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ICC NOTE: Russia continues its targeting of religious minorities within its borders all in the name of national security. Yet for one religious minority, that excuse has difficulty sticking with the international community as they are historically and liturgically pacifist. Despite this information the Russian government has seen fit to raid their meetings and services for the past 10 years. in 2016, the average raid has risen to three per month. Religious minorities have seen an uptick in law enforcement activity since the passage of the Yarovaya laws on July 20, 2016. Pastor Donald Ossewaarde, an American Baptist pastor, continues to appeal his case after authorities arrested and fined him for conducting a small gathering in his home despite no laws (Yarovaya inlcluded) which consider his actions to be illegal.  

10/24/2016 Russia (Forum 18) – Law enforcement raids on Jehovah’s Witness premises have reached a rate of more than three per month in 2016, Forum 18 has found. These unannounced raids, often involving large numbers of heavily armed riot police as well as the FSB security service and “Anti-extremism” investigators, frequently occur during meetings for worship and use disproportionate force. The “discovery” of literature prohibited as “extremist” often occurs during searches. One of many such raids took place in the village of Nezlobnaya in the southern Stavropol Region on 20 September (see below).

Jehovah’s Witnesses have credibly insisted, with video evidence, that this literature has been planted by the authorities. As well as being distressing to congregations, such raids with the “discovery” of “extremist” literature can also set in motion a chain of legal repercussions up to and including the dissolution of communities (see below).

The current wave of raids take place without any advance warning to the communities concerned. One difference from visits from Prosecutors Office officials is that the community concerned is notified in advance by post of these visits.

One indicator of the unnecessary nature of the weapons (including infantry assault rifles) and force used by camouflaged state officials in the many raids is that Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide are a doctrinally pacifist community, whose young male members will not do compulsory military service or any other military-connected activity. Jehovah’s Witnesses follow their pacifist principles even if the government concerned jails and tortures conscientious objectors to military service, and their families and co-believers (see eg. in Turkmenistan F18News 3 October 2016

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