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PAKISTAN: Human Rights: European Commission VP Josep Borrell pressed to review Pakistan’s GSP+ status

Human Rights: European Commission VP Josep Borrell pressed to review Pakistan’s GSP+ status

On 15 September, a spokesperson of over 20 European human rights organizations personally handed over a memorandum to VP Josep Borrell through the EEAS

Memorandum

To: Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice-President of the European Commission

Signatories:

Alliance Internationale des Droits et des Libertés (AIDL):

http://www.aidl.eu/fr/quisommesnous.html

All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief in UK (APPG): https://appgfreedomofreligionorbelief.org

ARCHumankind: https://archumankind.com

Baloch Human Rights Council: https://balochhumanrightscouncil.com

Bitter Winter: https://bitterwinter.org

British Pakistani Christians Ltd: https://www.britishpakistanichristians.org

CAP Liberté de Conscience: https://freedomofconscience.eu

Center for Freedom of Religion or Belief and Conscience: https://lirec.net

European Association for The Defense of Minorities (EADM): https://bit.ly/3zc4mbV

Forum for Religious Freedom Europe (FOREF): http://foref-europe.org

Free Nadeem Samson Campaign: https://gofund.me/9faf6008

Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF): https://hrwf.eu

International Council for Diplomacy and Dialogue: https://www.icdd.info

International Human Rights Committee: https://www.hrcommittee.org

International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF): https://www.iirf.eu

Minority Concern: https://minorityconcern.wixsite.com/mcpakistan

Noodt Foundation: https://gerardnoodtfoundation.org

International Organisation to Preserve Human Rights: https://preservehumanrights.org

PostVersa Fundamental Rights Chapter: https://postversa.weebly.com/

Set My People Free: http://freedom2worship.org

Soteria International: http://www.soteriainternational.org

Date: September 15th, 2021

Subject: Human Rights: NGOs press VP Josep Borrell to review Pakistan’s GSP+ status

A conference at the Press Club, Brussels,on September 9th, held under the auspices of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), called for the EU institutions to act in the case of Pakistan’s continued human rights abuses, in particular in regards to the country’s blasphemy laws, and the lack of respect for the presumption of innocence.

Specifically, and in regard to article 12 of the Joint Motion For A Resolution (RC-B9-0254/2021) of April 28th 2021, passed by 681 votes, “to immediately review Pakistan’s eligibility for GSP+ status in the light of current events and whether there is sufficient reason to initiate a procedure for the temporary withdrawal of this status and the benefits that come with it, and to report to the European Parliament on this matter as soon as possible;”

The conference heard that of the benefits given as a result of the current agreement with Pakistan, around 20% only accrued to the EU, causing, in the opinion of the conference, no significant potential detrimental economic impact on the EU or the member states.

The imposition of the mandatory death sentence for those found guilty of blasphemy against the prophet, particularly in the context of such charges having recently been levelled at an eight year old child, makes, in the opinion of the conference, the current GSP+ status enjoyed by Pakistan morally and politically untenable.

During the conference, the names of 48 prisoners currently held on blasphemy charges: Mubashir Ahmed; Gulab Ahmed; Ahtesham Ahmed; Zahid Ahmed; Ahmed Waqar; Anwar; Islam; Mailik Ashraf; Anwar Ashgar; Ahmed Ashgar; Noor Ashgar; Malik Ashraf; Kausar Ayub; Amud Ayub; Taimur; Siya; Raza; Zafar Bati; Md. Safi; Md. Shehzad; Rehmat Ali; Asif; Md. Aslam; Arif Mehdi; Junaid; Hafeez; Abdul Hamid; Md. Faruq; Hayai Bin; Malik; Md. Humayan Faysal; Aftab Mastargil; Nadeem James; Arif Masih; Stephen Masih; Saudi Issaq; Abdul Karim; Imran Massih; Yakub; Ishfaq Massih; Saba Massih; Bashir; Mastan Mushtaq; Shamsuddin; Md. Yussaf; Inayat Rasool; Iqbal and Md. Aslam. The list comprises Ahmediyyas, Shias, Hindus, and Christians.

Sixteen of the above have been handed a death sentence.

Accordingly, we wish to ask the High Representative – who has previously stated that suspension of Pakistan’s GSP+ status is a measure of last measures – “what his current position is in this regard.”

Also, given that Pakistan’s behaviour clearly contravenes the requirement for GSP+ beneficiaries to ratify 27 international conventions, numerous it is clearly in breach of, we respectfully ask “how the High Representative can justify the continuation of Pakistan’s GSP+ status?”

We look forward to receiving your response, at the address of: Human Rights Without Frontiers, Avenue d’Auderghem 61, Box 16, 1040 Brussels, Belgium

Telephone: +32-478202069

international.secretariat.brussels@hrwf.org

Yours respectively,

We the above signatories.

Photo : Andy Vermaut delivering the letter in the name of the 20 signatories

Further reading about FORB in Pakistan on HRWF website





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CHINA : Special bimonthly FoRB newsletter (01-15.09.2021)

Special bimonthly FoRB newsletter (01-15.09.2021)

General

06.09.21 – Chinese Christians compelled to pray for the martyrs—of the Red Army

They cannot remember their own martyrs but should pray for the Communist soldiers who died in the war with Japan.

Continue reading…

 

01.09.21 – Former “anti-cult” top bureaucrat Peng Bo is in jail

As Bitter Winter predicted, expulsion from the CCP has been followed by arrest and prosecution.

Continue reading…

Uyghur Muslims

14.09.21 – The Uyghur tribunal’s second session launched in London

A stream of Chinese government invective heralded the start of the second set of hearings of the Uyghur Tribunal in London last week.

Continue reading…

 

10.10.21 – Path-breaking Uyghur tribunal under way in London

The Uyghur Tribunal opened its second session today, hearing testimony from both witnesses and experts. The session continues through September 13, 2021 and is livestreamed here.

Continue reading…

Tibetan Buddhists

07.09.21 – Eight more Tibetans are arrested in Sichuan over Dalai Lama photos, language rights

Police in western China’s Sichuan province arrested eight more residents of a Tibetan township in Kardze prefecture this month, taking into custody six monks and two laywomen amid a crackdown by authorities on language rights and possession of banned images of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, sources said.

Continue reading…

Protestants

08.09.21 – Shouter Christians in Beijing sentenced to three years in jail

The decision confirms that Article 300 continues to be applied to the movement, which was banned as a xie jiao in 1983.

Continue reading…

Falun Gong

15.09.21 – Persecution of Falun Gong continues while CCP tightens control on PLAC: leaked documents

In its updated post on September 11, The Epoch Times‘ article, “Persecution of Falun Gong Continues While CCP Tightens Control on PLAC: Leaked Documents,” examines the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong and the Chinese Communist Party’s Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC).

Continue reading…

15.09.21 – Two Liaoning women in their 70s sentenced to prison

Two women in Benxi City, Liaoning Province were sentenced to prison in August 2021 for their faith in Falun Gong, a mind-body practice that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999. The trials were conducted at their homes, by the same judge.

Continue reading…

 

15.09.21 – Hubei Woman Seeking Justice Against Prison for Inhumane Torture

A Jingzhou City, Hubei Province resident is seeking justice against the Hubei Province Women’s Prison for torturing her while she served time for her faith in Falun Gong, a spiritual and meditation discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

Continue reading…

Other religions

09.09.21 – Create abundance/Spiritual growth: Xie Jiao or spy ring?

Several CCP media attacked a movement that in Canada, in connection with a mysterious murder, had come under suspicion of being a CCP front.

Continue reading…

 





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ERITREA: Two elderly pastors imprisoned for their faith in maximum security centre

Two elderly pastors imprisoned for their faith

By Anugrah Kumar

 

The Christian Post (11.09.2021) – https://bit.ly/3CfdH4M – Two elderly pastors are being held in Eritrea’s maximum-security interrogation center as one of the world’s most repressive and closed countries continues to persecute Christians.

 

Pastor Girmay Araya, 75, and Pastor Samuel Okbamichael, 74, were taken from their homes in the middle of the night and brought to an unknown location,” the news agency Church in Chains reported, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern. “It later emerged that the two pastors were taken to the maximum-security Wengel Mermera Central Criminal Investigation interrogation centre …”

 

Police intended to also arrest 72-year-old Pastor Georgio Gebreab “but they found him sick in bed and told him he was under house arrest until he is well enough to be taken into custody.”

 

When arrested, Eritrea’s persecuted Christians often disappear without a trace, leaving their loved ones with no information on their whereabouts or safety. Prison conditions are some of the harshest in the world, with inmates kept in shipping containers and believers often tortured in an attempt to get them to renounce their faith.

 

Eritrea’s President Isaias Afewerki is a member of the Eritrean Orthodox Church in Asmara — belonging to the largest among the only three Christian denominations allowed to function in the country: the Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches.

 

Afewerki, 75, who’s the leader of the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice Party, also has a reputation of being an alcoholic and a ruthless autocrat. Afewerki’s policy of restrictions is more about his fear that religion will mobilize people as a political force than religion itself.

 

In March, authorities raided two separate prayer meetings in Asmara and the city of Assab and imprisoned 13 of the 35 Christians, including several women, who were taken into custody, ICC reported at the time.

 

In February, 70 Christians from evangelical and Orthodox backgrounds, including women, were released from three prisons in Eritrea, some after being held without charge for more than a decade.

 

Since last September, at least 160 Christians had been released from prisons in Eritrea at the time, but the news arrests “dampened hopes that the government was easing its harsh repressive policy against Christians,” Barnabas Fund said at the time.

 

“In Eritrea, citizens have a duty to report anything untoward happening in their community,” Release International added. “This can turn ordinary neighbors into spies. In some cases, their own family members have reported Christians.”

 

Photo: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

Further reading about FORB in Eritrea on HRWF website





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FRANCE: Protestant church set on fire, Minister Darmanin reacts

Protestant church set on fire in France

Unknown vandals attacked a temple in Behren-lès-Forbach, in the French region of Moselle.

 

By Daniela Bovolenta

 

Bitter Winter (14.09.2021) – https://bit.ly/3tUCNTH – Vandalism of Christian churches continues in France. While perpetrators are rarely identified, or their motives ascertained, the number of incidents indicates an epidemic of such attacks, whose growth is alarming.

On August 27, unknown vandals set fire to the basement room of the Protestant church of Behren-lès-Forbach, in the northeastern French region of the Moselle. Happily, firefighters intervened on time and the fire was contained, although the room can no longer be used for parish activities.

The Protestant temple of Behren-lès-Forbach was built in the 1960s to serve the local miners. After the mines were closed at the end of the 20th century, the Protestant community declined, and during the COVID crisis regular services were no longer held, although the community still met occasionally.

Vandals might have believed that the temple was disaffected, although in fact it wasn’t.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin denounced the attack in a tweet, and promised effective action to identify the perpetrators. As in other similar cases they may, however, never be discovered.

 

Gérald Darmanin (Tweet)

Je condamne fermement les dégradations et l’incendie volontaires de l’église protestante de Behren-lès-Forbach. Tout est mis en œuvre pour retrouver les auteurs de cet acte insupportable. Soutien aux protestants de France.

I firmly condemn the criminal damage and the arson of the Protestant church of Behren-lès-Forbach. Everything is done to find the perpetrators of this unbearable action. Support to the Protestants of France

 

RELATED ARTICLES

Un temple protestant incendié à Behren-lès-Forbach

Dégradations et incendie volontaire à l’église protestante de Behren-lès-Forbach

 

Photo : The Protestant temple of Behren-lès-Forbach (credits).

Further reading about FORB in France on HRWF website





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ALGERIA: Hamid Soudad sentenced to 5 years in prison: NGOs appeal to the UN

Hamid Soudad sentenced to 5 years in prison: NGOs appeal to the UN

Ms. Irene Khan

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

OHCHR-UNOG

8-14 Avenue de la Paix

1211 Genève 10, Switzerland

Dear Special Rapporteur,

We write to raise concern about the Algerian authorities’ sentencing and arbitrary detention of Hamid Soudad, a 42 year old Christian in Oran, Algeria.

On January 20, 2021 authorities arrested Hamid Soudad for “insulting the Prophet of Islam” by sharing a Facebook post. A court in Arzew then proceeded to sentence him to five years in prison under Penal Code article 144-2, the next day, without giving him access to a lawyer. The appeal court, Oran City Court, on March 22, 2021, upheld the five-year prison sentence of the lower court. Mr Soudad is now waiting to have his case heard at the Supreme Court which could take two to three years.

The sentence carried against Mr Soudad breaches international law on several accounts:

Firstly, all blasphemy laws are incompatible with international law as previously made clear by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and as highlighted in your report.1

Secondly, even if the blasphemy law was considered legitimate, Mr Soudad’s case does not meet the law’s requirement of directness between the speech and the alleged harm. The Facebook post the authorities are sentencing Mr Soudad for is from 2018, but the charge was not laid against Mr Soudad until December 2020, which makes it clear that the sentencing is based not on any alleged harm caused by his post but rather is solely due to his Christian faith.

Moreover, the charge laid against Hamid Soudad for sharing a social media post is not proportionate to earlier Algerian jurisprudence involving the blasphemy law. According to Mr Soudad’s lawyer, the penalty the Algerian authorities placed exceeds the penalties imposed in similar cases, where authorities have placed milder sentences for sharing alleged blasphemous content than when authoring it. The lawyer attributes this exaggerated sentence to the authorities’ discrimination against Christians especially those from a Muslim background, like Mr Soudad. Conversion is being indirectly penalised in most states where Islam is the state religion, since renouncing or disbelieving Islam is considered blasphemy.2 In addition, the penalty is disproportionate to the perceived harm incurred, with the five- year prison sentence for a social media post being the same minimum sentence required in Algeria for crimes such as selling, distributing, or storing bladed weapons for illicit purposes.3

We appeal to you to urge the Algerian authorities to release Hamid Soudad immediately and unconditionally in light of the above, and to review existing legislation to ensure it is in line with International Law and its human rights commitments, including by repealing its blasphemy laws and Ordonnance 06-03.

As a result of his arrest, Hamid Soudad’s family are in a vulnerable position. The detention of Mr Soudad has left his wife essentially a single mother caring for four children under the age of ten. Being a single mother in Algeria is an especially vulnerable position, in addition to being from a religious minority.4

1 United Nations, General Assembly. Elimination of all forms of religious intolerance** A/72/365. (28 August 2017). Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, Historic consensus on freedoms of religion and expression at risk, say UN experts, 23 March 2021, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=26937&LangID= E; United Nations, General Assembly, Disinformation and freedom of opinion and expression – Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, 13 April 2021. para. 38

2 Set My People Free, Countries Where Apostasy and Blasphemy Laws in Islam are Applied, July 2020. http://freedom2worship.org/images/docs/map-laws-july2020.pdf.

3 Ordonnance n° 66-156 du 8 juin 1966 portant code pénal, modifiée et complétée., Art. 87 bis https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/ihl- nat/0/e75256421f90d2b6c1256fd6003695cc/$FILE/Code%20p%C3%A9nal.pdf.

4 Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of reports of States parties, CRC/C/SR.1714. 14 June 2012. para. 26.; Algeria: Crackdown on Protestant Faith. Human Rights Watch. (2020, October 28). https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/10/24/algeria-crackdown- protestant-faith.

Sincerely,

Signatures of 14 NGOs

CC:

UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues

Chair of the International Religious Freedom or Belief  Alliance

EU Special Envoy on freedom of religion or belief outside the EU

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

US State Department

Photo: MEC

Further reading about FORB in Algeria on HRWF website





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GERMANY: FECRIS secretly admits it lost Hamburg Case against Jehovah’s Witnesses

FECRIS admits: Hamburg Case lost against Jehovah’s Witnesses was “a lesson”

While in a public press release the lost case was presented as a victory, in its General Assembly the organization acknowledged things went differently.

by Massimo Introvigne

Bitter Winter (13.09.2021) – Excerpt from FECRIS’ report at their 2020 General Assembly:

2.1. Le procès Témoins de JEHOVAH/ FECRIS = énorme travail, heureusement assisté de Jean-Pierre JOUGLA.

Objet du litige: Le site de la FECRIS a publié au cours des années, des interventions comportant des points concernant les Témoins de Jéhovah (TJ).

La Fédération allemande des TJ a attaqué la FECRIS pour propos diffamatoires.

Les dernières conclusions ont été remises le 23 octobre 2020.

Le jugement final a été rendu en Allemand, le 27 novembre 2020; la décision et ses motifs sont en cours de traduction.

 

Précision de JP. Jougla: “Ce procès doit nous servir de leçon. Les intervenants doivent pouvoir apporter la preuve de ce qu’ils avant”.

 

Conclusion: à l’avenir les textes écrits ne seront pas publiés sur le site de la Fédération (précaution/sécurité)

(Source: Item 2.1 of the report of FECRIS General Assembly of 11/27/2000).

 

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.

In the press release, FECRIS falsely claimed that it had won a case that it had in fact lost. Since the Jehovah’s Witnesses had claimed that 32 FECRIS statements were defamatory, and the court found 17 of them defamatory, one partially defamatory, and 14 non-defamatory, FECRIS claimed that it had successfully defended its case in Hamburg. Obviously, it had not, as evidenced by the fact that FECRIS was sentenced to pay some money to the Jehovah’s Witnesses rather than vice versa. FECRIS claimed that the 14 statements declared non-defamatory were “essential” and the 18 points for which they were sentenced were “ancillary.” This was totally arbitrary. As evidenced in our article, the statements found defamatory by the court concerned some of the main claims  of FECRIS’ usual campaigns against the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Lawyers know that defamation cases are difficult. Not all false statements constitute defamation. Some statements may be inaccurate, yet the courts may regard them as protected by free speech and falling outside the scope of statutes against defamation. Organizations and tabloids that resort to systematic defamation know that they will be often sued, about several statements, and that they will be sentenced for some and found not guilty for others. Their strategy is normally to downplay the negative decisions and claim victory when only some of the statements for which they were sued, but not all, are found defamatory (a common occurrence even in the most successful defamation cases). They would also falsely claim that, when their statements have been found as non-defamatory, the courts have “certified” that they are “true”—while in fact a statement may be both inaccurate and outside the scope of defamation.

Typically, FECRIS’ press release gave the false impression that the Court of Hamburg had validated the 14 statements it had considered non-defamatory as true. In fact, the Court itself had warned against such an interpretation, noting that in German law “expressions of opinion enjoy extensive protection. Accordingly, inaccurate opinions also share in the scope of protection.” One clear example of an “inaccurate opinion” regarded as non-defamatory, which FECRIS mentions in its statement as if it had been confirmed as true by the Hamburg judges, is that “all claims of persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia are just primitive propaganda.” We even wonder whether FECRIS really believes this statement to be true, after the persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia has been repeatedly denounced by the United Nations, the European Union, and several Western governments, including the German one.

We have now evidence that, while publicly claiming “victory” in the Hamburg case, FECRIS is well aware that things went otherwise. On November 28, 2020, FECRIS’ General Assembly was held by videoconference. One of the items discussed was the Hamburg case. The Assembly was informed of the “enormous work, happily helped by Jean-Pierre Jougla.” According to his Linkedin profile, Jougla is a “honorary attorney” (avocat honoraire), a peculiar French (and Belgian) position indicating somebody, normally retired, who maintains the title of attorney and some of its functions, but can no longer act as an attorney in court cases, except in special circumstances.

Jougla commented that “this case should be a lesson for us. Contributors should be able to prove what they assert.” The Assembly concluded that for reasons of “precaution and security” “in the future the written texts [of the speeches given at FECRIS conferences] will no longer be published on the web site of the Federation.”

See the full article here

P.S. The court decision is available in German and in English on HRWF website.

Photo : Jehovah’s Witnesses evangelizing in Frankfurt, Germany. Source: jw.org.

Massimo Introvigne (born June 14, 1955 in Rome) is an Italian sociologist of religions. He is the founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), an international network of scholars who study new religious movements. Introvigne is the author of some 70 books and more than 100 articles in the field of sociology of religion. He was the main author of the Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia (Encyclopedia of Religions in Italy). He is a member of the editorial board for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion and of the executive board of University of California Press’ Nova Religio.  From January 5 to December 31, 2011, he has served as the “Representative on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, with a special focus on discrimination against Christians and members of other religions” of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). From 2012 to 2015 he served as chairperson of the Observatory of Religious Liberty, instituted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to monitor problems of religious liberty on a worldwide scale.

Further reading about FORB in Germany on HRWF website


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