Labelling this religious group as "extremist" is becoming a tragic trend.
Now, the supreme court in the South Ossetia, a breakaway region, has done the same thing.
Democracy and Freedom Watch reports that the court has also banned the religious group from partaking in any activities.
This ruling is based on the General Prosecutor of South Ossetia, Uruzmag Djagaev’s claim that “extremist ideas and extremist literature” are distributed and promoted at the group’s meetings.
The claim was as a result of reports to the General Prosecutor’s Office that led to searches and seizures of religious literature from Jehovah’s Witnesses. An official claim was filed in July.
The Court’s decision was announced by Zalina Lalieva, the Minister of Justice for South Ossetia on October 17, 2017. However, the ruling will not go into effect this week.
Lalieva said, “It will come into force within ten days if it is not challenged. A register of such organizations will be kept in future. I believe they will gather secretly in some way, but their activities will be monitored by the competent authorities.”
If the ruling goes unchallenged, any member found guilty of partaking in any religious activity will face up to 10 years in jail.
According to Sonya Khubaeva, the de facto government’s commissioner for religious issues, this ruling will affect members of the group, who are one thousand, or about 2% of the population.
Sadly, this announcement comes as more humanitarian groups are joining the fight against the religious persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.
28 members of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly have just signed a declaration against the Russian government.
The declaration reads, “Whilst the Russian Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to freedom of religion or belief, this fundamental right is at risk as the Russian authorities continue to foster an atmosphere of intolerance, discrimination and persecution against religious minorities throughout the entire Federation. Recently, Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination that rejects violence, have been banned as “extremist” by a decision of the Supreme Court.
Evangelicals, Lutherans, Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Presbyterians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Scientologists and others have been targeted, with some of their members sentenced to pre-trial imprisonment based on the 2002 Extremist law, while in reality being held for simply engaging in peaceful religious beliefs and activities."
The 2002 Extremism Law laid the foundation for an alarming trend in repressions against civil society and the “non-traditional” minority religions. The law was initially passed to combat terrorism after 9/11 but it provides no clear definition of the term “extremism,” thus rendering virtually any group or individual vulnerable to political and legal harassment.
With all due respect, we urge the Russian government to intervene and put an end to these violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief of members of religious minorities in Russia.”
Hopefully, more actions from international organisations can result in the end of the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses around the world.