Russian Supreme Court Rejects Jehovah's Witnesses Appeal

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The Russian court on July 17 turned away arguments by the group, which sought to overturn an initial decision made by the court in April.

The decision means the group will be forced to close its doors at its St. Petersburg headquarters and some 395 local chapters across the country.

"Jehovah's Witnesses, like all other religious groups, must be able to peacefully enjoy freedom of assembly without interference, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation, as well as by Russia's global commitments and worldwide human rights standards", the statement reads.

Baroness Anelay said the original ruling "effectively criminalises the peaceful worship of 175,000 Russian citizens and contravenes" rights enshrined in the country's own constitution.

Sivulskiy said the Jehovah's Witnesses strongly disagreed with the court's ruling against it, adding "religious freedom in Russian Federation is over".

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"The UK calls on the Russian government to uphold its global commitment to freedom of religion", she added.

"Jehovah's Witnesses, like all other religious groups, must be able to peacefully enjoy freedom of assembly without interference".

"We plan to appeal this at the European Court of Human Rights as soon as we can", Yaroslav Sivulskiy, a member of the European Association of Jehovah's Christian Witnesses, said by phone.

An estimated eight million people worldwide are part of the Christian-based movement, best known for going door-to-door preaching.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) was among the worldwide bodies condemning a "state sponsored campaign of harassment and mistreatment of Jehovah's Witnesses" it said dated back to the 1990s in Russian Federation.

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