For Immediate Release
July 5, 2000
Russian court overturns expulsion of Jehovah’s Witness from school for refusal of military training
On July 5, 2000, a district court in Kemerovo annulled the order of a local technical college to expel a Jehovah’s Witness student, Vladimir Strikin, from school for his “categorical refusal to attend “Basics of Military Service” for religious reasons.” This was the first civil action concerning a 31 December 1999 government order implementing mandatory military training in schools across the country.
Before his expulsion, Vladimir Strikin had approached the administration of the Kemerovo Agricultural Academy to request an alternative course in place of ‘Basics of Military Service’. He explained that he was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and that his Bible-trained conscience did not allow him to “learn war” (Isaiah 2:4). However, his request was flatly denied.
After the order was issued, Vladimir Strikin filed a civil complaint with the Kemerovo District Court against the school’s director. Strikin requested that the court order the school to reinstate him as a student, exempt him from “Basics of Military Service” course, and to recognize the director’s actions as unlawful.
“Vladimir Strikin’s expulsion violates his rights to freedom of conscience and religion, guaranteed by Article 28 of the Russian Constitution,” said Snezhanna Terentyeva, Vladimir’s lawyer in the case. “Furthermore, according to Article 14(7) of the Federal Law “On Education”, military training in civil educational institutions can only be implemented on an elective basis with the student’s consent. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the court granted Strikin’s request to order the Kemerovo Agricultural Academy to reinstate him as a student.”
“Interestingly, in March 1996, the High Court of Japan made a similar ruling,“ says Aleksei Nazarychev, representative of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “In that case the court unanimously ruled that the Kobe Municipal Industrial Technical College violated the law by expelling Kunihito Kobayashi, a Jehovah’s Witness, for his refusal to participate in martial arts training. This ruling marked the first time that the Supreme Court handed down a decision based on religious freedom guaranteed by the Japan Constitution.”
Contact: J.R. Brown (718) 560-5600