Russia is censured for spiritual freedom violations towards Jehovah’s Witnesses


(RNS) — Because the world braces for an anticipated Russian invasion of Ukraine, Europe’s highest human rights court docket discovered that Russia has violated Jehovah’s Witnesses’ rights to liberty and freedom of faith. The nation has been ordered to pay fines totaling greater than 99,000 euros — roughly equal to $112,323.  

“These judgments set a essential precedent that Russia has been unjustly and unlawfully raiding the houses of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Jarrod Lopes, spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses, advised Faith Information Service in an e-mail. There have been 1,700 such raids since 2017, he mentioned.

“Any new house raids primarily based solely on the proprietor’s spiritual beliefs at the moment are thought of unlawful and in violation of the European Conference,” Lopes mentioned.

The European Court docket of Human Rights issued rulings on two circumstances Tuesday (Feb. 22). Collectively, the circumstances tackle six cases from 2010-2012 wherein Russian legislation enforcement arrested Jehovah’s Witnesses, raided their houses and locations of worship and seized private objects in addition to spiritual supplies.

In each circumstances, the court docket discovered Russia responsible of violating Article 9 of the European Conference on Human Rights, which holds that “Everybody has the proper to freedom of thought, conscience and faith.”  

The ruling in Zharinova v. Russia concerned a Jehovah’s Witness named Yekaterina Nikolayevna Zharinova, who was arrested March 17, 2011, whereas she was “preaching door-to-door” in her hometown of Ivanteyevka, in accordance with court docket paperwork. Officers interviewed Zharinova at a police station and seized her private belongings and non secular literature. She was held on the station for 4 and a half hours. Although a neighborhood court docket dismissed Zharinova’s preliminary criticism in 2011, the European Court docket of Human Rights discovered Russia responsible of violating Article 5, which protects towards illegal detention, in addition to Article 9.

Cheprunovy and Others v. Russia is a separate case that addresses a number of incidents between 2010 and 2012. Jehovah’s Witnesses mentioned Russian authorities searched their personal houses and a prayer corridor and seized spiritual literature equivalent to books and magazines in addition to computer systems, notebooks and video recordings.

Larisa Vladimirovna Cheprunova and Mikhail Yuryevich Cheprunov in Russia. Photograph courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses

The ruling says the Russian authorities suspected the people of being concerned in unlawful actions primarily as a result of they’re Jehovah’s Witnesses. The court docket discovered that the searches violated Article 9 as a result of they have been “carried out with out related and adequate grounds and within the absence of safeguards that may confine their affect to cheap bounds,” in accordance with court docket paperwork.  

RELATED: Russia jails extra Jehovah’s Witnesses, prompting requires ‘robust measures’

Each judgments are closing and will probably be enforced by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers. The rulings are the newest of a number of wherein the European Court docket of Human Rights discovered Russia responsible of non secular freedom violations towards Jehovah’s Witnesses. Lopes advised RNS that these rulings are a prelude to future judgments from the ECHR that may tackle “the nation-wide banning of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the prosecution and imprisonment of believers, in addition to the confiscations of their nationwide headquarters and all their locations of worship (Kingdom Halls).”

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Photo by CherryX/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

The European Court docket of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Photograph by CherryX/Wikipedia/Artistic Commons

The rulings come as human rights advocates proceed to voice concern about Russia’s remedy of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Greater than 80 members of the denomination are in confinement in Russia, both serving jail sentences or awaiting trial.

“Immediately the ECHR despatched a transparent sign to Russia of what to anticipate when the Court docket offers with the over 60 different circumstances pending involving Jehovah’s Witnesses,” mentioned Lopes. “Jehovah’s Witnesses all over the world rejoice to see that their fellow believers in Russia are being validated and guarded by the ECHR for staying true to their spiritual beliefs.”

RELATED: Russian Jehovah’s Witness sentenced to over 4 years in jail for his religion


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