FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 15, 2020
USCIRF Condemns Russian Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemned the recent increase in harsh prison sentences handed down to members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.
Commissioner Gary Bauer said, “Russia’s vicious targeting of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, guilty only of practicing their peaceful religious beliefs, clearly illustrates the government’s contempt for the international human rights treaties to which it is a party.”
On June 4, the Russian government sentenced Artem Gerasimov, a resident of occupied Crimea, to six years in prison because of his faith. A few days later on June 9 the government sentenced 61-year-old Gennady Shpakovsky to six and a half years—the harshest punishment yet given to a Jehovah’s Witness in Russia—for following his religion and sharing his religious views with others. The Jehovah’s Witnesses report that there are currently eight members in prison, 23 in pre-trial detention, 23 under house arrest, and 349 accused of practicing their faith.
“The ongoing campaign against the peaceful Jehovah’s Witnesses is one of the many reasons why USCIRF considers Russia worthy of being designated a ‘country of particular concern’ for systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations,” added Vice Chair Gayle Manchin. “We sincerely hope that the State Department will reach the same conclusion later this year.”
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the State Department designate Russia as a ‘country of particular concern’ in part because of its repression of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious minorities that it deems “nontraditional.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at email@example.com or Danielle Ashbahian at firstname.lastname@example.org.