US Commission On International Religious Freedom Condemns Russia’s Torture Of Jehovah’s Witnesses

(MAXIM SHIPENKOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Olivia Rondeau Contributor
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The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemned an attack on Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses, an incident perpetrated by government officials on the evening of Feb. 10.

USCIRF made the following statement on Tuesday from their Twitter account.

“We are pleased to know that the world is closely watching, and influential people along with human rights bodies have been rebuking Russia for persecuting Jehovah’s Witnesses. We hope that, before any more Witnesses are beaten or tortured, Russian leadership will punish local authorities for misusing the nation’s anti-extremism law as an excuse to persecute peaceful Jehovah’s Witnesses, and thus clear their country from reproach,” Jarrod Lopes, a spokesperson for the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses said. (RELATED: Russia Convicts Six More Jehovah’s Witnesses Of ‘Extremist Activities,’ Imprisons One For Six Years)
As of Tuesday, 307 Russian Witnesses are under investigation and facing criminal charges, 34 are in prison, 28 are under house arrest, and 29 have been convicted, according to Lopes.

Russian officers reportedly tortured a Witness named Vadim Kutsenko, of Chita, Russia, in an effort to force him to give up information about other Witnesses, according to the group’s official website.

On the morning of Feb. 10, Federal Security Services (FSB) officers searched almost 40 homes of known Witnesses in the Chita community, including Kutsenko’s residence. Later that night, Russian special police arrested him at the home of his mother-in-law. Kutsenko was dragged out of the home in handcuffs, blindfolded and tortured in a nearby wooded area for information which he did not give up. He was then held in jail until Feb. 15, when a judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to hold him, according to the Associated Press. (RELATED: Russia Convicts 12th Jehovah’s Witness This Year For ‘Extremist Activities’)

In 2017, the Supreme Court of Russia passed a verdict to uphold the claims from the nation’s Justice Ministry that the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses violated the anti-extremism laws, according to a 2017 Human Rights Watch report.(RELATED: Jehovah’s Witness Reportedly Tortured, Shocked And Choked By Russian Officers)