Мнение со стороны

Vladimir Ryakhovsky: "It always started with Jehovah's Witnesses and then affected everyone"

"One of the first laws of the new Russia was the law of October 18, 1991 on the rehabilitation of victims of political repression. Those who were deported were subject to rehabilitation. This was mainly true of Jehovah's Witnesses. It was the 91st year. What has changed during this time? Have Jehovah's Witnesses changed? No. What has changed in our country during this time? Otherwise, how can one explain this rash, to put it mildly, act on the part of the Ministry of Justice, which resulted in the issuance of this lawsuit to liquidate and ban the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses? What are the consequences if this claim is satisfied? The Criminal Code establishes liability for participation in or organization of activities prohibited as an extremist organization, and such severe sanctions as the article "for participation" - from 2 to 6, "for organization" - from 6 to 10 years in prison!

Are there really no analysts behind these controlling, or supervisory, bodies that are behind this lawsuit? No experts? Is there really no one who can say today what it will lead to tomorrow? Here is the first step. The next steps - they follow from what has already been done. If it was banned today, then tomorrow - what should be? There should be criminal prosecution. Now many people comment on today's circumstances in relation to your religious association, saying: "Come on! Yes, it is unlikely that anyone will go for it. Will these landings begin?" I say that it will be simply inevitable.

This has already been tested. As you remember, in 2015 in Taganrog, when the local community was banned in 2009, in 2012 they made operational filming, recorded the fact of holding a meeting, opened a case, the case dragged on for a long time and at the end of 2015 they reached a court verdict. And even if it was fines, even if it was a suspended sentence, but it was guilty verdicts. That was, one might say, the touchstone. And now what? Now it is no longer Taganrog. This is not a single community. This is already all over Russia. So? Will there be landings all over Russia today? They are inevitable if today... Now, today there is still time to come to your senses - there are less than two weeks left - to come to your senses and stop. And, probably, it would be more noble to take a step back, because the consequences of what can happen are unpredictable.

Many people now think that Jehovah's Witnesses are on the list of undesirables, and this will not affect us, then it seems to me that we should not flatter ourselves. And again, just a look at history — the history of persecution for religious beliefs. It always started with Jehovah's Witnesses and then affected everyone. What happens, probably, is ... that you can say, "Take care of Jehovah's Witnesses." Because it will all turn against the rest.

And that's where I started - about the recognition of victims of political repression. And then, in 1991, the same Jehovah's Witnesses were given certificates, such beautiful books that so-and-so was recognized as a victim of political repression. And according to this certificate, certain benefits were relied upon. And what about today? Go back and revise the law on rehabilitation? Maybe cancel it? Or should the Witnesses simply collect all these IDs and hand them back? I really want to believe that, after all, common sense and truth - they will prevail.

Vladimir Vasilyevich Ryakhovsky, Honorary Advocate of Russia, Managing Partner of the Slavic Legal Center Law Firm, Director of the Non-Profit Partnership Slavic Legal Center, member of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, member of the Expert Council of the State Duma Committee on Public Associations and Religious Organizations, member of the Public Collegium for Press Complaints, member of the editorial board of the journal Religion and Law.