Statistics and Overview

Ten Years Ago, ECHR Ruled in Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow v. Russia Case. What Is Happening to Believers Now?

France,   European Union,   Moscow

On June 10, 2010, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) gave legal analysis to a number of popular myths about Jehovah's Witnesses. The Russian government was ordered to restore the rights of the Moscow community and compensate for the damage. Ten years later, Russia is acting against the judgment.

The reason for appealing to the ECtHR was the decision of the Golovinsky Court of Moscow to liquidate the religious community of Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow and ban its activities. The proceedings were initiated by the prosecutor of the Northern Administrative District of Moscow. In 2001, the Golovinsky Court rejected the prosecutor's demands, stating in its decision that there were no grounds for the liquidation and ban on the activities of the community. The case was, however, sent for a new trial, in which the court no longer investigated the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses, but their religious beliefs. In March 2004, the Golovinskiy court satisfied the prosecutor's demand. The complaint "The religious community of Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow against the Russian Federation" was filed with the ECtHR.

On 10 June 2010, the Strasbourg Court issued a ruling. Seven judges unanimously recognized the dissolution of the Jehovah's Witnesses Religious Community in Moscow and the ban on its activities as illegal and as violating basic human rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Rejecting all the arguments of the Russian side, the European Court stressed that its ruling was subject to mandatory enforcement by the Russian Federation, which must take measures "to cease the violation established by the European Court and to compensate as far as possible the consequences of such violation".

Russia has attempted to challenge this decision before a panel of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. However, in December 2010, the Grand Chamber refused to allow Russia to review the ruling in the case.

What is happening to believers now? The 10-year anniversary of the ruling was met in prison by 35 believers, 23 under house arrest, 26 under a ban on certain actions, 154 under a travel ban. Acting against the decision of the ECtHR, the Russian authorities liquidated not only the Moscow community that had won the suit at the ECtHR, but also all 396 registered organizations of that religion throughout Russia. On this basis, more than 300 believers were prosecuted under the article "organization or participation in the activities of an organization liquidated by a court decision" (Article 282.2 of the RF Criminal Code). New complaints were filed with the European Court. In addition, believers filed complaints against Russia's actions with the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which monitors the implementation of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. Meanwhile, legal scholars and human rights defenders both in Russia and abroad unanimously condemn the actions of the authorities against Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.