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Russia top court bans Jehovah's Witnesses

[JURIST] The Russia Supreme Court [official website, in Russian] on Thursday granted the Russian government's request to ban the Jehovah's Witnesses religious group. The court ruled that the group is an "extremist organization" and outlawed their activities [TASS report] in the entire country. As part of the decision, the group's assets will be seized and turned into state property. The Russian Ministry of Justice [official website] had argued [JURIST report] that the group's practice of passing out pamphlets incites hatred against other groups and violates anti-extremist legislation, and the court agreed. The full text of the ruling will be made available to the parties in the case within five days.

Russia's human rights and religious freedom record has been the subject of widespread international criticism. In February the Russian Supreme Court annulled the 2.5 year prison sentence of Ildar Dadin, who was the first person to be convicted under a relatively new anti-protest law [JURIST report]. Earlier in February the European Court of Human Rights ordered Russia to pay more than 63,000 euros for arresting Alexander Navalny multiple times [JURIST report] between March 2012 and February 2014. The court held that Russia repeatedly and unjustifiably violated Navalny's right to freedom of peaceful assembly under the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In January the US sanctioned [JURIST report] five Russian officials for human rights abuses in association with the death of a lawyer in prison. The Russian Foreign Ministry announced [JURIST report] in November that Russia would leave the International Criminal Court (ICC), expressing disdain over the ICC's investigation into potential human rights abuses by Russian forces in South Ossetia in 2008. In May 2015 Russian President Vladmir Putin signed a law [JURIST report] that allows for foreign "undesirable" NGOs or firms to be sanctioned and banned from operating in the country, drawing criticism from human rights groups.

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