia St. in Solnechnoe of St. Petersburg is not justified and is not subject to satisfaction by the court" (para. 8 of Comments).
The position of the Russian authorities in the international court acts in dramatic conflict with their own position—but in a domestic Russian court. In December 2017, the state appealed in a domestic Russian court maintaining that the Watchtower Society actually did not own said liturgical complex but the transfer to it of the right of ownership from the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia occurring in 2000 was fictitious. The court's decision of 7 December 2018 [sic, 2017?--tr.] says: "The court established that the immediate transfer of things by the donor to the ownership, use, and disposal of the donee did not occur and the deal was not really executed." As a result, the court found the 17-year-old deal to be null and void and the complex is subject to seizure for state income as if it had belonged up to this time to the Administrative Center. (Earlier in the course of a hearing of the case in the Russian Supreme Court, the Watchtower Society petitioned to join the case because its interests might be affected by the court's decision, reported to the court its having property on Russian territory, and filed a private appeal against the refusal of admission to the case and even the appeal of the court's decision, but it was unsuccessful).
"The tricks of the Ministry of Justice seem unconvincing," Yaroslav Sivulsky of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses thinks. "It is obvious that we face an attempt to deceive the European court. It is sad to realize that the Russia 'for export' differs so sharply from the Russia for its own citizens."
After Russia presented all of its comments, the appeals were submitted for the court's consideration. The E.C.H.R. reported that it will review them on a priority basis. The issue of a judgment is awaited. (tr. by PDS, posted 19 December 2018)
RUSSIA PRESENTS TO EUROPEAN COURT COMMENTS ON APPEAL OF "GLAZOV AND OTHERS v. RF"
Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 19 December 2018
On 13 December 2018 the European Court of Human Rights (E.C.H.R.) reported to the Jehovah's Witnesses that Russia had commented on the appeal "Local religious organization of Glazov and others v. RF." The notes essentially say: "The government of the Russian Federation emphasizes that the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of 20 April 2017 and the appellate determination of the Appellate College of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of 17 July 2017 do not give an assessment of the religious teaching of the Jehovah's Witnesses and they do not contain restriction or prohibition to confess individually the aforesaid teaching."
"In view of the aforesaid," Deputy Minister of Justice Mikhail Galperin, who signed the comments, continues, "in the present case there is no violation of the provisions of the constitution in connection with the liquidation of the Administrative Center and a prohibition of its activity."
"The explanations presented to the European court appear cynical, especially for tens of thousands of believers who live in constant fear of a sudden search or arrest," Yaroslav Sivulsky of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses suggests. "As a result of the decision adopted by the Supreme Court, 62 persons have been thrown into prison for their faith, of whom 7 are women. Right now, 26 persons are languishing in various Russian SIZOs [pretrial investigation cells]. In maintaining that there are no violations, the authorities only aggravate what is already a desperate situation for human rights in Russia."
Appeal No. 3215/18 ("Local religious organization of Glazov and others v. Russian Federation") was filed in the name of 395 local religious organizations, which were liquidated by the Russian Supreme Court in April 2017 in absentia, along with the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. The E.C.H.R. declared this appeal acceptable and reported that it will considerate it on a priority basis.
Separately the E.C.H.R. received appeal No. 10188/17 ("Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and Kalin v. Russian Federation"). Comments on the substance of this appeal were sent by Russia to the E.C.H.R. in March 2018. In December 2018 Russia presented comments on demands for compensation on both appeals. Now the appeals have been submitted for review by the court. The issue of a judgment is awaited. (tr. by PDS, posted 19 December 2018)
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