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JULY 2, 2013

European Court Protects Privacy Rights in Case Involving Jehovah’s Witnesses

European Court Protects Privacy Rights in Case Involving Jehovah’s Witnesses

NEW YORK—On Thursday, June 6, 2013, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Russia to pay damages of 5,000 euros ($6,622) to Ms. V. Zhukova and Ms. Y. Avilkina, respectively. Russian officials acquired private medical records belonging to Ms. Zhukova and Ms. Avilkina without their authorization. The Court ruled that this act violated fundamental privacy rights, which they characterized as “a vital principle” guaranteed by the European Convention.

The Court’s ruling culminates over five years of legal proceedings. In 2007, a St. Petersburg Deputy City Prosecutor ordered medical institutions in the city to forward “every refusal of transfusion of blood or its components by Jehovah’s Witnesses” to the prosecutor’s office​—without providing notice to or obtaining consent of the patient. Therefore, on March 9, 2009, the Witnesses submitted to the ECHR the application Avilkina and Others v. Russia. In its ruling, the Court called Russia’s actions “oppressive” and confirmed that there existed no “relevant or sufficient reasons” for disclosing this private information to public officials.

Speaking on the positive outcome of the case, Grigory Martynov, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, states: “This decision by the Court will help all Russian citizens, as well as the larger international community in the Council of Europe, to enjoy the protection of their basic rights.”

Media Contact(s):

International: J. R. Brown, Office of Public Information, tel. +1 718 560 5000

Russia: Grigory Martynov, tel. +7 812 702 2691