June 28, 1999
Judge: Y. I. Prokhorycheva
Case No. 33-7398
Judicial Board for Civil Cases of Moscow City Court, chaired by N.I. Lukinina and including I.V. Vasilyeva, Y.A. Feodorova with participation of prosecutor T.V. Kirova and lawyer G. A. Krylova, having heard in open court session Y.A. Feodorova’s presentation on Limited Appeal filed by G.A. Krylova and A. V. Leontyev — representatives of religious community of the Jehovah’s Witnesses — on decision of Golovinskiy Intermunicipal District Court of Moscow of March 12, 1999 with regard presentation of the N.A.C. of Moscow prosecutor on liquidation and banning the activities of the religious community of the Jehovah’s Witness has rendered the following decision:
The N.A.C. of Moscow prosecutor has presented her case to curtail and ban activities of the religious community of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This religious community stands registered with Moscow Justice Department as of 30 December 1993.
As its statute indicates — this religious community is a voluntary organisation of believers that was formed for the purpose of joint practice and dissemination of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ faith. The prosecutor stated that precisely this status serves as one of the grounds on which this religious organisation should be liquidated and its activities banned — that this organisation foments religious strife — prosecutor referred to the distribution of the Watchtower and the Awake! magazines, other literature and letters in the territory of Russia. Furthermore, this religious organisation coercively promotes destruction of family, encroaches on human individuality, infringes on rights and freedoms of citizens, inclines individuals to suicide or refusal to render medical assistance due to religious convictions.
March 12, 1999 ruling based on article 74 of ГПК РСФСР of the Golovinskiy Court appointed a group of experts representing various fields: religion, linguistics, psychology. They are V.P. Belyanin, S.A. Nebolsin, M.M. Gromyko, D.A. Leontyev, and S.I. Ivanenko.
The group of experts needs to determine the following:
- Whether the Jehovah’s Witnesses literature and documents reveal any sign of
- fomenting religious strife (promoting disrespect and hostility toward other religions)
- coercively promoting destruction of family
- encroachment on human individuality, rights and freedoms of citizens (excerpts from literature and documents attached)
- Whether the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ literature and document texts under examination are typical of texts used in the religion
At the same time, in accord with section 5 of Article 215 of ГПК РСФСР [RSFSR Civil Procedural Code], the court has suspended the case until completion of expert study.
Lawyer G.A. Krylova and representative of Jehovah’s Witnesses community A. V. Leontyev have filed a Limited Appeal against the court’s decision to appoint an expert group оп grounds that such ruling is illegal, purposeless, and unnecessarily prolongs the case.
The Judicial Board has heard explanations given by representatives of the religious community of the Jehovah’s Witnesses — those of lawyer G.A. Krylova, A. Y. Leontyev, and John Michael Burns, — has examined the case material, has listened to conclusions of prosecutor T.V. Kirova to leave the court decision unchanged. The Judicial Board has not found any grounds to reverse the court’s decision that was rendered in accord with facts and requirements of article 74,75, 49, 215, section 5, 315 of the ГП К РСФСР [RSFSR Civil Procedural Code].
According to the Law the court has the right to appoint an expert study group, if the case under review is of such nature that specialists are needed to determine a decision.
It is the prerogative of the court of first instance to appoint an expert study group. Conclusions of the expert group serve as one of the evidences relevant to the case under consideration. Conclusions of an expert are evaluated by the court according to the expert’s inner convictions based on unbiased, all-rounded and full consideration of all available evidence.
According to article 315 of the ГПК РСФСР [RSFSR Civil Procedural Code], the court’s decision to appoint an expert group is not a matter that can be appealed, because due process of the case is not hindered. Persons may file all objections and protests respecting the court’s appointment of an expert group once the court has reached its decision on the case.
That is why the Judicial Board does will not debate the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the court’s appointing an expert study group with reference to this case.
Once this case has undergone due process and a decision is rendered, if parties involved in the case disagree with the court’s decision, they may file an appeal, state their objections and arguments against the court’s decision on appointing the experts group and the conclusions of the said group.
Article 217 of the ГПК РСФСР [RSFSR Civil Procedural Code] allows for filing а Limited Appeal with regard to suspension of the said case.
The Judicial Board’s decision on matter of suspension of this case due to appointment of expert group is based on the law that court of first instance is vested with this prerogative.
For the expert group to study questions related to the case will involve a great amount of time. So as not to encroach on the court’s time and unnecessary debates the court deems it necessary to suspend the case until the expert group renders its conclusions.
Thus, the court is within its right to suspend the said case.
For the reasons mentioned the complaint will not be considered.
Judicial Board renders its decision based on article 317, section 1, of the [RSFSR Civil Procedural Code]:
The March 12, 1999 decision of the Golovinskiy Intermunicipal District Court of Moscow is to be left unchanged and Limited Appeal of representatives of the religious community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, G.A. Krylova and A. E. Leontyev, is denied consideration.