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RUSSIA: Jehovah’s Witnesses Banned After Supreme Court Rejects Appeals

July 17, 2017

RUSSIA: Jehovah’s Witnesses Banned After Supreme Court Rejects Appeals

USCIRF Condemns the Banning of the Jehovah’s Witnesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) denounces the Russian Supreme Court ruling on Monday rejecting an appeal by the Jehovah’s Witnesses against an April decision declaring them as extremist. USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark commented that “The Supreme Court’s decision sadly reflects the government’s continued equating of peaceful religious freedom practice to extremism. The Witnesses are not an extremist group, and should be able to practice their faith openly and freely and without government repression.”

This ruling clears the way for the Russian government to seize the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ assets and property throughout the country.  In recent years, the Witnesses have been subject to government-sanctioned harassment, have had their legal existence banned, and now will lose their physical presence as their meeting halls, known as Kingdom Halls, become the property of a government that violates the rights of religious groups as a matter of law.

In an April 20th statement, USCIRF condemned the Russian Supreme Court’s decision to ban the Jehovah’s Witnesses (click here to read the statement).

USCIRF recommended in 2017 for the first time ever that Russia be designated a “country of particular concern” (or CPC) for systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. Chairman Mark added “This latest move by the Russian government confirms that our 2017 Annual Report recommendation is well-deserved. The Russian government is intensifying its crackdown on religious freedom at home while also extending its repressive policies to neighboring states.”

Click here to see the 2017 Annual Report chapter on Russia in English. Click here to see the chapter in Russian.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or John D. Lawrence, Director of Communications (JLawrence@USCIRF.gov/+1-202-786-0611).