Evidences of Case Supreme Court of the Russian Federation

 

Case 30-2017: Supreme Court of the Russian Federation

 

By Master Yan Maitri-Shi, Prosecutor

 

HONORABLE JURY OF INTERNATIONAL BUDDHIST ETHICS COMMITTEE (IBEC) & BUDDHIST TRIBUNAL ON HUMAN RIGHTS (BTHR)

After Legitimating and Validating Evidences and Charges by Master Maitreya, President and Spiritual Judge of IBEC-BTHR, it is addressed the case against the accused party, Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. This investigation was initiated from a complaint from Maitriyana Community.

The Charges by which the Buddhist Tribunal on Human Rights is accusing Supreme Court of the Russian Federation are enumerated below:

  • VIOLATION ON INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW
  • VIOLATION ON THE RIGHTS OF SPIRITUAL COMMUNITIES

 

Therefore, it is detailed a series of EVIDENCES that support the Charges referred so that the Jury members decide about the possible “Responsibility”, “Innocence” or “Insanity” of the accused. Such evidence come from graphic and audiovisual media that have been gathered, sorted and confirmed in their order and context as Means of Proof in order to know, establish, dictate and determine the Responsibility of the Accused for committing the aforementioned Charges.

The procedure established in the Statute of INTERNATIONAL BUDDHIST ETHICS  COMMITTEE & BUDDHIST TRIBUNAL ON HUMAN RIGHTS provides both bodies the ostentation to enjoy independence and liberty from state and national regulation and control, besides having the legality and acting as a Buddhist People in order to assert its customs, traditions, practices, procedures, judgments and rights as well as acting in pursuit of the development of Spirituality, of Buddhist Ethics, and of the defense of International Human Rights. This procedure has the particularity, singularity and distinction of having “Special Jurisdiction of the Tribal Law” and “Universal Jurisdiction of the International Law”, thus having the Character, Juridical validity, Legal Powers, infrastructure, Training and Capability necessary to be Actor, Administrator and Executor of Justice in this realm and exercise, by judging of the Accused by means of an Ethical Judgment whose Purpose is Truth, Reconciliation and Learning.-

 

DETAILS OF EVIDENCES

EVIDENCE 1: PERSECUTION TO INNOCENT AND PEACEFUL PEOPLE

EVIDENCE 2: SUPREME COURT BANS TO JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES

EVIDENCE 3: VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS TO FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND PEACEFUL MEETING

EVIDENCE 4: PRISONERS OF CONSCIOUSNESS

EVIDENCE 5: RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION AND CENSORSHIP

EVIDENCE 6: VIOLATIONS TO THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

 

EVIDENCE 1: PERSECUTION TO INNOCENT AND PEACEFUL PEOPLE

Nadia Beard: “(In 2015) In an increasingly intolerant Russia the evangelical Jehovah’s Witnesses are, according to a landmark court ruling this week, extremists to be feared – or jailed. Laws against extremists enacted in 2002 under President Vladimir Putin and then extended to non-violent groups in 2007, were touted as a way to prevent terrorist attacks and ultranationalist violence. But campaigners say the legislation is being used to target faith groups. One of Russia’s largest anti-extremism trials in recent memory centred on Alexei Koptev. On Tuesday, a judge in Taganrog, a small port 600 miles south of Moscow, convicted the 71-year-old and 15 co-defendants for trying to revive the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Taganrog. Mr Koptev’s transformation from respected Soviet factory foreman to alleged extremist  began when two Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on his front door to ask whether he kept a Bible at home. The visit sparked a religious revival in Mr Koptev and his wife, Lyubov, and they converted two years later in a seaside baptism.”[1]

Oxana Sukhareva, prosecutor’s official representative: “Knowing that the Rostov Regional Court finds [Jehovah’s Witnesses] an extremist group which is banned in Taganrog, the four organisers continued to engage in its activities (…) Moreover, they involved minors in their banned organisations”[2]

Nikolai Troysyuk, senior member of the group: “If the charge holds and we end up in jail, then I think the experience will alter the way in which I’m able to practise my religion, because it will restrict my freedom as a person, my freedom as a religious man,” (…) “But my religion isn’t at all connected to the extremism for which I’m charged. My religion is separate, connected to the Bible, to the reading of religious texts. For that reason, no court will be able to forbid my belief,” [3]

Vasily Kalin, chairman of the St Petersburg-based Administrative Centre:”What are these people guilty of? That they study the Bible in the ‘wrong’ way, as it seems to some? That they consider theirs to be the only true faith? Or are they guilty of not resorting to violence, following the gospel commandment ‘put the sword back into the sheath’?”[4]

 

EVIDENCE 2: SUPREME COURT BANS TO JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES

Judge Yuri Ivanenko: “The Supreme Court has ruled to sustain the claim of Russia’s ministry of justice and deem the ‘Administrative Centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia’ organisation extremist, eliminate it and ban its activity in Russia (…)The property of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation is to be confiscated to the state revenue.”[5]

Svetlana Borisova, lawyer for the justice ministry: “(Jehovah’s Witnesses) pose a threat to the rights of the citizens, public order and public security” [6]

Lizzie Dearden (The Independent): “(In 2017) Judges ordered the closure of the group’s Russian headquarters and 395 local chapters, as well as the seizure of its property.   Lawyers for the Jehovah’s Witnesses said they would appeal the court’s decision, which has not yet come into effect, and could take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. (…) In 2010, judges in Strasbourg found a previous ruling by a Russian court to ban the organisation unlawful. The ministry of justice had previously applied for an order to shut down its national headquarters near St Petersburg, state media reported. Its administrative centre, which has 175,000 members, had previously been suspended in March over alleged extremist activity. (…)  David A Semonian, a spokesman at the sect’s world headquarters in New York, said the ministry of justice had no basis for its claims. He said the ban would put members under threat of criminal prosecution even for praying together in a violation of our basic human rights. Jehovah’s Witnesses first registered as a religious group in Russia in 1991 and registered again in 1999, but have been targeted repeatedly by authorities in a wide-ranging crackdown on religious freedom. Russia changed its legal definition of extremism in 2006, removing requirements for violence or hatred but stating the incitement of….religious discord as criteria, leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses with the same legal status as Isis or Nazis. The group’s international website was blocked in Russia two years ago over alleged extremism, with the group’s Bibles banned the following year, while a local chairman was jailed for two years on charges of possessing extremist literature in 2010. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) was among the international bodies condemning a state sponsored campaign of harassment and mistreatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses it said dated back to the 1990s in Russia. It listed police searches, assaults, arson attacks, vandalism, seizures and raids on worship, as well as the arrest of several members and criminal investigations.” [7]

Nina Achmatova (AsiaNews): “(In 2013) In the province of Rostov in southern Russia, the instrumental use of the law against extremism to persecute religious minorities and has led to an increase in intolerant social attitudes, physical and verbal aggression especially against Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Ezhednevni Zhurnal denounces the situation in an article by Ksenia Sergazina, a Sova center expert, which monitors incidents of intolerance throughout the country. Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tagarong continue to be singled out by investigators. Here on November 25 the first hearing of the trial against 16 of their members begins.  They were indicted in April for having restored the local community of this international religious organization, banned four years ago. In 2009, in fact , the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation upheld the ruling of the Rostov court, which required the dissolution and banning of Jehovah’s Witness community in Taganrog, Neklinov and Matveeva – Kurgan , because they were deemed extremist. The human rights activists have denounced the unlawful use of the law against extremism and demanded that Russia respects the right to religious freedom. But appeals to the authorities were useless. On the contrary: even without waiting for the outcome of the trial, October 28, the investigative bodies of Rostov-on-Don announced that they had placed five other JWs under investigation. Officially, they are charged with not having renounced their faith and continued to study the Bible together, despite the ban. All five are now required not to leave town. Among them was a retired couple, the husband – Vladimir Chesnokov – was already persecuted for his faith in the times of the USSR. The article denounces the instrumental use of the law to discriminate against and prosecute religious objectors, ie those that promote community values ​​considered not to be in line with those of traditional Russian values. In the past, not only the texts of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but also Muslims and Scientology have been deemed extremist and therefore banned from the country. Owning them, using them for liturgies and even mentioning them is likened to participation in extremist activity. As a result of this judicial persecution, in 2013, there has been increasing aggression and intolerance towards these minorities. From January to November 2013, most of the victims were Muslim (31), Jehovah’s Witnesses (13), (…) Five were threatened with death, while others were beaten by common people, police and staff of the FSB, the Russian intelligence services. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are being targeted in a special way not only in the province of Rostov, but also in Moscow, Lukhovitsy, Omsk, Yoshkar -Ola, Voronezh, Kirov and Chelyabinsk. The article concludes with an appeal not to remain indifferent to this escalation of violence. You can imagine the extent of the phenomenon, looking back to the persecution of believers throughout the USSR – writes Sergazina – in modern Russia the only difference is that certain groups are being persecuted, but this should not make it more acceptable, it is a violation of freedom of conscience.”[8]

 

EVIDENCE 3: VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS TO FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND PEACEFUL MEETING

Yaroslav Sivulsky: “I didn’t expect that this could be possible in modern Russia, where the constitution guarantees freedom of religious practice”[9]

Rachel Denber (deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch): “The Supreme Court’s ruling to shut down the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia is a terrible blow to freedom of religion and association in Russia (…) Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia are now given the heartrending choice of either abandoning their faith or facing punishment for practicing it. (…)The Justice Ministry should withdraw the suit against the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization and stop interfering with group’s peaceful religious activity.”[10]

Human Rights Watch: “The ruling, which affects more than 100,000 Jehovah’s Witness worshippers across Russia, is a serious breach of Russia’s obligations to respect and protect religious freedom. The Justice Ministry, which had petitioned the Supreme Court to close the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, should withdraw the case and refrain from taking further measures that violate its obligations to respect the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization’s right to freedom of religion and to association. (…) If the ruling enters into force, people who continue to be involved with Jehovah’s Witnesses organization or their activities in Russia could face criminal prosecution and punishment ranging from fines of 300,00 to 600,000 rubles (US$5,343 to $10,687) to a maximum of six to 10 years in prison. People found to be leading such activity would face a maximum 10 years. The organization’s property will be confiscated. Jehovah’s Witnesses will not be able to congregate for worship at their church or anywhere else. (…) According to the Justice Ministry, since 2007, local courts have banned at least eight local Jehovah’s Witnesses organizations, and 95 pieces of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ literature have been banned and placed on the federal registry of banned extremist materials. The Justice Ministry case followed an unannounced inspection, started in February 2017, of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Center in St. Petersburg. The inspection found that the Administrative Center had continued to fund branches that had been closed after a court banned them for extremism. It also found the organization had taken no action to change extremist literature and had continued to distribute it. Jehovah’s Witnesses have vigorously denied the latter allegation. The Justice Ministry suspended all Jehovah’s Witnesses’ activities when the ministry filed its lawsuit on March 15.  A member of the Council of Europe and a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, Russia is obligated to protect freedom of religion and association. It has previously been found in violation of multiple obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights for actions taken through the courts to dissolve communities of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Jehovah’s Witnesses of Moscow v. Russia, application no. 302/02). The April 20 ruling to close the Jehovah’s Witnesses is a direct interference with freedom of religion, effectively denying its followers the right to worship, and cannot be justified as either necessary or proportionate. The closure order directly violates the pluralism of thought and belief that is foundational to a democratic society and as the court has repeatedly affirmed, is at the very heart of the protection which [the convention] affords.” [11]

THE EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF JEHOVAH’S CHRISTIAN WITNESSES: “On 31 May 2012, 17 residents of Taganrog, all Jehovah’s Witnesses, were indicted. Four men were accused of organizing a criminal community because they serve as congregation elders, conducting peaceful religious services. The remaining 13, including three women, were accused of participating in the activity of a criminal community—simply attending religious services. This is the first attempt in several decades to hold persons criminally accountable for exercising their constitutional “right to profess individually or together with others any religion . . . to freely choose, possess, and disseminate religious and other views and act according to them” under Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. (…) The alleged “criminal activity of the organized, extremist, criminal group”—according to the Taganrog ruling—is the same as charges already evaluated by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case Jehovah’s Witnesses of Moscow v. Russia, no. 302/02, 10 June 2010. Each charge against the Witnesses was refuted in the ECHR judgment. The judgment clearly stated that Russia was guilty of violating the Witnesses’ rights to freedom of religion and freedo of association under Articles 9 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. (…) On 11 January 2007, the European Court of Human Rights rendered a judgment in the case of Kuznetsov and Others v. Russia, condemning interference with religious worship by government officials. Despite the clearly stated position of the court, Russian authorities continue to violate the rights of believers to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of religion”[12]

Maina Kiai, (United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association): “The Russian government is claiming that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are an extremist group, but in fact it’s their move to ban them outright that appears to be extreme (…) The right to freedom of association includes the right to association for religious purposes, and under international law this right can only be restricted in very narrowly-defined circumstances, (…). The fact that people belonging to a majority religion may disagree with a minority group’s beliefs or activities – or even be offended by them – is not a legitimate basis for a ban, so long as that group’s activities are peaceful.”[13]

 

EVIDENCE 4: PRISONERS OF CONSCIOUSNESS

THE EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF JEHOVAH’S CHRISTIAN WITNESSES: “Chuvash Republic also criminalizes the worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses. On 6 September 2011, a criminal case was initiated against Aleksey Nikolayev, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Cheboksary. He was charged with inciting hatred and denigrating human dignity simply for sharing his beliefs with others. On 7 September 2011, Aleksey Nikolayev and two other Jehovah’s Witnesses, including Oleg Marchenko, were put in a detention facility where they spent 48 hours. In addition, four premises used for worship services were searched. Between October 2011–April 2012, 16 searches were conducted of the apartments of Jehovah’s Witnesses. On 26 July 2012, four of the believers, including Aleksey Nikolayev, were detained for 48 hours and remanded in custody for another 78 hours. Five criminal cases were initiated against these law-abiding citizens for distributing publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses and for “creating an extremist community and participating in it.” On 30 July 2012, the court ruled to release two of the believers from custody, but the investigator ordered to have them put in a temporary holding facility again, where they were unlawfully held without food until late into the evening. One of them, who previously had a stroke and also suffers from diabetes, had to report to the hospital for treatment. The court left two other believers in custody (Aleksey Nikolayev and Igor Yefimov) until the conclusion of the investigation. On 1 August 2012, Oleg Marchenko was also detained, but the court released him. In the courtroom, Oleg, who suffers from a gastric ulcer, became ill and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The defense lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court of the Chuvash Republic against the decisions to arrest Aleksey Nikolayev and Igor Yefimov. On 10 September 2012, the Court cancelled the decision of the lower court and the Witnesses were subsequently released. However, they must remain in their home towns until the criminal proceedings have concluded. They became the first prisoners of conscience among Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern-day Russia. (…)  Government Sponsored Campaign of Persecution. Between 11 September 2009 and 12 May 2012, there have been 1,372 incidents where the rights of individual believers have been violated. Law enforcement officials have detained 1,278 believers, carried out 136 searches of homes and houses of worship, and disrupted 17 religious services. Individual citizens opposed to Jehovah’s Witnesses have committed 111 acts of violence against at least 208 Jehovah’s Witnesses and committed 85 acts of vandalism against their places of worship. The authorities have done little or nothing to prevent or to punish these criminal acts.” [14]

 

EVIDENCE 5: RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION AND CENSORSHIP

Jehovah’s Witnesses:  “On July 13, 2015, Russian customs officials in the border city of Vyborg stopped a shipment of 2,013 Russian-language copies of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. The authorities confiscated three of the Bibles, sent them to an expert to determine whether they contained “extremist” language, and impounded the rest of the Bibles. Customs officials initiated an administrative case in August against the Finland branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses (as the carrier of the literature into Russia). (…) In addition to blocking the importation of Bibles, customs officials have unlawfully blocked shipments of the Witnesses’ religious literature since March 2015.  Officials have followed the same procedure each time they seize a shipment. They first perform an unlawful search to obtain sample publications for an expert study,  and then the prosecutor’s office initiates proceedings to declare the publications extremist. Complicated legal battles are inevitable, since nearly every shipment will require litigation in administrative and arbitration courts. In an attempt to release one of the shipments, Jehovah’s Witnesses presented the customs authorities with positive court decisions, expert studies, and other documentation showing that the government has already declared these publications to be nonextremist. Yet, customs officials ignored the evidence and seized the shipment. The blocking of the Witnesses’ print publications comes amid fresh restrictions on access to their electronic publications. On July 21, 2015, Russia became the only nation in the world to ban jw.org—the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Internet providers throughout Russia have blocked access to the site, and anyone in Russia who promotes the website faces administrative or criminal charges. The ban severely impedes the Witnesses’ ability to obtain religious publications in electronic form, a loss particularly felt among Jehovah’s Witnesses who are deaf or blind. Since Bible education is fundamental to the Witnesses’ religious services, restricting access to their literature interferes with their worship.”[15]

Jehovah’s Witnesses: “Seven months after the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation declared http://www.jw.org to be extremist, Russian authorities banned the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The ban became effective on July 21, 2015, when the Russian Federation Ministry of Justice added jw.org to the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Internet providers throughout Russia have blocked access to the website, and it is now a criminal offense to promote it from within the country. Russia is the only country in the world to ban jw.org. (…) Jehovah’s Witnesses contend that the Supreme Court’s decision is arbitrary and groundless because no religious publications declared to be extremist have been accessible on jw.org in Russia since the autumn of 2013. As a result of the decision, Russian authorities have directed Internet providers to block jw.org within Russia. This has denied readers access to the Bible in over 130 languages and Bible-based publications in over 700 languages, including Russian and Russian Sign Language. Anyone in Russia who promotes or encourages others to access the website is now subject to administrative or criminal prosecution for so-called extremist activity. With this ban, over 170,000 of Jehovah’s Witnesses have lost access to a resource that is vital for their spiritual edification and daily worship. The decision of the Supreme Court provides another means for some Russian officials to repress the peaceful religious activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As long as some officials persist in misapplying Russia’s Law on Counteracting Extremist Activity, religious freedom in Russia will be restricted and further threatened. Jehovah’s Witnesses sincerely hope that fair-minded officials will defend the basic human right to freedom of worship and fair trial, as guaranteed by Russia’s international agreements and its constitution.”[16]

 

EVIDENCE 6: VIOLATIONS TO THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI): “MOSCOW, March 25 (2014) – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) communicated a vast collection of complaints this month to Russia in connection with the treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the country. Russia and the applicants were asked earlier this month to consider a plethora of questions related to treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their congregations in light of the European Convention on Human Rights’ (Convention) guarantees of religious freedom and free expression, as well as its prohibition of discrimination.  According to court documents, in 2007, a Russian Deputy Prosecutor General notified the country’s prosecutors’ offices that the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other foreign religious and charitable organizations may have constituted a public threat.  The letter stated: There are various branches of foreign religious and charitable organizations within the territory of Russia whose activities do not formally violate the provisions of Russian legislation but quite often promote the growth of tension in society. The letter grouped Jehovah’s Witnesses with the Unification Church, the Church of Scientology, various eastern faiths, and Satanism, referring to them collectively as branches that frequently carry out activities that damage the moral, mental, and physical health of their members.  Prosecutors throughout the country were instructed to look into the threat that extremist material was being produced or disseminated in violation or Russia’s mass communications law.  According to the complaint, the present collection of cases revolves around ten claims, many centering on Jehovah’s Witness literature:  1.    The liquidation of a local Jehovah’s Witness organization in Taganrog, Russia, along with the confiscation of its property and a ban on 34 of its publications; 2.    Seven other instances of the banning of religious publications in various Russian regions; 3.    The revocation of a permit to distribute religious magazines; 4.    A series of administrative proceedings launched against nine individuals in eight regions over the distribution of extremist literature; 5.    Five cases where administrative proceedings were launched over the distribution of unregistered mass media; 6.    Thirteen cases where administrative proceedings were launched for conducting religious events; 7.    Three searches carried out in private residences, and the seizure of religious literature;  8.    Five cases where searches were conducted in places of worship, with the disruption of religious services; 9.    The seizure of a shipment of religious literature; 10.    And the detainment of a Jehovah’s Witness for preaching.  The complaint asserts that the Taganrog local religious organization (LRO) was liquidated after a court held that it was an extremist organization, due in part to the fact that one of its founding members succumbed to wounds she received in a motor vehicle accident, after refusing to accept blood transfusions. (…)  The claims present a number of issues under Russian domestic law, including its laws against extremism, the Criminal Code’s provisions against the incitement of hatred or enmity and against associations that infringe upon the rights of citizens. Parties to the case have been instructed to answer a series of questions pertaining to the treatment of Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses under international law.  The ECHR has considered three applications filed against Russia by Jehovah’s Witnesses in the past, finding in each case that there had been violations of the Convention.”[17]

Human Rights Europe: “Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has expressed concern about freedom of expression and of assembly in Russia, following mass detentions at demonstrations. In a 27 March statement, the secretary general declared: The detention of hundreds of citizens, including opposition leader Alexey Navalny while exercising their right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly raises issues under the European Convention on Human Rights. I am particularly concerned about the reported detention of minors. I call for the release of all those detained. The Council of Europe stands ready to work with the Russian authorities to prevent such situations by upholding the European Convention on Human Rights. (…) A list of recent related European Court of Human Rights cases: – Lashmankin and Others v. Russia, 7 February 2017 – Navalnyy v Russia, 2 February 2017 – Kasparov and Others v. Russia (no. 2), 13 December 2016 – Kasparov v. Russia, 11 October 2016 – Yaroslav Belousov v. Russia, 4 October 2016 – Frumkin v. Russia, 5 January 2016 – Navalnyy and Yashin v. Russia, 4 December 2014 – Primov and Others v. Russia, 16 June 2014 – Nosov and Others v. Russia, 20 February 2014 – Kasparov and Others v. Russia, 3 October 2013 – Alekseyev v. Russia, 21 October 2010[18]

Washington Post: “A prominent Russian human rights organization was ordered shut Wednesday by a regional court, potentially silencing one more voice in a continued Russian crackdown on independent civil society. The Agora human rights association is a network of lawyers and advocates who have defended the many Russians caught in the crosshairs of the Kremlin and the courts for political activity under Russian President Vladimir Putin. (…) Since Agora’s founding in 2005, it has mounted a progressively lonely push for civil liberties and the rule of law as one group after another has been shut down. (…) The supreme court of Russia’s southern republic of Tatarstan agreed with a finding in a case brought by Russia’s Justice Ministry that Agora had engaged in political activity, since it was attempting to influence public opinion through its work. Political activity is a violation of Russian laws restricting nongovernmental organizations. (…) The Tatarstan court’s decision drew condemnation from international groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well from other human rights advocates in Russia.”[19]

FIDH: “On February 10, 2016, Russian human rights organisation Agora, providing legal assistance to nongovernmental organisations and civic activists, was liquidated by a court decision. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of FIDH and OMCT, strongly condemns the verdict of the Supreme Court of Tatarstan (Russian Federation) closing down one of the most visible and active organisations in Russia, and calls on the international community to publicly denounce the mounting repression of civil society in Russia.”[20]

Human Rights Watch: “Article 12 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders stipulates that states shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary actions related to their efforts to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Since Russia’s occupation of Crimea, Russian and the de facto Crimean authorities have detained, imprisoned, forcibly disappeared, attacked, intimidated or forced into exile many people who peacefully opposed or openly criticized the authorities’ actions and policies. The authorities have also have shut down numerous independent Crimean Tatar media outlets.  There are very few human rights defense lawyers willing to work in Crimea, and they do so at great risk, Williamson said. The intimidation and harassment of Kurbedinov and Polozov is intended to, and will most likely lead to, more lawyers being unwilling to defend anyone facing politically-sensitive prosecutions.[21]

Ukrainian News Agency: “The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People intends to appeal at the European Court of Human Rights against the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation to uphold the decision to recognize the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people an extremist organization and ban its activities. Verkhovna Rada deputy from the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko faction Refat Chubarov, the chairperson of the Mejlis, announced this at a press conference, Ukrainian News Agency reports. The next stage will be an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights, he said. (…)  As Ukrainian News Agency earlier reported, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine is demanding that Russia immediately cancel the decision of the Supreme Court of Russia declaring the Mejlis an extremist organization and prohibiting its activity. President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko calls the decision of the Supreme Court of Russia prohibiting the Mejlis xenophobic.”[22]

Global Legal Monitor: “(Mar. 2, 2016) The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), in a decision issued on December 4, 2015, in the case of Roman Zakharov v. Russia, ruled on the legality of Russia’s regulations on administering the System for Ensuring Investigative Activities (SORM legislation) under article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. (Case of Roman Zakharov v. Russia, App. No. 47143/06 (Eur. Ct. H. Rts., Dec. 4, 2015), HUDOC; Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950, as amended to June 1, 2010), ECHR website.) The ECHR held that the legislation institutes a system which cannot protect individuals from secret surveillance and any person using mobile telephone services of Russian providers can have his or her mobile telephone communications intercepted, without ever being notified of the surveillance. (Case of Roman Zakharov v. Russia, ¶ 175.)”[23]

Caroline Seddon (Pink News): “The Russian government votes to pass law which enables them to ignore decisions handed down by foreign justice bodies. Last week, the state Duma voted to pass a draft law titled On Amendments to the Federal Constitutional Law ‘On the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation. The bill-drafted by all four Russian parliamentary parties – will allow the country to over turn any decision handed to them by the European Court of Human Rights. Earlier this year, the Supreme court of Russia established that no international treaty held precedence over national sovereignty and any international decision meted out would only be upheld if it didn’t contradict basic Russian law.  Speaking at the Russian constitutional court, Judge Sergey Mavrin said All decisions of the ECHR must be executed only with consideration to the Russian Constitution’s supremacy. He added As an exception, Russia can refuse to fulfill the imposed obligations when such a refusal is the only way to prevent the violation of the basic law. The sponsors of the bill also added that they simply wanted to oppose the prejudiced rulings demanding sizeable monetary compensations from the government. The country – no stranger to human rights violations – has recently passed laws giving the police power to fine and imprison its citizens for protesting for a period of up to 15 years.”[24]

ALEXANDER MERCOURIS: “Whilst it is Russia’s decision to have no further connection to the International Criminal Court (ICC) which is attracting the most attention, two legal steps taken by Russia to distance the country from the European Court of Human Rights may be of greater practical significance. Russia’s Constitution -drafted by pro-Western liberals during the political crisis of 1993 – specifically provides Russian citizens the right to bring cases to international courts like the European Court of Human Rights.  Since this is a right set out in Russia’s Constitution, Russia is not in a position where it can simply quit the European Court of Human Rights, as some people wish it would do. Recently however, as following the breakdown in relations between Russia and the West the trend of decisions in the European Court of Human Rights has increasingly gone against Russia, the Russians have started to edge away from it. Firstly, the Russians have reaffirmed that the court of ultimate appeal in any case involving the Russian Constitution is not the European Court of Human Rights but Russia’s own Constitutional Court.  Since the human rights provisions that the European Court of Human Rights enforces are set out in articles of Russia’s own Constitution, that decision essentially transfers ultimate power to decide Russian human rights questions from the European Court of Human Rights to Russia’s Constitutional Court.”[25]

Valery Zorkin, chairman of the Russian Constitutional Court: “Russia has the right not to fulfill the imposed obligations (of the European Court of Human Rights) when this is the only way not to act against the constitution”

Daniel Charity: “Russia’s Constitutional Court has ruled that it does not have to follow decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) when doing so would be ‘unconstitutional’. As a Member State of the Council of Europe, Russia is bound by international law to ‘abide by’ decisions of the ECtHR, based in Strasbourg. (…) On Thursday, the Russian Constitutional Court said that it could ignore rulings by international law bodies if they go against the supremacy of their Constitution. In what appears to be a move to ignore the ECtHR’s decision, the Court said that Russia’s constitution has ‘supreme legal force’ and includes the ‘obligation to pay lawfully established taxes’. This development threatens to escalate tensions between Russia and the Council of Europe, with the Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights describing it as: [a] signal that the standards of democracy, human rights and the rule of law a State subscribes to when joining the Council of Europe can be disregarded at will. The Council of Europe is an international organisation set up in the wake of World War II that aims to promote democracy, the rule of law, and human rights in Europe. The Russian court’s ruling was made using powers granted by a controversial 2015 law. Ever since President Putin signed this law, the Russian Constitution has had priority over judgments handed down by international courts. Judges can now choose to disregard them if they consider it the only way to avoid violating their Constitution. In refusing to pay compensation to Yukos, Russia would appear to be in breach of Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which requires states to abide by the final judgment of the Court in any case to which they are parties. There is little doubt that this turn of events sets a worrying precedent for the future of human rights, both in Russia and throughout Europe.”[26]

 

[1] Nadia Beard, Jehovah’s Witnesses targeted by Russia’s anti-extremism laws simply for practising their pacifist faith, say campaigners.     http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/jehovah-s-witnesses-targeted-under-russias-anti-extremism-laws-simply-for-practising-their-pacifist-a6756506.html

[2] Nadia Beard, Jehovah’s Witnesses targeted by Russia’s anti-extremism laws simply for practising their pacifist faith, say campaigners.     http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/jehovah-s-witnesses-targeted-under-russias-anti-extremism-laws-simply-for-practising-their-pacifist-a6756506.html

[3] Nadia Beard, Jehovah’s Witnesses targeted by Russia’s anti-extremism laws simply for practising their pacifist faith, say campaigners.     http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/jehovah-s-witnesses-targeted-under-russias-anti-extremism-laws-simply-for-practising-their-pacifist-a6756506.html

[4] Victoria Arnold, RUSSIA: Jehovah’s Witness activity largely halted. http://forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2265

[5] Lizzie Dearden ,Russia bans Jehovah’s Witnesses after supreme court rules Christian sect ‘extremists’.    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-jehovahs-witnesses-ban-extremists-religion-christian-sect-vladimir-putin-supreme-court-a7693671.html

[6] Lizzie Dearden ,Russia bans Jehovah’s Witnesses after supreme court rules Christian sect ‘extremists’.    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-jehovahs-witnesses-ban-extremists-religion-christian-sect-vladimir-putin-supreme-court-a7693671.html

[7] Lizzie Dearden ,Russia bans Jehovah’s Witnesses after supreme court rules Christian sect ‘extremists’.    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-jehovahs-witnesses-ban-extremists-religion-christian-sect-vladimir-putin-supreme-court-a7693671.html

[8] Nina Achmatova, Russia attacks on Jehovah’s Witnesses and Pentecostals increase under anti-extremism law.  http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Russia,-attacks-on-Jehovah%27s-Witnesses-and-Pentecostals-increase-under-anti-extremism-law-29599.html

[9] BBC, Russia court outlaws ‘extremist’ Jehovah’s Witnesses.  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39661339

[10] Human Rights Watch, Russia: Court Bans Jehovah’s Witnesses  https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/04/20/russia-court-bans-jehovahs-witnesses

[11] Human Rights Watch, Russia: Court Bans Jehovah’s Witnesses  https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/04/20/russia-court-bans-jehovahs-witnesses

[12] THE EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF JEHOVAH’S CHRISTIAN WITNESSES, RELIGIOUS FREEDOM CONCERNS IN RUSSIAhttp://www.osce.org/odihr/94547?download=true

[13] Victoria Arnold, RUSSIA: Jehovah’s Witness activity largely halted. http://forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2265

[14] THE EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF JEHOVAH’S CHRISTIAN WITNESSES, RELIGIOUS FREEDOM CONCERNS IN RUSSIAhttp://www.osce.org/odihr/94547?download=true

[15] https://www.jw.org/en/news/legal/by-region/russia/censorship-russian-bibles-literature/

[16] https://www.jw.org/en/news/legal/by-region/russia/bans-jw-org-website-blocked/

[17] Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI), ECHR looks into Russia’s treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

http://rapsinews.com/news/20140325/271010309.html

[18] Russia: European court judgements on right to peaceful assembly.  http://www.humanrightseurope.org/2017/03/caselaw-european-court-judgements-on-freedom-of-expression-and-freedom-of-assembly-in-russia/

[19] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/russian-court-shuts-down-human-rights-group-in-continued-crackdown/2016/02/10/67daa746-d004-11e5-90d3-34c2c42653ac_story.html?utm_term=.2f29d0ffbb47

[20] https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/russia-first-human-rights-organisation-liquidated-by-court-for

[21] https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/01/30/crimea-defense-lawyers-harassed

[22] http://ukranews.com/en/news/452075-mejlis-to-challenge-at-european-court-of-human-rights-rf-supreme-court-decision-prohibiting-mejlis

[23] Global Legal Monitor, ECHR, Russian Federation: Breaches of Human Rights in Surveillance Legislation.  http://www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/echr-russian-federation-breaches-of-human-rights-in-surveillance-legislation/

[24] Russia passes law allowing them to ignore international human rights decisions.   http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2015/12/09/russia-passes-law-allowing-them-to-ignore-international-human-rights-decisions/

[25] ALEXANDER MERCOURIS, Russia distances itself from the European Court of Human Rights  http://theduran.com/russia-distances-itself-from-the-european-court-of-human-rights/

[26] Daniel Charity, Russia’s Top Court Decided To Ignore A Huge Human Rights Judgment https://rightsinfo.org/russia-ignores-human-rights-decision/

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