JULY 18, 2017
On July 17, 2017, in blatant disregard for Russia’s international commitments to protect religious freedom, the Supreme Court of Russia confirmed its earlier ruling that criminalized the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. The decision effectively bans the worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the country.
The three-judge panel of the Appellate Chamber of the Supreme Court rejected the Witnesses’ appeal and upheld the Court’s April 20 decision by Judge Yuriy Ivanenko. He had ruled in favor of the claim filed by the Ministry of Justice “to liquidate the religious organization ‘Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia’ and the local religious organizations that are part of its structure [and] to turn over to the Russian Federation all property of the liquidated religious organization.”
The decision puts the safety and welfare of over 175,000 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia at great risk. Philip Brumley, General Counsel for Jehovah’s Witnesses, stated: “The worldwide community of Jehovah’s Witnesses are deeply concerned for the welfare of their spiritual brothers and sisters in Russia. The appellate chamber’s decision provides a legal veneer of legitimacy for the abuses already inflicted on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and exposes them to criminal prosecution and further abuse. They have become outcasts in their own country.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia have appealed for justice to the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee. In the meantime, their fellow believers worldwide pray that the Russian government will reconsider its position and respect fundamental human rights so that the Witnesses can “go on leading a calm and quiet life with complete godly devotion,” as stated at 1 Timothy 2:2.