Searches at 4 ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ in Sevastopol: Two Arrested

On August 24, 2022 homes of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ were searched in Sevastopol, followed with arrests of Viktor Kudinov, aged 53, and Sergey Zhygalov, aged 51.

As reported by the organization, the men were accused of organizing the activities of a banned organization (Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, Article 282.2-1), they have been placed in the temporary detention facility. The local “court” is to choose a pre-trial restriction for them.

‘Home of one more couple was also searched on August 24. All their electronic devices were confiscated, and they were taken to the FSB for questioning. A total of 16 Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently being persecuted in Crimea, 4 of whom are serving sentences in the penal colonies,’ the organization informed

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 legal proceedings to be a violation of both human rights and international humanitarian law. Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion). In addition, the persecution of persons who are not criminals in the framework of Ukrainian law, is a violation of the ECHR Article 7 (No Punishment Without Law), since according to international humanitarian law, the Russian Federation shall not enforce its criminal law in the occupied territory. Violations of the ECHR fall under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. On the other hand, the enforcement of the Russian Criminal Code in Crimea is a violation of Geneva Convention IV, that constitutes a war crime which falls under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

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