The Supreme Court in Russia has placed a ban on religious group Jehovah’s Witnesses over claims of extremism. Court has ordered the group to disband and hand over all property to the state.
The decision follows an appeal by the justice ministry, which requested the ban of the organization over what it claimed were signs of “extremist activities” within the group. According to justice ministry representative Svetlana Borisova, the activities of the religious group represent a threat to the rights of people, public order and public safety.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court ordered the closure of the group’s Russian headquarters and 395 local chapters, as well as the seizure of its properties.
Why the Jehovah’s Witnesses Ban?
Russia’s ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses activities is as a result of the implementation of a measure known as Yarovaya’s Law. This law which went into effect in 2016, intensifies restrictions on the activities of some religious groups, especially smaller denominations like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, and other evangelical groups.
Russian authorities have said the law is aimed at helping to fight religious extremism and terrorism. However, some seemingly indistinct aspects of the law have seen to a supposed misuse of power on the part of authorities, as regards the maltreatment of some independent religious organisations.
Jehovah’s Witnesses to Appeal Case
The Jehovah’s Witnesses has however expressed profound displeasure with the outcome of events at the Supreme Court, especially at a time like this when freedom of religion and association has become the order of the day.
As expected, the group has indicated that they are going to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights over the ban. A representative of the religious group, Yaroslav Sivulsky explained he is literally shocked over the ban enforced by authorities who are supposed to uphold the constitution of the country. He hopes they will succeed with the appeal which would seek to protect their legal rights.
Constant Clash With Russian Authorities
Jehovah’s Witnesses religious group which has about 170,000 adherents as well as 395 local branches in the country, has had a fair share of ‘persecution’ from the Russian government over the years.
Religious life in Russia is dominated by the Orthodox Church, which is generally accepted and exerts considerable political influence. The group is seen as a ‘totalitarian sect’ among orthodox adherents found in every nook and cranny of the country hence, the glaring differences.
The group’s literature, as well as its website, has been subject to bans in the country. The implementation of these bans has in the past, seen to series of arrest of members of the group, as well as the seizure of their properties.
EU Condemns Russia’s Ban
European Union (EU) has condemned Russia’s ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses religious group. Backing its stand with some logical reasoning in a statement, the EU Foreign Affairs Ministry says that every religious organisation in a country should be allowed to peacefully enjoy the freedom of assembly without interference.
This notion, the body says has already been guaranteed by the constitution of the Russian Federation, as well as by Russia’s international commitments and international human rights standards.