International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance Statement on Jehovah’s Witnesses

Office of International Religious Freedom

As members of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance, we note with grave concern the increased repression of Jehovah’s Witnesses in a number of countries. We uphold the right of Jehovah’s Witnesses to practice their religion and their beliefs and their ability to adhere to being apolitical and pacifist without fear, harassment, discrimination, or persecution.

In countries around the world, governments investigate, detain, arrest, and imprison Jehovah’s Witnesses on account of their religious beliefs. They are falsely designated as “extremist.” Officials conduct home raids against Jehovah’s Witnesses, place them in prolonged pre-trial detention and require excessive prison sentences due to their religious practices and beliefs, and deny citizenship under domestic law.  They also are subjected to violence and discrimination.

We affirm that the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) includes the ability to conscientiously object to military service.  We note that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that parties may not derogate from their obligations with respect to Article 18 in times of public emergency which threatens the life of a nation.  States should not, therefore, discriminate against individuals based on their religious beliefs when considering conscientious objection from military service.

We call upon all states to, where applicable:

  • Immediately release all Jehovah’s Witnesses jailed for exercising their religious beliefs, including charges for their religious expression, activities, and conscientious objection to military service.
  • Immediately end the torture and physical abuse of Jehovah’s Witnesses in detention.
  • Immediately end home raids against Jehovah’s Witnesses.
  • Immediately address harassment of and discrimination against of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
  • Immediately eliminate any discrimination against Jehovah’s Witnesses in decisions with respect to citizenship and/or issuance of national identification documents.
  • Create space for conscientious objection through non-military alternative civilian service.
  • Allow Jehovah’s Witnesses access to their religious literature and equal access to legal registration for religion or belief groups.
  • Desist from targeting Jehovah’s Witnesses with ‘anti-extremism’ laws and forced conscription.
  • Review current “anti-extremism” legislation that severely limits or prohibits all activities of Jehovah organizations.

Cosignatories:  Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States.

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