How Does the International Community Consider the Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia?

Below are quotes from statements by Russian and foreign government agencies, political and public organizations, experts, and the media condemning the repression of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Russian Federation.

No witnesses. How Jehovah's Witnesses Are Persecuted in Russia #

Film “The Last Judgment” of the Radio Liberty’s documentary project “Signs of Life”

Back in 2010, the European Court issued a decision in which it recalled freedom of conscience and the right to form associations as inalienable rights of citizens, pointed out that the establishments of Jehovah’s Witnesses do not differ radically from similar restrictions imposed by other religions, and mentioned court precedents confirming the right to refuse blood transfusions on religious grounds. (In Russia, if parents refuse to give blood transfusions to minor children, this refusal can be challenged by doctors in court.) The Russian authorities state that Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves are not banned, that is, they can practice the doctrine “individually” provided that they “do not distribute literature with extremist content or otherwise participate in illegal activities.” Since 2017, hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses across Russia have been put on trial on charges of extremism under Article 282.2, “Organization of the activities of an extremist organization.”

I was the child of enemies of the people. Then I became a spy. Now an extremist #

I was the child of enemies of the people. Then I became a spy. Now an extremist

Full-scale repressions against Jehovah’s Witnesses have been going on for more than 70 years. As early as 1951, the Soviet authorities exiled thousands of believers to Siberia, where Jehovah’s Witnesses were raided, tried, and sent to camps. In 2017, the Russian authorities declared Jehovah’s Witnesses an “extremist organization” and detained hundreds of people for “participating” in it. The publication “People of Baikal” tells the story of the repression of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the USSR and Russia on the example of several families living in the Irkutsk region.

"Faith helps not to become embittered." Sentences to Jehovah's Witnesses during the war with Ukraine #

The repressive nature of prosecution and the disproportionate nature of punishment remain characteristic features of Russian law enforcement

In the past year, the number of extremism cases in Jehovah’s Witnesses communities has decreased markedly, but the repressive nature of persecution and disproportionate punishment remain characteristic features of Russian law enforcement against those persecuted for their faith. Since 2017, criminal cases under the article on extremism have been initiated against 677 followers of the religious group. Of these, 89 people were persecuted in the Volga region. The leader was the Saratov region (12 criminal cases), followed by the Nizhny Novgorod region (11 cases), the third line was shared by Tatarstan and Mordovia (9 cases each).

"We'll jail you and see how they pull you out." Why a follower of Jehovah's Witnesses received 6 years in prison #

There is an obvious analogy with the situation in Nazi Germany, when Jehovah’s Witnesses could sign a document renunciation of their faith, and then they were released from a concentration camp

In June 2018, Yuliya Klimova’s life, she says, split into two parts: before her husband’s arrest — thirty years of happy marriage, raising her daughter, joint prayers, and after her arrest — more than a year of continuous humiliation, fear, depression. On November 5, in Tomsk, her husband, Sergey Klimov, a member of the local Jehovah’s Witnesses community, was sentenced to six years in prison. In an interview with the Sibir.Realii website, Klimov’s wife and his lawyer spoke about the process, reminiscent, according to them, of the court of the Inquisition and the drama of the absurd at the same time.

170,000 extremists alone #

Writer, Doctor of Law Lev Simkin on how pacifist believers are made enemies of the state

In March, the Ministry of Justice petitioned the Supreme Court to liquidate and ban the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. For extremism — no more, no less. In fact, the “Witnesses” have not been seen in any terrorist attacks or calls for them, because they are the most pacifists, they are not allowed to carry weapons, and therefore they refuse to serve in the army. But this, apparently, is their fate, unique even by Russian standards.

Russia Is Rounding Up Jehovah's Witnesses—Are Other Groups Next? #

The state’s crackdown comes as part of a government-backed drive against minority “foreign” religions

It was just after sunrise on April 10 when the doorbell rang at Anatoly and Alyona Vilitkevich’s apartment in Ufa, an industrial city in central Russia. Their early morning visitors: masked police officers armed with automatic weapons. “Open up!” the officers shouted. Inside, the married couple hurried to get dressed and call their lawyer. “There were 10 of them, including plainclothes investigators,” Alyona, 35, tells Newsweek. “One of them was filming everything. They said I wasn’t allowed to use the telephone.” After searching the apartment, the officers told Anatoly, a 31-year-old handyman, to pack some warm clothes. “They said he wouldn’t be coming home again,” Alyona says. Since the raid, he has been in police custody, and investigators have not permitted his wife to speak to him, she says. The police’s tactics that morning were the type often used to detain dangerous criminals. But Anatoly isn’t a suspected terrorist, murderer or drug trafficker. Police arrested him because he and Alyona are members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian evangelical movement known for its members’ door-to-door proselytizing. […] And now it’s the modern-day Kremlin—with the blessing of the Russian Orthodox Church—that’s ramping up the pressure on Russia’s estimated 175,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In Russia, a Christian religion is punished, over and over again #

The headlines are full of stories about threats to democracy around the world and in the United States. Despots are on the rise, endangering freedom of speech, assembly and religion. But what is it really like to live under such conditions?

A new decision by the European Court of Human Rights paints a depressing picture of the experiences of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, who have been severely punished for their beliefs.

‘We Liked to Sing. Now We Can Only Whisper.’ How Russia Is Stepping Up Its Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses #

On a chilly November weeknight in a drab apartment building in outer Moscow, seven adults and two small children crowded around a computer screen and sang a hymn as quietly as they could. “Whatever test may come your way, never yield to doubt or fear. Jehovah will provide escape, our God ever will be near!” they chorused

“At the kingdom hall we liked to sing loudly, but now we can only whisper,” said Yevgeny, who asked his last name be withheld to avoid arrest. “If anything happens, we’re just watching movies with friends.”

Fourth post-prison Jehovah's Witness deportation #

Despite living half his life in Russia and marriage to a Russian citizen, 46-year-old Jehovah’s Witness Rustam Seidkuliyev was deported to his native Turkmenistan in September after completing his jail term for exercising freedom of religion or belief. Officials did not explain to Forum 18 why his Russian citizenship had been annulled in 2022, given his long residence in Russia, that there were no victims in his criminal case, and that his family had had to leave Turkmenistan because of their exercise of freedom of religion or belief

The Russian authorities have deported a fourth Jehovah’s Witness after annulling his Russian citizenship and barring him from re-entering the country. Migration officials put 46-year-old Rustam Seidkuliyev on a flight to his birthplace of Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, on the evening of 16 September, some five months after he was released from prison.

Russia's mysterious campaign against Jehovah's Witnesses #

Hundreds have been detained in a campaign no one is able to explain

In a bright, spotless apartment in a Moscow suburb, a small circle of people sat around a table in December 2019. Bowls of candies and teapots were set out, along with salads. The group opened the meeting with a prayer and a hymn — most of them shy and just murmuring along, raising their voices a little above some background music played on a television showing a preacher in a suit … In many countries, such meetings would be nothing unusual. But in Russia, authorities now treat them as illegal, designating them as gatherings of “extremists.”