Russia Violates Its Laws To Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses

EVGENIY ISAEV is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Russian Government’s persecution of Jehovah’s witnesses escalated in lead up to one year anniversary of ban.

In a continued act of bitter irony, the Russian government is violating laws it created to go after Jehovah’s Witnesses for practicing their faith.

On April 20, 2017, the Russian Supreme Court banned Jehovah’s Witnesses and liquidated their assets. The decision was made to label the religious group as “extremist.”

But Russian authorities seem to be violating the language of the ruling in a series of raids they have conducted in April of this year. The law allows Russian authorities to arrest or intercede only when individuals organize activities around a banned organization. So Russians could not have a Jehovah’s Witness event or open a center.

But the recent arrests have not been made in response to conducting an official event. In fact, many of the arrestees were privately practicing their faith in their homes. On April 20, Igor Morozov was one of several Jehovah’s Witnesses who was taken from his home, released, then told not to leave the Ivanovo region. On April 18 in the city of Polyarny, 15 homes were forcibly entered with police pointing guns and ransacking the homes for “evidence.” On April 10 in Ufa, police threatened members to renounce their faith if they wanted to be released.

Not only does this vastly go outside the scope of the law, but contradicts what Russian government officials have told the public. They explicitly said individuals would be allowed to practice their faith in private, that the only regulations would be on the organization.

This crackdown is frighteningly similar to the systematic persecution of Christians in China. In both nations, private worship is not an inalienable right, but one that is determined on a case-by-case basis by repressive governments that decide if your religion classifies as a threat against the state, without due process. Even with the election of Sam Brownback as religious ambassador, the United States has not made a statement about Russia’s change in policy.

It is unclear what the future holds for the continual erosion of rights for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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