WASHINGTON, DC – Kristina Arriaga, Vice Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), today condemned the decision by a Russian court to convict and sentence Dennis Christensen, a Jehovah’s Witness, to six years imprisonment on charges of “organizing the activity of an extremist organization.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomed the State Department’s announcement that it had named 10 “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs) for particularly severe religious freedom violations, including, for the first time, Pakistan.
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga today expressed concern over reports that Russian investigators introduced falsified information into the case against Ivan Matsitsky, a leader in St. Petersburg’s Scientology community who was arrested last year on charges of involvement in an “extremist conspiracy.”
This report examines Russian anti-extremist legislation, corresponding law enforcement practices, and their effects on freedom of religion or belief from 2011 to 2017. This research is focused on how the very regulations that ostensibly protect people and organizations in Russia from religious intolerance are instead used by authorities to sanction people and organizations for activity or speech based on their religious belief or lack thereof.
More than ever, USCIRF believes that the United States should take a stand for the religious minorities that Russia is oppressing in Russia, as well as in Crimea and the Russian-occupied territories of Luhansk and Donetsk. The commissioners strongly recommend that Russia be designated a Country of Particular Concern for its severe religious freedom violations, and that appropriate sanctions be imposed against the Russian Federation, including under the Magnitsky Act and the new provisions available in the Global Magnitsky Act.
Kristina Arriaga, the Vice Chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), testified before the National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Speaking on the “government’s role in protecting international religious freedom,” Arriaga advised the Members that “we ignore religious freedom violations at our peril and must address challenges proactively.”
Bagir: I write recognizing that this letter never may reach you. Through my position as a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), I have become aware of your dire situation and have resolved to dedicate my efforts to securing your unconditional release from prison.