8 Houses of Jehovah’s Witnesses Searched in Crimea

On September 28, at 8 houses of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the settlements of Nizhnegorskiy and Krasnogvardeyskoye as well as in the village of Petrovka were searched in Crimea.

According to the organization, Mr.Sergey Parfenovich aged 50 and Mr.Alexander Vinichenko aged 49 were detained and taken to Simferopol. Late in the evening Mr.Vinichenko was released.

“The searches were carried out by staff of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation and the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, some of them were wearing masks and were with weapons. The investigative action at Vinichenko’s was with involvement of law enforcement officers Nikolay Schmidt, D. A. Yavnik as well as V. A. Novikov, an Investigative Committee investigator for priority cases, who had processed the case of believers from Yalta. The security men broke into the believers’ house around 6:30am when the residents were still sleeping. The searches lasted for 5-6 hours. There were a minor child and an elderly disabled relative in one of these houses at that moment. Law enforcement officers seized electronic devices and information media, a router, personal records, and photo albums. According to the believers, the security men tried to make them disclose their passwords for electronic devices. In one case, they managed to unlock the phone using a fingerprint of one of the family members”, the organization reported.

As reported by the Crimean Human Rights Group, on April 20, 2017, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation declared Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization and banned its activities on the territory of the Russian Federation. On August 16, 2017, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation added Crimean units of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ to the list of extremist organizations. In 2018, criminalization of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ persecution started. In 2020, the first imprisonment sentences were passed on the members of the ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ organization.

The CHRG considers these lawsuits as religious persecution and a violation of the right to freedom of religion. According to international law, Russia has no right to apply its criminal law in the occupied territory and prosecute persons who are not criminals in terms of Ukrainian law. This is a war crime that falls under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

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