International outcry against sentencing of Danish Jehovah's Witness


Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 13 February 2019


On 7 February, observers of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (P.A.C.E.) expressed serious concern over the sentence of Dennis Christensen. They declared: "The accusation and prison confinement of Christensen merely for professing his faith is an unacceptable violation of the right to freedom of religious confession." (The Russian translation is from ITAR-TASS).


"The speakers expressed the hope that Christensen's sentence will be overturned by a decision of the Appellate Court and called Russian authorities to release him for the time of review of the appeal."


The observers mentioned that the European Court of Human Rights has already previously defended the right of Jehovah's Witnesses to conduct religious activity without interference on the part of Russian authorities. In addition, P.A.C.E. itself has already previously expressed concern about the misuse of the law on combating extremism on the part of Russian authorities. Thus on 21 April 2017, P.A.C.E. issued a statement which, among other things, said: "The recent decision of the Supreme Court declaring the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Russian Federation to be an extremist organization and to close it and 395 local religious organizations of Witnesses evokes serious concern with regard to freedom of religious confession in Russia, and also serves as another example of how anti-extremism legislation is used for suppressing freedom of expression of opinions and peaceful assembly." (tr. by PDS, posted 14 February 2019)



Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, 13 February 2019


On 7 February 2019, the office of the United Nations high commissioner for human rights published a statement in which it called Russia to remove all accusations from Jehovah's Witnesses.


"The severe sentence of Christensen creates a dangerous precedent, turning into a crime the right of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia to freedom of religious confession. . . . We call the government of Russia to review the law on combating extremist activity in order to clarify the definition of extremist activity that is imprecise and open to interpretation, and to see for itself that this definition presupposes an element of violence and hostility. We also call the authorities to rescind the accusations of, and release, all those detained for exercising their right to freedom of religion and religious confession, freedom of expression of opinions, and also the right to peaceful assembly and association."


The problem has been previously pointed out by various institutions of the United Nations, including the special rapporteur for the issue of freedom of religion or convictions and the Committee on Liquidation of Racial Discrimination, which urged Russia to abolish the List of Extremist Materials. (tr. by PDS, posted 14 February 2019)

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