For Immediate Release
December 15, 2010
ECHR defends religious freedom
Court confirms that Moscow ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses was illegal
STRASBOURG, France—The European Court of Human Rights ruled to protect religious freedom in Russia when it rendered its June 10, 2010, judgment in Jehovah’s Witnesses of Moscow v. Russia. Russia referred the case to the Grand Chamber of the European Court on September 9, 2010, but on December 13, 2010, the panel of the Grand Chamber announced its rejection of Russia’s bid to have the case reviewed. The original ECHR ruling to protect free worship is now final.
It was the final ruling in a case that has been examined by various courts for about 15 years. During the 1990s, four criminal cases were opened against Jehovah’s Witnesses. Each time, however, the cases were terminated because Jehovah’s Witnesses were found not guilty of breaking the law. In an attempt to liquidate the Moscow Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a civil suit was then filed with the Golovinsky District Court. In 2001, that suit was dismissed. However, when the case was appealed, the appeal court ordered a retrial, and three years later the Golovinsky District Court handed down the decision to ban the activity of the religious Community in Moscow. Jehovah’s Witnesses appealed that decision to the European Court. In its June 10 decision, the European Court unanimously declared that the rights of the community of 10,000 believers in Moscow had been grossly violated, and it ruled that individual and general measures be adopted “to redress so far as possible the effects” of the ban.
Vasily Kalin, the Chairman of the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, states: “The expression ‘general . . . measures’ indicates that the Court expects that Russia will do more than just pay the damages and restore the legal status of the Community.” Kalin added: “The Russian Minister of Justice recently underscored Russia’s obligation to implement the effective judgments of the European Court. We hope that now our fellow believers in Moscow and throughout Russia will be able to practice their faith peacefully.”
In Russia: Grigory Martynov, tel. +7 812 702 2691
In Belgium: The European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, tel. +32 2 782 0015
In USA: J. R. Brown, tel. +1 718 560 5600