MAY 30, 2017
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia filed an appeal against the Supreme Court ruling that effectively banned their worship. The April 20 ruling, handed down by Judge Yuriy Ivanenko, terminated all activity of the Witnesses’ legal entities throughout the country. A three-judge panel of the Appellate Chamber of the Supreme Court will hear the appeal on July 17, 2017.
The appeal requests a full reversal of the ruling. It emphasizes that the ruling is not based on factual evidence and that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not guilty of extremist activity in any way. The appeal also highlights that the charges that led to the Supreme Court ruling are the same charges that authorities used as a basis to persecute the Witnesses during the Soviet era. They were later rehabilitated and exonerated from these charges. Additionally, the appeal emphasized that the ruling contradicts the guarantees of religious freedom embodied in Russia’s Constitution and its international commitments.
The ruling is already affecting the Witnesses in ways reminiscent of the oppression they experienced under Communist rule. Authorities are prosecuting some Witnesses for “extremist activity,” employers have dismissed Witnesses from their jobs, schoolteachers have intimidated Witness students in front of their classmates, and biased individuals have vandalized Kingdom Halls and firebombed two homes of Witnesses—burning the homes to the ground.
Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide hope that the Appellate Chamber of Russia’s Supreme Court will see the injustice of the earlier ruling and reverse it, thus protecting religious freedom and the security of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.