Gernot Erler, the Federal Government Coordinator for Intersocietal Cooperation with Russia, Central Asia and the Eastern Partnership Countries issued the following statement today (24 April 2017) regarding the Russian Supreme Court’s ruling of 20 April banning the Jehovah’s Witnesses:
I am greatly concerned by the court ruling banning the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and condemning their allegedly “extremist” activities. The right to peacefully exercise one’s freedom of religion and belief must not be vilified and criminalised. The ever wider use of allegations of “extremism” against non‑mainstream thinkers is causing me great concern.
I call on the Russian Government to uphold the human rights standards enshrined in the constitution of the Russian Federation, and in particular to guarantee freedom of religion and belief as well as freedom of opinion and assembly in their entirety. Restrictions may only be imposed in compliance with international human rights standards, which Russia is obliged to implement as a member of the Council of Europe.