We demand that the charges against Vilitkevich are immediately dropped.
Ufa resident Anatoly Vilitkevich has been charged with an offence under Article 282.2, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (organisation of activity of a religious group, closed down on grounds of extremist activity; with a penalty of up to 10 years deprivation of liberty) in connection with membership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses community banned in Russia.
Vilitkevich has been held in detention since 10 April 2018 when his apartment was searched and he was detained by police. On 12 April a district judge in Ufa, L. B. Mokhova, remanded Vilitkevich in custody.
In our view, the charges laid against Vilitkevich solely on the basis that he is a Jehovah’s Witness are discriminatory and violate international law, particularly the right to freedom of religion. The decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, banning the Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses as an extremist organisation, has no basis in law and contradicts Article 28 of the Russian Constitution guaranteeing the right to freedom of conscience and religion.
The case of Anatoly Vilitkevich is part of a campaign of persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses that has assumed a widescale character since the Supreme Court ruled on 20 April 2017 that the administrative centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia is an extremist organisation. This campaign took on fresh vigour in April 2018 when, in several regions, searches and arrests took place, targeting dozens of believers, many of whom have been prosecuted under criminal law and remanded in custody.
We note that among those who have spoken out against this campaign of persecution of a whole religious confession are the delegation of the European Union to the OSCE, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and Russian and foreign human rights defenders.
Memorial Human Rights Centre wholeheartedly concurs with this criticism. We demand that the charges against Anatoly Vilitkevich and other Jehovah’s Witnesses, prosecuted for their religious beliefs, are immediately dropped.
Memorial Human Rights Centre will continue to monitor the unlawful prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious groups that have been banned without justification.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner, or of a prosecution as politically motivated, does not imply that Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves the individual’s views, statements or actions.
For more information about this case, see here.
PayPal — an e-wallet for giving help to all Russian political prisoners [email protected]