Moscow Helsinki Group publishes report on freedom of thought, conscience and religion in the Russian Federation in 2013

posted 1 Feb 2014, 00:17 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 Feb 2014, 00:44 ]
28 January 2014

Source: (info)
The Moscow Helsinki Group has published a report entitled “Freedom of thought, conscience and religion in the Russian Federation in 2013".

The authors of the report note that the constitutional principle of the secular state is still being violated in the Russian Federation. The provisions of the Federal Law “On the State Civil Service of the Russian Federation", which stipulate that official powers may not be misused in the interests of religious associations or other organisations, are also being ignored.

The Federal Law “In Defence of Religious Believers’ Feelings” which was adopted in 2013 opens up limitless possibilities for the prosecution of anyone who dares criticise the confluence of religious associations with the state," according to the Moscow Helsinki Group report.

The Russian FSB continued to play a burgeoning role in the “fight against extremism” in 2013. The further deployment of the security services to safeguard the public’s “spiritual safety”, the defence of religious feelings and the fight against “religious extremists” and “totalitarian sects” threatens persecution on an even larger scale than before on the grounds of religion or belief. Muslims are already subject to wholescale unlawful persecution which is systemic in nature. There are good reasons to suppose that we are talking not only about the persecution of specific movements within Islam, but the generalised persecution of any groups which do not operate under the aegis of the official spiritual authorities".

In the context of this enforcement of anti-extremist legislation, the fact that the number of Islamic texts included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials is growing ever longer has meant a precipitous increase in the number of cases where people have found themselves facing administrative and criminal charges despite having committed no violations. All of this is guaranteed to result in tensions or even an increase in violence.

2013 saw an unprecedented wave of public prosecutor’s investigations into not-for-profit organisations throughout Russia, including hundreds of religious organisations representing groups such as Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Protestants etc. as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The media, and in particular the federal television channels, have a significant influence on the level of public intolerance and discrimination. They broadcast positive coverage of the activities of the Russian Orthodox Church and those religious organisations designated as ‘traditional’, while habitually referring to other groups as sectarians and extremists. The state’s information policy is permeated with intolerance and xenophobia, and is a significant factor in the escalation of hate-based violence in society”.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds