International Joint Statement by 36 Civic Organizations in Defense of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

Photo: Jehovah’s Witnesses in the court’s dock in Kirov, 2018

On January 24, 2019, the Joint Statement on the Freedom to Religion or Belief in Russia, prepared by 36 organizations from 18 countries, was published in defense of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. Human rights organizations urge the Russian authorities to stop deprivations, interrogations and criminal investigations for peaceful religious activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They ask the international organizations and governments of the democratic states to call on the Russian government to end the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“After Russia outlawed the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” the joint statement states, “the number of acts of intolerance, violence and discrimination based on religion or belief are increasingly perpetrated towards the members of the community. The private property is armed searched, the meetings for worship are regularly interrupted by the OMON forces and FSB agents. The state carries censorship of the religious literature. The Witnesses are often denied the right to the alternative civil service instead of mandatory military service. The individuals practising their faith are severally persecuted and regularly face different obstacles at the workplace resulting in the forced dismissal or unwilled resign. The authorities are engaged in appropriating property and land belonging to Jehovah’s Witness communities.” 

The statement calls particular attention to the cases of pre-trial detention and criminal investigations of Dennis Christensen and Andrzej Oniszczuk.

The joint statement was prepared under the auspices of the Civic Solidarity Platform and signed by non-governmental organizations from Armenia, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Macedonia, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and USA.

Earlier, well-known Russian public figures, the Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation, as well as the President of Russia himself, spoke about the increasing violations of the rights of Jehovah's Witnesses.