HELSINKI – Jehovah’s witnesses getting a cold shoulder
By Pekka Vanttinen
EURACTIV (21.02.2020) – https://bit.ly/2PaIM3k – Out of the two hundred Jehovah’s witnesses who came from Russia to apply for asylum in Finland since 2017, 90% have seen their applications rejected, according to the Finnish Immigration Service.
This means that a growing number of Jehovah’s witnesses are being deported back to Russia while others are waiting in limbo.
Behind the phenomenon is ever tightening legislation in Russia against anything considered a threat to the status quo.
In 2016, Russia enacted new legislation against terrorism and a year later Jehovah’s witnesses were named an extreme organisation and its activities were forbidden.
Among others, Amnesty International has reported the persecution faced by Jehovah’s witnesses, who have, in some cases, even been tortured. The treatment of a religious group is in line with the situation of sexual minorities in Russia, something the European Court of Human Rights has strongly condemned.
As of February 18, 2020
307 Jehovah’s Witnesses under investigation and facing criminal charges
34 in prison (25 pretrial; 9 sentenced)
28 under house arrest
29 convicted (18 in 2019; 11 already in 2020)
On 20 February, U.S. IRF Ambassador Sam Brownback decried Russia’s Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses on Twitter:
“Very concerned that authorities in #Russia are physically abusing Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have been subject to imprisonment, raids and other abuses simply for exercising their beliefs. We call on Russia to respect its international obligations and commitments to #humanrights.” (link to source: https://bit.ly/38MjgJJ).
Jarrod Lopes, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, states: “We are pleased to know that the world is closely watching, and influential people along with human rights bodies have been rebuking Russia for persecuting Jehovah’s Witnesses. We hope that, before any more Witnesses are beaten or tortured, Russian leadership will punish local authorities for misusing the nation’s anti-extremism law as an excuse to persecute peaceful Jehovah’s Witnesses, and thus clear their country from reproach.”