The Russian Supreme court ruled on Thursday, April 20th, that Jehovah’s Witnesses could no longer practice their religion within Russia.
Reason being: It is an extremist group.
Yes, you read that correctly.
According to Humans Rights Watch, all of the property owned by the organization itself will be seized, and anyone found practicing the religion could face fines up to $10,687 and 10 years in prison.
Attorney Svetlana Borisova said in court that the group is a threat to Russians.
“They pose a threat to the rights of the citizens, public order and public security.”
She also cited that the fact that since Jehovah’s Witnesses are against blood transfusions, they violate the country’s heath care laws.
According to The Independent, They have been banned from the city of Taganrog since 2009 after the court ruled that they incite hatred by “propagating the exclusivity and supremacy” of their religion.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling to shut down the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia is a terrible blow to freedom of religion and association in Russia,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia are now given the heartrending choice of either abandoning their faith or facing punishment for practicing it.”
Russia is a part of the Council of Europe, which means that it has to abide by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Meaning that Russia is committing a violation of the convention by not protecting freedom of religion.
“We are greatly disappointed by this development and deeply concerned about how this will affect our religious activity,” said Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. “We will appeal this decision, and we hope that our legal rights and protections as a peaceful religious group will be fully restored as soon as possible.”