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Russian Supreme Court upholds ruling to disband Jehovah's Witnesses organization

The decision entered into force immediately

MOSCOW, July 17. /TASS/. Appeals college of the Russian Supreme Court has upheld an earlier ruling of the court to quality the Jehovah's Witnesses administrative center as an extremist organization, to disband it and to ban its activities on the Russian territory.

By passing the resolution, the appeals college turned down an appeal filed by the Jehovah's Witnesses.

"The ruling passed by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation on April 20 shall remain unchanged and the appeal shall not be entertained," the presiding judge said.

The resolution took immediate effect.

The defense attorneys of Jehovah’s Witnesses are planning to appeal the ruling of the Russian Supreme Court on disbanding the organization at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), attorney Viktor Zhenkov said.

"The chapter has not been closed yet. Since the Supreme Court has violated not only Russia’s legislation but also the norms of international law, we will appeal this decision at the ECHR," Zhenkov said.

On April 20, the Supreme Court entertained a lawsuit of the Justice Ministry to disband the organization. Its ruling ordered an immediate finishing of operations of all the 395 branches of Jehovah’s Witnesses and forfeited the properties of the organization to the state.

Representatives of the organization filed an appeal claiming the facts specified in the lawsuit were not substantiated during hearings in the courtroom.

They also said Jehovah’s Witnesses would take the case to the European Court for Human Rights if the appeals college left the ruling unabated.

The Justice Ministry said in its lawsuit an off-schedule inspection had exposed various violations in the activities of the organization, including encroachments on the law on counteraction to extremism.

The ministry asked the court to qualify the organization an extremist one, to ban all of its 395 branches and to confiscate their properties.

On October 12, 2016, Moscow City’s Tverskoi district court issued a warning to Jehovah’s Witnesses in connection with extremist activity. Russian legislation says that should a religious association fail to rectify the violations or perpetrate new one within the rectification period specified in a court warning, it is subject to disbandment.

Jehovah’s witnesses is an international religious organization that espouses offbeat interpretations of the Christian faith and the Holy Scriptures. In Russia, it embraced 21 local organizations, three of which were eliminated for extremism previously.