Jehovah’s Witnesses

ECHR rules two judgments in favour of 14 Jehovah’s Witnesses against Russia

By Willy Fautré — On 22 February, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued two judgments in favor of 14 Jehovah’s Witnesses and found that Russia violated their fundamental rights to freedom of religion. Russia has been ordered to pay a total of over 99,000 euros ($112,323 U.S.) in compensation for violations that included mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement officials between 2010 and 2012.

The Holocaust of Jehovah's Witnesses. Persecuted and forgotten

It takes courage. It would have been enough to fill out an abjuration form in which the prisoner declared to disassociate himself from Jehovah's Witnesses. But almost no one signed it even though they were aware of the fate that awaited them. Another great lesson in moral and spiritual integrity offered by the Christian congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. A rare good, in this and any other age.

RUSSIA: "Foreign agents", "undesirable organisations", and freedom of religion or belief

by Victoria Arnold — Russia has used increasingly strict legislation on "foreign agents" (a term which has connotations of spying) and "undesirable organisations" to curtail, complicate, or prohibit the activities of organisations which promote human rights and monitor their violation, including that of freedom of religion and belief. This "indirectly affects the people human rights defenders stand up for", says Aleksandr Verkhovsky of the SOVA Centre for Information and Analysis (branded a "foreign agent").

Kyrgyz Jehovah's Witnesses can continue to use their books

On November 30 we reported on the proceedings against the Kirhisi Jehovah's Witnesses, guilty of using publications that, according to the General Prosecutor's Office, are "extremist", in accordance with the intolerant and anti-cult line of neighboring Russia. Today we are pleased to announce that the District Court of Pervomayskiy has rejected the request of the Prosecutor's Office, also thanks to an expert opinion written by Massimo Introvigne and Rosita Šorytė, respectively director and deputy director of Bitter Winter.

Russia Model Restricting Religious Freedom Exported to Kyrgyzstan?

Will Kyrgyzstan Abide by the Rule of Law or Merely Follow in the Footsteps of Russia by Restricting Religious Freedom? - The test case of the Publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In Kyrgyzstan, the Pervomayskiy District Court is expected to rule on Thursday 2 December on a claim from the General Prosecutor’s office to ban 13 publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses as “extremist,” with the apparent aim of following in Russia’s footsteps and banning the Witnesses simply for their peaceful Christian worship.

Historic Victory of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia: Group Prayer Is Not a Crime

October 28, 2021 will be remembered as another day when David defeated Goliath. The Supreme Court of Russia has ruled that Jehovah's Witnesses who pray in groups do not commit a crime and therefore cannot be prosecuted. The sentence opens a breach in art. 282.2 of the controversial Yarovaya law. The hope is that now all Jehovah's Witnesses detained in Russian prisons for praying or reading the Bible as a group will be released as soon as possible.

When Belgian media wrongfully stigmatize and fail to publish the judicial truth: the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses (2)

HRWF — Human Rights Without Frontiers has identified three well-known TV channels – RTBF, RTL and VRT – and several major newspapers such as La Libre Belgique, La Dernière Heure and Het Laatste Nieuws which have failed to report the dismissal of the case against the association of Jehovah’s Witnesses wrongfully suspected of hiding cases of sexual abuse in its midst and holding so-called internal trials, generally favourable to the alleged perpetrators.

When Belgian media wrongfully stigmatize and fail to publish the judicial truth: the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses (1)

HRWF — Le Soir, La Capitale Sud-info, Bruxelles News, Nieuwsblad, VRT Nieuws and Bruzz who had very imprudently reported in 2018-2019, as a breaking news, the alleged failure of the Belgian Jehovah’s Witnesses association to report sexual abuse in their midst were the only media outlets to report about the 5th October 2021 court decision dismissing the charges against this religious group.

Belgian Court declared as unfounded false accusation about Jehovah’s Witnesses

Press release of the Christian Congregation of JW/ Belgium (21.10.2021) - On 5 October 2021 the Court Chambers of Brussels declared that there were “no grounds” for the criminal accusations brought against the non-profit “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses” at the instigation of the Center of Information and Advice on Harmful Sectarian Organizations (CIAOSN).

FECRIS Admits: Hamburg Case Lost Against Jehovah’s Witnesses Was “A Lesson”

by Massimo Introvigne — On November 27, 2020, FECRIS, the European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects, an umbrella organization for anti-cult movements in Europe and beyond, significantly funded by the French government, lost a landmark case at the District Court of Hamburg, in Germany, where it was found guilty of 18 counts of untrue factual allegations against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. On May 24, 2021, Bitter Winter published a commentary of the decision. On May 30, 2021, i.e., six days after Bitter Winter’s article (and six months after the decision, proving that it was indeed answering Bitter Winter, and without our article it would never have commented the judgement in public), FECRIS published a press release about the case.

Jehovah’s Witnesses in the French MIVILUDES Report: Five Mistakes

by Massimo Introvigne — In a previous article reviewing the recently published report for the years 2018–2020 of the French MIVILUDES, the French Inter-ministerial mission for monitoring and combating cultic deviances (dérives sectaires), I noted how it suffers from a fundamental methodological problem. The report is a building built using as bricks the saisines, i.e., the complaints against a religious movement that everybody can send to the MIVILUDES by letter or by using an online form. For pages and pages, the report summarizes and quotes the saisines. There is no indication that the saisines have been verified by confronting them with the existing scholarly literature on the accused religious movements, or by interviewing members in good standing of the religious organizations, who may have a totally different point of view.

Court of Rome: Jehovah’s Witnesses “Ostracism” Is Not Illegal

by Massimo Introvigne — On May 23, 2021, the Justice Court of Rome issued a decision in the case RGN 76320/2016 whose grounds have now been published, in a case of “ostracism” of a former member by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Ostracism” and “shunning” are the terms normally used by the opponents of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and are also often used by the media, while the Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves do not use them. The plaintiff had sent a letter in 2011 to both his local and the national Italian organization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses resigning as a member of the Association Christian Congregation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the letter, he stated that he still believed in the main doctrines taught by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, although he no longer wanted to be a member of the organization (a contradictory statement, because that a believer should be part of the organization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is precisely a “main doctrine” for them).

A roundup of convictions collected by FECRIS in Europe

The report that our French partner CAP Liberté de Conscience presented to the UN Human Rights Council recommending that the state funding of anti-cult associations, in particular the French association FECRIS, be stopped, has triggered a series of articles revealing the excesses of anti-cults. Today we publish FECRIS and affiliates: Defamation is in their DNA, an article by Willy Fautré, director and co-founder of Human Rights Withou Fronties International, which lists a series of convictions collected by FECRIS in various European courts. We do not add anything more and leave it to the reader to get a personal idea of these "champions" of the alleged victims of the equally alleged "cults" (an ambiguous term that lends itself well to the hate campaigns of anti-cults).

FECRIS Sentenced in Germany for Defaming Jehovah’s Witnesses

by Massimo Introvigne — FECRIS, the European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects, is an umbrella organization for anti-cult movements in Europe and beyond. It is significantly funded by the French government, and has been identified by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) as a main international threat to religious liberty. When FECRIS branches are sued, they often claim that these are futile litigations started by “cults” with the only purpose of harassing them, since anti-cult movements serve a public function, and their exposes of “cults” are protected by free speech laws.

Department of State Religious Freedom Report: China Is Guilty of “Crimes against Humanity”

by Massimo Introvigne — There is a different administration from last year in Washington DC but the yearly survey of religious liberty produced by the U.S. Department of State in 2021 (covering events of 2020) is as strong as last year’s report, or stronger. Secretary Blinken introduced the report on May 12 by singling out China as a country that “criminalizes religious expression” in general. Blinken did not avoid two politically significant definitions: “crimes against humanity” for how China treats religion, and “genocide” for what is being done to “Uyghurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups.”

Freedom of religion is always a right

by Steno Sari — From birth, religious ideas are transmitted to us by our parents, and so the religion we profess as adults almost always becomes a family tradition that often leads us to passively accept the choices decided for us by others. This is a very delicate issue in a State governed by the rule of law like ours, where religious choice and practice is protected by Article 19 of the Constitution. Let's think, for example, of what can happen when, in the case of separation, in a religiously divided home, one parent wants to impart his religious education to his minor child while the other opposes it. A decision of the Court of Cassation, filed in recent days, has upheld the right of a Jehovah's Witness mother to give her minor child his religious education despite the opposition of her separated husband.

The Ghent Case Against the Jehovah’s Witnesses: A Chronology

A Webinar organized by CESNUR (Center for Studies and New Religions) and Human Rights Without Frontiers was held on April 9, 2021. Title of the Webinar was "Jehovah's Witnesses, Shunning, and Religious Liberty: The Ghent Court Decision". Chair was Rosita ŠORYTĖ, European Federation for Freedom of Belief. Speakers were: James T. RICHARDSON, University of Nevada, Reno; Willy FAUTRÉ, Human Rights Without Frontiers, Brussels; George CHRYSSIDES, University of Birmingham and York's St John University; Yannick THIELS, attorney, Brussels; FOB's chairman Alessandro AMICARELLI, attorney, London; Holly FOLK, Western Washington University; Massimo INTROVIGNE, CESNUR, Torino; Eileen BARKER, London School of Economics (em.), London.

The Ghent Jehovah’s Witnesses Decision: Big Brother Is Watching You

by Massimo Introvigne — In California, a woman called Mayra Gomez has been cut off from her family and many friends. Her 21-year-old son told her, “You are no longer my mother,” and informed Mayra she had been permanently excluded from his life. This may look like a case of shunning for religious reason, but it isn’t. Mayra Gomez is a supporter of Donald Trump, while her son and most of her friends voted Democrat. In the heated climate of current American politics, this was reason enough for shunning her. Nor is Mayra’s case isolated. Hundreds of articles reporting similar incidents have been published by American media. They are not short-lived quarrels.