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GERMANY: FECRIS condemned for 17 slanderous statements

Fake News: FECRIS condemned for slanderous statements in Germany but claiming victory in a press release (!)

FECRIS fined for repeated derogatory statements about Jehovah’s Witnesses

 

HRWF (09.07.2021) – On 27 November 2020, the District Court of Hamburg condemned FECRIS (European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sect) for defaming the general movement of Jehovah’s Witnesses in public statements made in the framework of its conferences from 2009 to 2017 that were posted later on its website.

 

Before deciding to go to court, Jehovah’s Witnesses had sent a warning notice via their authorized legal representatives on 18 May 2018 but FECRIS did not react.

 

The German court verdict in the case Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany v. FECRIS (File ref. 324 O 434/18) concerned a long list of 32 claimed defamatory statements: 17 were fully justified and one was partially justified by the Court.

 

On 30 May 2021, after Bitter Winter had exposed this case, FECRIS published press release where it claimed that it had “won” the Hamburg case. This was repeated by some FECRIS affiliates in different countries, but it was just an attempt to throw dust in the eyes of those who have not read the decision. The court decision is available in German and in English on HRWF website.

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 “won” the case since the 14 statements declared non-defamatory were “essential,” and the 18 points for which they were sentenced were “ancillary.”

Court decision concerning the 32 disputed statements: Official text

  • “Under penalty of a Court-imposed administrative fine for each case of infringement – or, in the event this cannot be collected, administrative detention or administrative detention for up to six months – the Defendant shall refrain from distributing and/or causing to be distributed the following regarding the Plaintiff and its members, as has been done on “www.fecris.org” and the Court listed the litigious statements concerned.”
  • Additionally, the Court ruled that “the value of the matter in dispute is set at EUR 176,000.”
  • FECRIS is ordered to pay Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany EUR 2,217.45 in prelitigation costs.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses must bear 46% and FECRIS 54% of the costs of the lawsuit.
  • “The judgment is provisionally enforceable with regard to the operative part under point I. of the judgment, but only against provision of security to the amount of EUR 94,500; otherwise, in each case, against security to the amount of 110% of the respective amounts to be enforced.”

FECRIS’ distortion of the court decision debunked by Massimo Introvigne in Bitter Winter: Excerpt

“Lawyers know that attacking untrue factual allegations is difficult, and the border between permissible, if strongly worded, critical statements and illegal slander is difficult to determine.

The German Jehovah’s Witnesses asked the District Court of Hamburg to examine 32 statements. The court found 17 of them defamatory, one partially defamatory, and 14 non-defamatory. The court noted that in German law “expressions of opinion enjoy extensive protection. Accordingly, inaccurate opinions also share in the scope of protection.” In several cases, the court agreed with the Jehovah’s Witnesses that FECRIS statements were “inaccurate,” but ruled them beyond the scope of defamation. 4 out of 32 statements were even judged to be inadmissible expressions of opinion, i.e., beyond the borders of legitimate freedom of expression.

Consistently with case law in other European countries, the Hamburg judges also stated that in the field of religious and anti-religious controversy strong-worded expressions are common, and cannot be censored as defamation, concluding that calling the Jehovah’s Witnesses “disrespectful of human rights” remains within the limits of freedom of expression. I may personally disagree with this evaluation, but where these limits lie is never easy to assess.

In the majority of the cases, however, the court found that FECRIS had crossed the border of defamation. The Hamburg judges also established the principle that the fact that Russian authorities or courts had included negative evaluations of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in their official documents or decisions does not entitle a German defendant to repeat or republish them, if they are inherently defamatory and false.

In this Russian-derivative category of statements are that among the “characteristic features” of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are “illegal possession of property,” the fact that they “took possession of citizens’ apartments,” commit “religiously motivated crimes,” bring “adult and children to their death.” They were all found to be untrue factual allegations by a decision that should serve as a warning to all FECRIS-affiliated organizations. That defamatory statements about the Jehovah’s Witnesses come from Russian official documents does not mean that organizations in democratic countries are free to reprint them.

The court also found that FECRIS distorts the theology and practices of the Jehovah’s Witnesses with the intention of defaming them. FECRIS falsely claimed that the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that “there is a difference between men and women who receive the heavenly calling from God, in that only women ‘must receive a change of nature,’ but not men,” that women who serve as door-to-door missionaries are “women slaves,” and children are “compelled” to participate in the public preaching, that women in the family should not only submit to their husbands but also “to their male children,” are “forbidden to divorce without being immediately excommunicated,” and “cannot rebel within the home without being immediately judged by the congregation’s elders.” That Jehovah’s Witnesses teenagers caught kissing are automatically “taken to a JW’s judicial committee,” and that a young woman who stays overnight in the home of a male friend would be found guilty by a judicial committee even in the absence of other elements indicating an improper relationship, were also judged to be false and defamatory statements. Another false claim the court regarded as defamatory was that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have announced 26 different dates for the end of the world and are now predicting it for the year 2034.

FECRIS was also found guilty of defamation for reporting inaccurately that the Royal Australian Commission report on sexual abuse found “4,000 cases of victims of pedophilia in Australia” among the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, the Australian Witnesses had given to the Royal Commission all disciplinary reports and referrals, proven and unproven, that had been submitted to the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization in Australia over a 65-year period, for a total of 1,006 reports—which obviously did not mean that there had been 1,006 cases of sexual abuse among them, and certainly not 4,000.

The Hamburg judges found that accusations of covering up sexual abuse cases raised by FECRIS against the Jehovah’s Witnesses are often based on false and defamatory statements, such as, “The child is brought forward to explain in detail what happened. They must remember each act, and the elders ask precise questions,” the child’s mother “cannot be in attendance,” and “the child must meet the rapist.” These statements, the court said, are factually “untrue,” as in fact “a child only testifies before the elders if the child absolutely wants to and if this is granted,” the child’s mother may be called in for “moral support,” and “the elders never require victims to put forward their allegations in the presence of the accused.” FECRIS’ statement that, when a perpetrator of sexual abuse of minors has been identified, the elders do not warn families with minor children in their own and neighboring congregations by disclosing the name of the guilty person was found to be partially defamatory. The court concluded that elders properly advise families with minor children of their own congregation, but that plaintiffs did not prove that they also warn neighboring congregations.

Sometimes, it is unclear whether FECRIS activists, who claim to be experts on “cults,” are in bad faith or simply incompetent. They published the case of a 17-year-old Dutch girl who died during a measles epidemic in 2013 after her parents had refused vaccination for religious reasons and implied she was a Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, she was a member of a Calvinist Christian Reformed congregation, i.e., belonged to a church known for being a staunch opponent of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Interestingly, on January 5, 2021, FECRIS petitioned a correction of the judgment’s section addressing the facts of the case. FECRIS requested that in the facts of the judgment the sentence, “The statements refer neither directly nor indirectly to Jehovah’s Witnesses,” should be corrected as follows: “The statements do not refer to the plaintiff.”

FECRIS obviously intended to limit the scope of the decision to the German organization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that was the plaintiff in the case, and remain free to defame Jehovah’s Witnesses in general. In its decision dated January 22, 2021, the court shared the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ position that the German public corporation can legally represent Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany and defend their personal rights and reputation.

FECRIS comes out of the Hamburg decision with its image of an organization of “experts,” who deserve to be supported by taxpayers’ money in France and elsewhere, deeply shattered. It rather emerges as a coalition of purveyors of fake news, which systematically use defamation to attack groups they label as “cults.” Hopefully, the German decision will become a model for others in different jurisdictions, teaching FECRIS-affiliated anti-cult movements that they may have powerful patrons but are not above the law.”

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

Further reading about FORB in Germany on HRWF website





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EUROPE: FECRIS and affiliates: Defamation is in their DNA

FECRIS and affiliates: Defamation is in their DNA

Defamation cases condemned by European courts in Austria, France, Germany, and Spain

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF (08.07.2021) – CAP-LC (Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience), an NGO with special consultative status at the United Nations’ ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council), has filed a written statement to the 47th Session of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council published on 21 June 2021 which denounces the defamation policy, the incitement to stigmatization and hatred towards certain religious and belief groups by FECRIS (European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects) and its member associations. 

This umbrella organization based in France and mainly financed by French public powers (over 90% of its budget) was created in Paris on 30 June 1994 on request of the French anti-cult association UNADFI.

 

Instead of publishing objective information about religious and belief groups they derogatorily label as “cults” (in French, sectes), FECRIS and its affiliates are used to spreading distorted or fake news and defamation. However, it has still kept its ECOSOC status since 2005 despite the fact that courts in a number of EU countries have condemned several of their disparaging statements. See hereafter a non-exhaustive list of cases that were taken to court in languages that were accessible to the author but it is just the tip of the iceberg of their defamatory statements that were never prosecuted.

Austria

In the dock in 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2005: Former vice-president of FECRIS

 

F.G., the third president of FECRIS (2005-2009) and board member of Austrian FECRIS’ affiliate GSK (Gesellschaft gegen Sekten und Kultgefahren) has been convicted a number of times for defamation against the Brunstad Christian Church (known in Austria as “the Norwegian church” or “Smith’s Friends”) in 1996, 1997, 1998 (twice), 2000 (twice), 2004 and 2005. This unrepentant recidivist was repeatedly condemned to pay fines, to refrain from attacking that Church, to remove defamatory accusations from GSK’s website and also to publish court decisions in his disadvantage.

 

F.G., a retired engineer, is a committed Catholic. He disagreed with his daughter W.G. joining the Smith’s Friends and getting married with one of its members. On 27 May 1999, she registered a testimony at a notary in which she denied the allegations of her father against this movement.

Source: Freedom of Religion or Belief Anti-Sect Movements and State Neutrality, A Case Study: FECRIS, pp 324-327 and Kurzinformation über die Gerichtsprozesse der Norweger Bewegung.

 

France

In the dock in 1997: President of ADFI Nord, FECRIS affiliate

On 15 January 1997, the Douai Court of Appeal convicted the president of ADFI Nord for defamation regarding the Association of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in France. She was condemned to pay the symbolic amount of 1 FF.  (Cour d’Appel de Douai, 4e Chambre – Dossier Nr 96/02832 – Arrêt 15.01.1997).

In the Dock in 2001: President of UNADFI, FECRIS affiliate

In a case of defamation against a member of the Church of Scientology, the President of UNADFI was condemned to pay a fine of 762,24 EUR and additionally 1524,49 EUR as financial compensation for moral damage to the victim. (Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, 17e Chambre – Dossier Nr 0014523016 – Jugement 20.11.2001)

On 5 February 2003, the Paris Court of Appeal confirmed this judgment.  (Cour d’appel de Paris, 11e chambre/Section A – Dossier Nr 01/03757 – Arrêt 05.02.2003)

In the dock in 2002: Vice-president of GEMPPI, FECRIS affiliate

On 29 March 2002, the Regional Court of Marseille (TGI) found defamatory the statements regarding the Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses that were made by J.C. during a conference he held in Marseille. He accused the association of Jehovah’s Witnesses of fraud, illegally employing unregistered staff for years, and using a hare-brained translation of the Bible. These statements were reproduced in La Provence of 28 January 2001 and were not denied by J.C.

 

The Court found J.C. guilty of the offence of libel towards the Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses for the following statement “There is a fraud involving the employment of individuals who are not registered with the URSSAF which has been going on for years.”

 

He was ordered to pay a fine of 450 EUR as punishment, the symbolic sum of 1 EUR to the Association and the amount of 600 EUR under section 475 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

 

It is noteworthy that J.C. was the vice-president of GEMPPI, president of ADFI and member of MIVILUDES’ orientation council. He is a Professor at the French Institute of Muslim Civilization in Lyon. He was also the regional head of the Institute for the training of teachers of religion in Dijon.

 

(Tribunal de Grande Instance de Marseille, 8e chambre – Dossier Nr 2972/02 – Jugement correctionnel 29.03.2002)English translation

 

In the dock in 2007: Former MP and President of UNADFI, FECRIS affiliate

On 18 July 2007, the Court of Appeal of Rouen condemned C.P., accused of repeated defamation in the media, to the payment of 1500 EUR (+ 800 EUR for the implementation of Article 475-1 of the Criminal Procedure Code) to the central association of Jehovah’s Witnesses in France and 750 EUR (+300 EUR for the implementation of Article 475-1 of the Criminal Procedure Code) to each of the seven local associations of Jehovah’s Witnesses as financial compensation for moral damage. (Cour d’appel de Rouen, chambre correctionnelle – Dossier Nr 07/00341 – Arrêt 18.07.2007)

In the dock in 2007: President of UNADFI, FECRIS affiliate

 

On 3 April 2007, the Court of Cassation found defamatory the statements which were made by C.P., former member of Parliament and president of UNADFI, and by A.F., member of the MILS (the predecessor of MIVILUDES) in their book “Sects, Democracy and Globalization” (Sectes, démocratie et mondialisation) published in 2002. In that book, the philosophical movement AMORC (Rosicrucian Order) was accused, among other things, of pursuing personal interests, of supporting racist theories and threatening freedoms, of being structured like a mafia and of functioning like a criminal organization.

In its decision, the Court of Cassation quashed and nullified the decision of the Court of Appeal of Paris 22 March 2006. The case was sent back to the Court of Appeal but the authors of the book concluded a deal with AMORC. On 7 May 2008, they signed a declaration by which they recognized that their statements about AMORC had been defamatory as the Court of Cassation had ruled. They concluded by saying that in the light of new information gathered since the publication of their book they had agreed AMORC was not a cult-like organization. (Cour de Cassation, chambre civile 1 – Pourvoi Nr 06-15226 – Cour decision: 03.04.2007)

 

In the dock in 2015 and 2017: UNADFI, FECRIS affiliate

 

In November 2015, UNADFI was convicted by the Court of Appeal of Paris for ‘abuse of legal process,’ for having persisted in bad faith as a plaintiff against the Church of Scientology and two private persons. UNADFI had to pay 3,000 EUR to each of the parties and 4,000 EUR on the basis of article 700 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. (Cour d’appel de Paris, Pôle 2, Chambre 2, – Dossier Nr 14/09557 – Arrêt 20.11.2015)

 

This conviction was upheld by the Court of Cassation on 12 January 2017. (Cour de Cassation, 2e chambre civile – Dossier Nr 10019 F – Arrêt 12.01.2017)

 

Germany

In the dock in 2001: AGPF/ SEKTEN-INFO ESSEN, FECRIS affiliates

In a final judgment issued on 19 December 2001 by the Munich State Court, Ms. H-M C. founder of Sect-info Essen, was ordered to stop repeating or spreading a wide variety of untruths about Takar Singh (an Eastern religious group) or else she would be fined up to 500,000 DM and, if not paid, be sentenced to jail for up to 6 months. These included allegations such as accusing a person of being a criminal, of torturing children or of rape. The sale of the book they were distributing about the group was also forbidden. The title was “The new prophets” (German: Die Neuen Heilsbringer: Auswege oder Wege ins Aus?) (Munich I Landgericht/ Land Court, civil chamber 9 – Case Nr. Az: 908736/99 – Entscheidung/ Court decision: 19.01.2001)

Source: Freedom of Religion or Belief Anti-Sect Movements and State Neutrality, A Case Study: FECRIS, pp 191-192

 

In the dock in 2020: FECRIS

On 27 November 2020, the District Court of Hamburg condemned FECRIS for defaming the general movement of Jehovah’s Witnesses in public statements made in the framework of its conferences from 2009 to 2017 that were posted later on its website. See Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany v. FECRIS (File ref. 324 O 434/18) about a long list of 32 claimed defamatory statements: 17 were fully justified and one was partially justified by the Court.

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 declared that it had “won” the case on 14 points. While keeping silent about the 17 other points declared defamatory by the court, FECRIS gave the false impression in a press release that the Court of Hamburg had validated the 14 statements it had considered non-defamatory as true. This late press release (30 May 2021) was just a reaction to a report about FECRIS’ condemnation published by Bitter Winter. (Hamburg Landgericht/ Land Court – File Ref. 324 O 434/18 – Entscheidung/ Court decision: 27.11.2020)

 

More about this case in Germany in HRWF’s database of news.

 

 

Spain

In the dock in 1999 (European Court): Pro Juventud, FECRIS affiliate

Pro Juventud, now AIS – Pro Juventud, a Spanish FECRIS affiliate, has been found by the European Court of Human Rights in the 1999 case Ribera Blume and others versus Spain to bear “direct and immediate responsibility” in a case of kidnapping, imprisonment and deprogramming attempt of members of a religious group in conditions of illegal deprivation of freedom and detention. Forced change of religion is forbidden by international law. (European Court of Human Rights – File 37680/97 – Court decision: 14.10.1999)

 

Conclusions

During more than 25 years, FECRIS and its affiliates have been spreading defamatory statements about religious and belief groups in printed form, in the media and in parliamentary hearings. Before joining FECRIS, a number of associations and their leaders had already been condemned in defamation cases by courts in Sweden, Switzerland and other countries (Freedom of Religion or Belief Anti-Sect Movements and State Neutrality, A Case Study: FECRIS, page 192)

The examples of court decisions listed in this article show that it is in their DNA to stigmatize religious or belief groups that their founding members and board members do not like for personal reasons or through personal experience. Such obstinacy in defaming and stigmatizing a number of non-mainline groups in the media has negatively and sometimes dramatically impacted the lives of those who have freely chosen to follow their teachings but this is part of their right to freedom of conscience, thought and belief.

If similar defamatory statements targeted atheist organizations or the faith of Jews or Muslims with the same virulence, this would trigger an outcry in the political class and the media, and rightly so. The followers of non-mainline religious groups just want to enjoy the same right to freedom of conscience, thought and belief.

FECRIS and its affiliates have not only been condemned by courts. Their unethical practices have been repeatedly condemned at the OSCE and in 2020 by USCIRF (US Commission on International Religious Freedom).

It is time for public powers to stop financing FECRIS and its affiliates, to keep them at distance and to rely on credible academic sources and experts.

Further reading about FORB in EU on HRWF website

 





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FRANCE: FECRIS denounced at the UN Human Rights Council

FECRIS denounced at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council

CAP-LC filed a written statement detailing the defamation cases FECRIS and its affiliated organizations lost, and asking France to stop supporting them.

By Massimo Introvigne

Readers of Bitter Winter are familiar with FECRIS (European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects), an umbrella organization created in 1994 to put together anti-cult associations in several European (and some non-European) countries. We criticized FECRIS inter alia for supporting China’s horrific persecution of Falun Gong and other religious movements. FECRIS promotes the anti-cult ideology, recognized in 2020 by a USCIRF (U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom) document as a major threat for freedom of religion or belief.

CAP-LC (Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience), an NGO with special consultative status at the United Nations’ ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council), the same status enjoyed by FECRIS, has now filed a written statement to the 47th Session of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, which was published on 21 June, and asks France to stop its support of FECRIS.

CAP-LC is concerned with the reorganization of the French governmental anti-cult mission MIVILUDES, now under the supervision of the Minister Delegate for Citizenship at the Ministry of the Interior, Marlène Schiappa. She has increased MIVILUDES’ present budget ten-fold, to euro 1 million euro per year, CAP-LC reports, and has announced “that this million will be allocated to initiatives that would be run by anti-cult associations, namely CCMM and UNADFI,” both FECRIS affiliates.

CAP-LC notes that CCMM and UNADFI refer to themselves as NGOs but are in fact GONGOs (Governmental Non-Government Associations), since 90% of their funding comes from the French government. Representatives of both FECRIS affiliates have been included in the newly appointed Orientation Committee of the MIVILUDES. FECRIS is registered in France and is also directly funded by the French government. (…)

Read full article of Bitter Winter here

Read the full submission of CAP-LC to the U.N. here

Photo: Palais des Nations in Geneva, where the UN Human Rights Council meets (credits).

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 France on HRWF website





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RUSSIA: FECRIS says the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses is propaganda

“All tales of alleged ‘harassment’ against Jehovah’s Witnesses [in Russia] are nothing more than a primitive propaganda stroke. This information is not true,” FECRIS says.

 

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF (25.05.2021) – This quote from FECRIS (European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects), is from the decision of a German court which condemned FECRIS for defaming the movement of Jehovah’s Witnesses in public statements in the framework of its conferences from 2009 to 2017 that were posted on its website.

Several disputed statements concerned Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. This is not surprising as the vice-president of FECRIS is Alexander Dvorkin, the well-known anti-cult activist of the Russian Orthodox Church against whom USCIRF (US Commission on International Religious Freedom) asked the US to take sanctions (see p 7 on top of the sanctions): “Publicly censure Alexander Dvorkin and the Saint Irenaeus of Leon Information-Consultation Center (SILIC)) for their ongoing disinformation campaign against religious minorities.” See more on FECRIS here.

 

On 27 November 2020, the District Court of Hamburg released its verdict in the case Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany v. FECRIS (Ref. 324 O 334/18) about a long list of 32 claimed defamatory statements: 17 were fully justified and one was partially justified.

 

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany considered that a number of slanderous statements in dispute about Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia could adversely impact their right to asylum as FECRIS denies that they are persecuted in Russia and states that they are criminals. The two main statements are analyzed below.

 

FECRIS’ most slanderous statement about Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia

The statement below related to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia needs to be understood in the context of the ban of Jehovah’s Witnesses as an “extremist organization” in 2017, the enforced liquidation of their 395 communities, the confiscation of all their places of worship and properties by the Russian State. They quote is from the judgment of the District Court of Hamburg.

 

“(…), all tales of alleged ‘harassment’ against Jehovah’s Witnesses [in Russia] are nothing more than a primitive propaganda stroke. This information is not true.”

 

“(…) the ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia was ordered on the basis of a law and thus did not occur arbitrarily or without cause. In the broader context, the statement could not be understood in any other way than to the effect that stories were not true that Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia were ‘harassed’ without reason, but that any official measures were due to the ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses, which was based on a law. No one is ‘harassed’ or persecuted with state measures simply because he or she is an adherent of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.”

 

Reports by numerous human rights organizations – Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International – , the United Nations, the US Commission of International Religious Freedom, the US Department of State, and statements by other international institutions ruthlessly contradict and ridicule FECRIS’ position. See as well as cases documented by Human Rights Without Frontiers and its FORB Prisoners Database.





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GERMANY: FECRIS sentenced for slanderous statements about JWs

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers

 

HRWF (25.05.2021) – A German court has condemned FECRIS (European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sect) for defaming the general movement of Jehovah’s Witnesses in public statements made in the framework of its conferences from 2009 to 2017 that were posted later on its website.

 

On 27 November 2020, the District Court of Hamburg released its verdict in the case Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany v. FECRIS (File ref. 324 O 434/18) about a long list of 32 claimed defamatory statements: 17 were fully justified and one was partially justified by the Court.

 

Facts of the case

On its website – www.fecris.org – the Defendant has published reports from its annual conferences as well as articles in the German language, that are disputed. Among others:

 

“On May 19, 2017, report on the European conference in Brussels, “Cult undue influence and the process of radicalization, a question for debate” (hereinafter: “2017 Brussels Report”; Annex K1; applications 1.1–1.6)

 

On June 21, 2016, report on the European conference in Sofia, “Women in cults, gurus and victims” (hereinafter: “2016 Sofia Report”; AnnexK17; applications 1.7–1.18)

 

On March 24, 2014, report on the European conference in Brussels, “Cults and the False Debate on Human Rights” (hereinafter: “2014 Brussels Report”; Annex K27; applications 1.19)

 

On October 13, 2012, report on the conference in Salses-le-Château, “Apocalyptic cults: failed utopias and consequences for followers” (hereinafter: “2012 Salses-le-Château Report”; Annex K30; applications 1.20–1.21)

 

On May 7, 2011, report on the conference in Warsaw, “Systematic abuse in cults: testimonies and evidence” (hereinafter: “2011 Warsaw Report”; Annex K33; applications 1.22–1.26)

 

Report on the conference in St. Petersburg, “Destructive Cults and Human Rights” on May 15 and 16, 2009 (hereinafter: “2009 St. Petersburg Report”; Annex K34; applications 1.26–1.29)

 

Report on the conference “State responsibility to protect citizens against destructive cults” in Pisa on April 12, 2008 (hereinafter: “2008 Pisa Report”; Annex K36; applications 1.30–1.31)

 

Article entitled “Cults and European Values” (Annex K37; application 1.32)

 

On account of the statements in dispute, the Plaintiff sent a warning notice via its authorized legal representatives on May 18, 2018 and asked the Defendant to submit a declaration of discontinuance that carried a penalty (Annex K39). The Defendant did not react to the warning notice.” (Source: The court decision, available in German and in English on HRWF website).

Court decision concerning the 32 disputed statements

  • “Under penalty of a Court-imposed administrative fine for each case of infringement – or, in the event this cannot be collected, administrative detention or administrative detention for up to six months – the Defendant shall refrain from distributing and/or causing to be distributed the following regarding the Plaintiff and its members, as has been done on fecris.org” and the Court listed the litigious statements concerned.”
  • Additionally, the Court ruled that “the value of the matter in dispute is set at EUR 176,000.”
  • FECRIS is ordered to pay Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany EUR 2,217.45 in prelitigation costs.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses must bear 46% and FECRIS 54% of the costs of the lawsuit.
  • “The judgment is provisionally enforceable with regard to the operative part under point I. of the judgment, but only against provision of security to the amount of EUR 94,500; otherwise, in each case, against security to the amount of 110% of the respective amounts to be enforced.”

Photo: www.freedomofconscience.eu


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