Russia: Jehovah’s Witnesses suffer 1,000 incidents of religious intolerance.

Jehovah’s Witnesses document over 1,000 incidents of religious intolerance since pivotal court ruling.

SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia—“I fear there will be many more acts of religious intolerance and hatred taken against Jehovah’s Witnesses because of the Court’s ruling,” stated attorney Arli Chimirov following the December 8, 2009, decision by the Russian Supreme Court. The Witnesses’ concern over the future of religious freedom in Russia is proving to be well-founded. Witnesses have documented and published online over 1,000 cases of mistreatment throughout Russia during the two years that have passed since the decision. An interactive map and chronological listing provide the location and a detailed description of each incident.

The ruling liquidated the Local Religious Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Taganrog and declared 34 of their publications, “extremist.” This resulted in the confiscation of the Witnesses’ local place of worship in Taganrog. The increasing abuse has come from both officials and the public in general. Government authorities, including local police officers and town officials, have carried out 94 searches of the Witnesses’ homes, over 120 raids of religious meetings, and over 500 instances of interference with the Witnesses’ well-known activity of sharing Bible information with others. The interferences led to 420 detentions and/or arrests. Oppressive conduct from the hands of Russian citizens has included 75 assaults, 62 counts of vandalism, (including arson attacks on buildings used for worship), and several acts of religious discrimination against Witnesses on the part of employers and teachers.

Vasily Kalin, of the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses, describes the current situation: “Russian authorities engage in harassment and intimidation to suppress Jehovah’s Witnesses and their activities. Public slandering of Jehovah’s Witnesses by the media and government authorities is a common practice with the intent of marginalizing them to the fringes of Russian society.”

Since domestic courts in Russia have failed to protect basic human rights of its citizens, Jehovah’s Witnesses have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights and hope that it will soon examine their application disputing the Supreme Court’s decision in the Taganrog case.

Media Contacts:
J. R. Brown, Office of Public Information, tel. +1 718 560 5600
Russia: Grigory Martynov, tel. +7 812 702 2691
Belgium: European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, tel. +32 2 782 0015

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