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Hofburg Palace in Vienna, seat of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Permanent Council

AUGUST 11, 2020

U.S. and European Officials Denounce Russia’s Systematic Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses

U.S. and European Officials Denounce Russia’s Systematic Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses

The United States and some 30 European countries strongly condemned the systematic persecution and torture of our brothers in Russia. This international denunciation of Russia occurred during a meeting hosted by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Permanent Council a on July 23, 2020.

Addressing the assembled officials, the acting political counselor for the OSCE’s U.S. Mission, Ms. Lane Darnell Bahl, said: “The United States and many others in this hall have spoken out and will continue to speak out concerning reports of unjust police raids, arbitrary arrests and detentions, convictions resulting in up to six-year sentences, and torture of Jehovah’s Witnesses by Russian authorities.”

The officials were especially concerned about recent reports that Russian authorities in the Voronezh Region raided over 100 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “The scale of this repression against members of a peaceful religious minority group is truly shocking,” stated Ms. Bahl.

The deputy head of the United Kingdom (UK) Delegation, Ms. Nicola Murray, also expressed concern that “the increasing number of searches, as well as use of simultaneous large-scale home raids, creates the impression of an organized campaign of persecution against Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Ms. Murray continued: “So-called ‘evidence’ used against those investigated and prosecuted includes regular aspects of communal religious life.”

Additionally, Ms. Bahl debunked the Voronezh authorities for claiming that the Witnesses detained were guilty of “conspiracy measures.” These measures included storing reports and other documents in electronic form, organizing groups, and using videoconferencing to conduct meetings. Ms. Bahl called this characterization from the Russian authorities “absurd and shameful.” She stated: “I use such ‘conspiracy measures’ on a daily basis.” She also pointed out that members of the Russian Delegation participating in the OSCE meeting remotely were likewise “guilty of engaging in such activities.”

In a joint statement, the 27 member countries of the European Union (EU), along with eight nonmember states, asserted: “We have heard the Russian Delegation claim more than once at the Permanent Council that Jehovah’s Witnesses are, and will continue to be, able to practice their religion freely, and that freedom of religion or belief is guaranteed in the Russian Federation. However, we continue to see numerous reports about home raids, detentions, and criminal investigations concerning Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is in strong contrast with the claims by the Russian Delegation.”

The EU Delegation also stated: “All people, including members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, must be able to peacefully enjoy their human rights, including the right to freedom of religion or belief, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression, without discrimination, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation [and] Russia’s OSCE commitments and obligations under international law.”

Ms. Murray concluded the UK’s statement by calling on Russia to end the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Ms. Bahl urged Russia to: (1) cease criminal investigations against Jehovah’s Witnesses, (2) halt the seizure of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ headquarters property in Russia, and (3) immediately release all imprisoned Witnesses.

This is not the first time international bodies have denounced Russia for its treatment of our brothers. Russia has been put on notice—the international community is well aware of the country’s ruthless persecution of our brothers and sisters. More importantly, we are assured that Jehovah is aware of what our brothers and sisters in Russia are going through. (Psalm 37:18) Our loving heavenly Father will surely continue to bless their faithfulness, courage, and endurance.—Psalm 37:5, 28, 34.

a The OSCE is mandated, among other things, to protect human rights. The Permanent Council is the principal decision-making body of the OSCE.