SOVA: MORE THAN 120 CRIMINAL CASES WERE OPENED AGAINST MEMBERS OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES IN PAST YEAR
Echo of Moscow, 13 March 2019
The number of criminal cases based on religious discrimination substantially increased after the introduction of the "anti-evangelism amendments" from the Yarovaya Package. More than 120 criminal cases were opened against members of the Jehovah's Witnesses* in the past year. This was reported on air from radio station Echo of Moscow by the director of the Sova Center for News and Analysis, Alexander Verkhovsky, citing a report of the center.
"The number of criminal cases based on religious discrimination has increased enormously due to the prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses. This is not comparable to anything that we saw earlier in all of the post-soviet period. Other political campaigns of a political nature probably are having a hard time catching up," he said.
Sentences of members of organizations, like Muslims who were followers of Said Nursi, who were prosecuted even earlier, have become harsher, A. Verkhovsky noted.
He also added that difficulties with respect to use of land and buildings have increased for religious organizations.
"Earlier these rules were applied rather broadly, but to a limited circle of religious groups. Now it is spreading to groups that earlier did not fall under pressure at all. The policy of suppression by federal or regional governments has ceased to be selective but has become a contagion that is spreading anywhere and everywhere. It is not known how far it will go," A. Verkhovsky concluded.
The package of draft laws by Irina Yarovaya and Viktor Ozerov, including amendments restricting missionary activity, was adopted in the summer of 2016.
*The activity of the organization is prohibited on the territory of the RF.
(tr. by PDS, posted 14 March 2019)
RUSSIAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES: TARGETED REPRESSIONS IN THE COUNTRY ARE GETTING TOUGHER
by Viktor Vladimirov
Voice of America, 15 March 2019
Russian rights advocates who were questioned by the Russian service of the Voice of America agree with the assessment given by the American Department of State regarding the state of affairs for human rights in the Russian Federation.
We recall, the annual report on the state of human rights throughout the world, published on Wednesday on the website of the American Department of State, says regarding Russia that the situation in this area is continuing to get tougher there. The document notes that, like in previous years also, an atmosphere of illegality is being maintained in the country. The government is not taking adequate measures for holding officials accountable who commit crimes and abuse of their authority.
In 2018 violations of civil rights were noted in practically all areas of activity of the Russian government.
The director of the Sakharov Center, Sergei Lukashevsky, in an interview with Voice of America, noted that in the most fundamental areas of human rights either there has been no improvement (if one takes, for example, torture) or there are clear signs of worsening. In his view, the latter applies especially to pressure on political and civil activists.
"The case of Oyub Titiev, a criminal case, which was instituted against activists of Open Russia, and many others show that, although repressions remain targeted, nevertheless they are becoming stricter," he explained. "To be sure, there has been observed a relative decline in criminal cases based on article 282 for inflaming hatred, which was being used effectively for intimidating the populace as a whole and for pressure on civil society. But as before, article 205—"justifying terrorism"—is being used for these purposes.
On the whole, it cannot be said that the general direction of the repressive policy of the Russian authorities has changed, Sergei Lukashevsky observes.
"Negative incidents also are occurring in the sphere of freedom of speech," he added. "Here is the case of New Times and the sale of news media, whose owners are certainly more loyal to the government, which accordingly led to a correction of the information policy of the publications."
The rights advocates put a special accent on violations in the area of freedom of conscience and religious confession: "Here, undoubtedly, the most negative form is the monstrous decision ruling the Jehovah's Witnesses to be an extremist organization. It turned into the arrests of dozens of people. They are charged with belonging to an extremist community for religious activity within their own congregations. This is one of the points where what occurred is possibly not as noticeable as in the case of civil and political activists, but in reality it is a clear worsening of the situation."
This completely egregious decision by the authorities will yield an influx of political prisoners in the coming years, the director of the Sakharov Center summed up. [. . .] (tr. by PDS, posted 17 March 2019)
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