On Thursday, after six days of hearings before the Supreme Court, Judge Yury Ivanenko handed down the operative part of a decision declaring the Jehovah’s Witnesses to be an extremist organisation, banning their activities and ordering that the JWs’ national headquarters in St Petersburg and its local properties to be forfeited to the state. According to Tass, the full text of the decision was to be furnished to the parties within five days. Russia Religious News carries summaries of the proceedings [scroll down].
The JWs have 30 days in which to appeal the decision to a three-judge appellate panel of the Supreme Court. If that panel affirms Ivanenko J’s decision, the JWs plan to appeal to the ECtHR.
Metro [“News … But Not As You Know It“] reported the case under the headline “Russia bans Jehovah’s Witnesses, ruling they must hand over their homes“. One’s immediate response would be to doubt that: the brief report of the Court’s order suggests that it is the organisation’s property that is to be expropriated, not the property of individual adherents. But, on reflection, in cases where JWs meet in each others’ homes, would those homes be expropriated as well?
On the face of it, should it get as far as Strasbourg the case looks like a straightforward violation of Article 9 ECHR (thought, conscience and religion) and A1P1 (peaceful enjoyment of possessions) – and possibly of Article 11 (assembly and association) as well. But given the pace of proceedings in the ECtHR, that might be of little comfort to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the shorter term.
[With thanks to Daniel Hill]