On October 1, 2019, the second decision of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was received regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. This time, the arrest of Vladimir Alushkin from Penza was declared unlawful. The Working Group is concerned about the “systematic and institutionalized persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses” (para. 65).
What was the first decision of the Working Group on Complaints from Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses? On May 29, 2019, a document was received following the consideration of the complaint by Dmitry Mikhailoviz Shui (Ivanovo Region). His arrest was recognized as a manifestation of religious discrimination.
What conclusions did the Working Group come about on the complaint of Vladimir Alushkin (excerpt):
Abs. 51-52: “The criminal prosecution ruling stated that Alushkin was a religious servant of Jehovah’s Witnesses and“ carried out general management “of their activities in the city of Penza, which was illegal after a decision of the Supreme Court dated April 20, 2017. In particular, it was assumed that they committed a crime, which resulted in “conducting conversations in public places and living quarters with residents of the city of Penza … and involving new participants from among their relatives, acquaintances and residents of the city of Penza”, as well as holding divine services for “ studying its ideology. ” The working group cannot agree that any of these types of activities could be called the organization of activities of an extremist organization or participation in it. The Working Group cannot find any other reason that could justify the restriction of its rights under article 18 of the Covenant. All the activities in which Alushkin took part is an absolutely peaceful religious discussion. ”
Abs. 53: “A search of Alushkin’s home and the seizure of his Bibles and religious texts, which he used in worship, also constitutes an interference with his rights under article 18 of the Covenant.”
Abs. 63: “The working group concludes that Alushkin’s detention did not have a legal basis, as the Pervomaisky District Court and the Penza Regional Court did not comply with the basic condition for ordering this measure.”
Abs. 65: “The Working Group especially wishes to draw attention to the latest joint complaint, in which special procedures mandate holders expressed concern about“ the issue of systematic and institutionalized prosecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Abs. 67: “Alushkin’s actions were always absolutely peaceful, and there is no evidence that he or other Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia ever resorted to violence or called others to violence. The Working Group notes that Alushkin is only one of the growing number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia who have been detained and detained and charged with criminal activity on the basis that they simply exercised the right to freedom of religion – a right protected by article18 The pact. Therefore, the Working Group concludes that the detention and detention of Alushkin was a manifestation of religious discrimination. ”
Abs. 68: “All these cases are related to the fact that the peaceful religious activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses were described as“ extremist ”, which led to the detention and detention of those who belong to this religion. Therefore, although this Opinion refers to the specific circumstances of Alushkin, the Working Group wishes to emphasize that its conclusions in this Opinion apply to all other persons who are in circumstances similar to those in which Alushkin is located. ”
Abs. 71-72: “An appropriate measure of protection would be the unconditional release of Vladimir Alushkin and the granting to him of the enforceable right to receive compensation and other damages in accordance with international law. The working group urges the Government to ensure a comprehensive and independent investigation into the circumstances of the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Vladimir Alushkin and take appropriate measures against those responsible for violating his rights. ”
What is the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention? This is a structure under the UN designed to investigate cases of detention that are not consistent with international standards set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international documents. The working group has the right to receive information from authorities and non-governmental organizations, to meet with detainees and members of their families to establish facts. The Working Group presents its findings and recommendations to governments, as well as to the UN Human Rights Council. Although decisions of the Working Group are not binding on states, they can help soften the position of the authorities in the context of wide international publicity.
Jehovah’s Witnesses filed complaints with three different international authorities: the European Court of Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee, and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.