We are deeply concerned by a Russian court’s decision to uphold the designation of the Khakassia regional branch of Falun Gong as “extremist” and criminalize the peaceful practice of their spiritual beliefs. Russian authorities harass, fine, and imprison Falun Gong practitioners for such simple acts as meditating and possessing spiritual texts.
We urge the Russian government to end its practice of misusing the “extremist” designation as a way to restrict human rights and fundamental freedoms. We continue to call on Russia to respect the right of freedom of religion or belief for all, including Falun Gong practitioners and members of other religious minority groups in Russia simply seeking to exercise their beliefs peacefully.
Yesterday’s decision is another example of Russian authorities labeling peaceful groups as “extremist,” “terrorist,” or “undesirable” solely to stigmatize their supporters, justify abuses against them, and restrict their peaceful religious and civic activities. The Russian government has done so against a number of groups, whose members face home raids, extended detention, excessive prison sentences, and harassment for their peaceful religious practices. Earlier this year, another Russian court designated three organizations affiliated with imprisoned opposition figure Aleksey Navalny as “extremist,” further demonstrating Russia’s arbitrary and expansive application of this label.