Why does the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia continue?

Vladimir Putin Pledges To Look Into The Persecution Of Jehovah’s Witnesses In Russia | TIME

Why does the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia continue?

Why the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia continues?

According to media reports, convicted believers were beaten by prison guards in Surgut

The repressions against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, despite public outcry – both internationally and domestically – continue unabated, as evidenced by regular media reports.

In February of this year, correctional colony No. 1 in Orenburg (the head of the institution is Major of the Internal Service Alexander Grebennikov) received five believers from Saratov who were sentenced to imprisonment for terms ranging from 2 to 3.5 years. While registering, the guards beat them with truncheons and kicks.

As a result, one of them, Felix Makhammadiev, ended up in a hospital bed with lung damage. Moreover, a medical examination of the injured by doctors was carried out only the next day, and the ambulance team was called to Makhammadiev only after he incriminated himself, writing that he “hit the toilet.” At the hospital, he underwent surgery by inserting a drain into his lung to drain fluid. In addition, the believer has a gluten intolerance, and the colony staff took away the special food prescribed by the doctor..

The rest of the prisoners were sent to a punishment cell on false and ridiculous charges – for example, “for smoking in the wrong place.” The absurdity of the wording is obvious, since Jehovah’s Witnesses do not smoke for religious reasons.

Let us remind you that a year ago, seven Jehovah’s Witnesses detained in Surgut were subjected to torture. The United States imposed sanctions against the investigators involved. The State Department said interrogations were conducted under the supervision of investigative officials, during which believers were strangled, electrocuted and severely beaten..

According to media reports, verification of the incident is still underway..

According to the Russian human rights organization Memorial, the total number of Jehovah’s Witnesses persecuted in the Russian Federation for their beliefs has exceeded two hundred. Many of them have been recognized by Memorial as political prisoners.

Under these conditions, Jehovah’s Witnesses are increasingly forced to leave the country abroad..

Why does the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia continue?

Director of the Institute of Religion and Law, senior researcher at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Roman Lunkin, in an interview with the Russian service of the Voice of America, noted that Jehovah’s Witnesses have become a religious group that the Russian authorities pay special attention to, subjecting it to discrimination. In his opinion, this is formally caused, of course, by the decision of the Supreme Court to ban the organizations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia in connection with the recognition that these organizations are allegedly of an extremist nature..

“Again, even official examinations have not really confirmed this,” he added. – Well, local courts strictly follow the decision of the Supreme Court. At the same time, the paradox is that the very worldview of Jehovah’s Witnesses, their creed and practice of faith outside the organization were not formally prohibited. “.

It is in this logic that the responses of the Russian government to the European Court of Human Rights to all claims in the context of the problem are built, Roman Lunkin specified. According to him, there is both a measure of hypocrisy and a lack of understanding of the very nature of religious activity, since the whole practice of worship and embodiment of their faith for Jehovah’s Witnesses also consists in joint meetings..

“And as soon as Jehovah’s Witnesses get together, law enforcement agencies believe that this is the resumption of the activities of ‘extremist’ organizations that have been banned. Thus, manifestations of cruelty towards believers are a consequence of the fact that they are considered in the framework of criminal cases and anti-extremist legislation. It turns out to be a vicious circle, “summed up the director of the Institute of Religion and Law..

Back in 2018, at a meeting of the Human Rights Council under the President, Vladimir Putin, commenting on the situation with Jehovah’s Witnesses, called it “complete nonsense” and agreed that this should be dealt with, promising to discuss this topic with the head of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses are also Christians, and I don’t really understand why they should be persecuted,” Putin said then..

But, as life has shown, the president’s words have changed absolutely nothing. Anatoly Pchelintsev, a lawyer, editor-in-chief of the journal “Religion and Law”, thinks that there is a powerful lobby in law enforcement agencies behind this.

“In particular, in the apparatus of the Ministry of Internal Affairs there is a fairly large department for combating extremist crimes,” he explained in a commentary to the Voice of America. – However, in fact, its main functions boil down to cleaning up the religious field, removing unwanted people from there, and not fighting terrorism and extremism, as I see it by virtue of my understanding. It’s easier to do “.

Why does the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia continue?

Therefore, the work of the department is mainly reduced to the elementary twisting of the hands of believers, and one of the most law-abiding in the world, concluded Anatoly Pchelintsev. It seems to him that sanctions against those who grossly violate the rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses should become a sustainable practice, then such measures will be effective..

  • Victor Vladimirov

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