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Written declaration No. 647 | Doc. 14430 | 13 October 2017

Religious freedom in Russia

Signatories: Ms Edite ESTRELA, Portugal, SOC ; Mr Viorel-Riceard BADEA, Romania, EPP/CD ; Mr Jokin BILDARRATZ, Spain, ALDE ; Mr Liam BYRNE, United Kingdom, SOC ; Mr Titus CORLĂŢEAN, Romania, SOC ; Mr Paolo CORSINI, Italy, SOC ; Ms Vanessa D'AMBROSIO, San Marino, SOC ; Mr Geraint DAVIES, United Kingdom, SOC ; Mr José Ramón GARCÍA HERNÁNDEZ, Spain, EPP/CD ; Mr Valeriu GHILETCHI, Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD ; Mr Antonio GUTIÉRREZ, Spain, SOC ; Mr Andres HERKEL, Estonia, EPP/CD ; Mr Giorgi KANDELAKI, Georgia, EPP/CD ; Mr Luís LEITE RAMOS, Portugal, EPP/CD ; Mr Georgii LOGVYNSKYI, Ukraine, EPP/CD ; Sir Alan MEALE, United Kingdom, SOC ; Mr Ian MURRAY, United Kingdom, SOC ; Mr Víctor NAUDI ZAMORA, Andorra, SOC ; Mr Joseph O'REILLY, Ireland, EPP/CD ; Ms Irina PRUIDZE, Georgia, NR ; Ms Soraya RODRÍGUEZ RAMOS, Spain, SOC ; Ms Leyla ŞAHİN USTA, Turkey, EC ; Mr Virendra SHARMA, United Kingdom, SOC ; Mr Adão SILVA, Portugal, EPP/CD ; Mr Ionuț-Marian STROE, Romania, EPP/CD ; Ms Adriana Diana TUȘA, Romania, SOC ; Mr Burhanettin UYSAL, Turkey, EC ; Mr Egidijus VAREIKIS, Lithuania, EPP/CD

This written declaration commits only those who have signed it.

Whilst the Russian Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to freedom of religion or belief, this fundamental right is at risk as the Russian authorities continue to foster an atmosphere of intolerance, discrimination and persecution against religious minorities throughout the entire Federation. Recently, Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination that rejects violence, have been banned as “extremist” by a decision of the Supreme Court.

Evangelicals, Lutherans, Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Presbyterians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Scientologists and others have been targeted, with some of their members sentenced to pre-trial imprisonment based on the 2002 Extremist law, while in reality being held for simply engaging in peaceful religious beliefs and activities.

The 2002 Extremism Law laid the foundation for an alarming trend in repressions against civil society and the “non-traditional” minority religions. The law was initially passed to combat terrorism after 9/11 but it provides no clear definition for the term “extremism,” thus rendering virtually any group or individual vulnerable to political and legal harassment.

With all due respect, we urge the Russian government to intervene and put an end to these violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief of members of religious minorities in Russia.