UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Decries Dennis Christensen Sentencing

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaks to the press at UN Headquarters in New York. Photo: UN Photo/Laura Jarriel

On February 7, 2019, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement urging Russia to drop all charges against Jehovah's Witnesses.

“The harsh sentence imposed on Christensen creates a dangerous precedent, and effectively criminalizes the right to freedom of religion or belief for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. . . .  We urge the Government of Russia to revise the Federal Law on Combating Extremist Activity with a view to clarifying the vague and open-ended definition of ‘extremist activity’, and ensuring that the definition requires an element of violence or hatred. We also call on the authorities to drop charges against and to release all those detained for exercising their rights to freedom of religion or belief, the freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

In recent years, various UN human rights bodies, including the UN Human Rights Committee and a number of UN Special Rapporteurs, have raised similar concerns and called on Russia to abolish lists of extremist materials.

Case of Christensen in Oryol

Region:
Oryol Region
Locality:
Oryol
Case number:
11707540001500164
Current stage:
verdict took effect
Suspected of:
according to the investigation, together with the others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as “organising the activity of an extremist organisation” (with reference to the court’s decision on the liquidation of the local organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Article of the Russian Criminal Code:
282.2 (1)
Investigating:
Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Oryol Region
Case initiated:
23 May 2017

Number of the case in court: 1-37/1

Considering on the merits: Zheleznodorozhnyy District Court of the City of Oryol

Judge: Aleksei Nikolaevich Rudnev

Appellate Court: Oryol Regional Court

Persons in the case