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TAJIKISTAN : Repeated calls for the release of an elderly ill Jehovah’s Witness

 

Repeated calls for the release of an elderly ill Jehovah’s Witness

By Willy Fautré

Shamil Khakimov, a critically ill elderly Jehovah’s Witness unlawfully imprisoned for his faith in Tajikistan since February 2019, filed a formal petition for his release to the nation’s president on 8 November. The same petition was filed with the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ombudsman.

On 10 November, Supervisory filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, requesting that his case be re-opened and reversed, based on 2022 judgment by the UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR) that declared Tajikistan’s ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses unlawful and baseless.

On 11 November, a private complaint/appeal was filed against the trial court decision that refused to release Shamil based on his poor health.

US Senator Rubio and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called for his release as well.

State of health

During the 1990s, Khakimov developed sciatic nerve pinching and chronic sciatica. Since 2007, he has suffered from severe circulatory problems in his lower limbs, which required surgery in 2007. His condition worsened in 2017, requiring additional surgery, which was performed that year. Owing to poor vascular circulation, his surgical wounds did not heal and he had an open leg ulcer when he was arrested on 26 February 2019, and subsequently placed in pre-trial detention.

Khakimov also suffers from heart disease (left ventricular hypertrophy) and atherosclerosis of the legs and varicose veins in his lower extremities. He is at a level four risk for hypertension (blood pressure). He has undergone two operations for venectomies (blood clots) in his left leg. Complications have included post-thrombotic syndrome in both legs, with a trophic ulcer on his left foot, and early stages of gangrene. Khakimov no longer has any vision in his right eye, and he can barely see out of his left eye due to progressive glaucoma. On 31 October 2022, he received a certificate attesting to the fact that he is now identified as having a group two disability.

Jarrod Lopes, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, states:  “If Shamil isn’t released soon and given specialized medical treatment, there is a very real danger that his imprisonment might become, effectively, a death sentence. We hope the Tajik authorities take immediate action to have Shamil released before it’s too late. There is no legal reason, according to Tajik and international law, for a peaceful elderly man like him to be in prison. He should have never been imprisoned. Additionally, in December 2020, over a year after his conviction, Tajikistan decriminalized Shamil’s so-called offense. The authorities should have immediately released him then. Instead, prison authorities continue to pressure him to ‘repent’ and renounce his beliefs.  Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world hope that the Tajik authorities will soon comply with the UN Human Rights Committee’s recent judgement, by lifting the unlawful ban and releasing Shamil from prison.”

The persecution and the sentencing of Shamil Khakimov to prison

Mr Shamil Khakimov is a 71-year-old widower and pensioner. He was born in the small village of Koktush, in the district of Rudaki, Tajikistan. In 1976, he married and moved to the capital city of Dushanbe, where for 38 years he worked for OJSC Tajiktelecom as a cable lines engineer. Mr Khakimov had two children, a son and a daughter. In 1989, when his son was 12 and daughter was 7, his wife Olya died from cancer and he never remarried. Khakimov became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1994. In September 2021, while Khakimov was in prison, his son died from a heart attack. He was not allowed to attend his funeral.

Due to the ban on the movement of Jehovah’s Witnesses, their members have been subjected to numerous arrests, detentions, searches, beatings, as well as a deportation.

 

On 4 June 2009, sixteen Jehovah’s Witnesses had a peaceful gathering in a private apartment in Khujand to read and discuss the Bible. Eleven officials, including officers of the State Committee on National Security, forced their way into the apartment, searched it and the participants of the gathering and seized their Bibles, as well as other religious publications. Several participants were subsequently brought to the headquarters of the State Committee on National Security, where they were interrogated for six hours. On an unspecified date, a criminal case was initiated against the participants of that gathering.

 

It was dismissed in October 2009 after the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting. However, the prosecutor reopened the criminal case on other charges.

 

In September 2019, a court in the northern city of Khujand jailed Shamil Khakimov for seven years and six months for allegedly “inciting religious hatred”, though the sentence was subsequently twice shortened. No evidence was produced that Jehovah’s Witness Khakimov or his community had harmed anyone, and his real “crime” seems to be that the regime thinks he led Khujand’s Jehovah’s Witness community.

 

Registration and ban of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Jehovah’s Witnesses have been active in Tajikistan for more than 50 years. In 1994, their organization (RAJW) was granted registration by the then State Committee on Religious Affairs pursuant to the Law “On Religion and Religious Organizations” of 8 December 1990 (the “1990 Religion Law”). On 15 January 1997, the RAJW was re-registered with national status under the amendments to the 1990 Religion Law. On 11 September 2002, the State Committee on Religious Affairs suspended the activities of the RAJW for three months for door-to-door propaganda and propaganda in public places.

On 11 October 2007, the Ministry of Culture banned the RAJW, annulled its charter and determined that the RAJW’s registration of 15 January 1997 was unlawful. It concluded that the RAJW repeatedly violated the national legislation, including the Constitution of Tajikistan and the 1990 Religion Law, by distributing religious publications in public places and door-to-door, which caused discontent on the part of the population.

 

Photo: Shamil Khakimov – Courtesy of Jehovah Witnesses headquarters

Further reading about FORB in Tajikistan on HRWF website





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RUSSIA:Religious persecution and issues/ Bimonthly Digest, Nov. 01–15

Religious persecution and issues – Bimonthly Digest (01–15.11.2022)

 15.11.2022 – In Novosibirsk, 67-year-old Aleksandr Seredkin was sentenced to six years in prison for reading the Bible

Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2022/11/151422.html

On November 15, 2022, the consideration of the case of Aleksandr Seredkin was completed in the Oktyabrsky District Court of Novosibirsk. Judge Yevgeny Zakharov considered holding religious meetings, saying prayers and reading the Bible extremist and sentenced the believer to six years in a penal colony. He was taken into custody in the courtroom.

Criminal case under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation against Seredkin was initiated in April 2019 by the senior investigator for especially important cases of the Federal Security Service of Russia in the Novosibirsk Region, Lieutenant Colonel of Justice E. V. Selyunin. The believer was accused of “organizing meetings and directing the reading and discussion” of religious literature.

Continue reading…

 

15.11.2022 – ECtHR awards compensation to protester against church in Yekaterinburg

Sova Center – On November 10, 2022, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of Tsvetkov and Others v. Russia, which brought together the complaints of several applicants accused under various articles of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation and who considered their trials to be insufficiently impartial. The ECtHR considered the complaints admissible, finding a violation of paragraph 1 of Art. 6 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (right to a fair trial) and ordered that the applicants be paid the sums claimed.

Continue reading …

 

11.11.2022 – Court in Volgograd toughens punishment for five defendants in case of involvement in Tablighi Jamaat

Sova center – The conditional imprisonment was replaced for three defendants with a real term.

On November 11, 2022, the Volgograd Regional Court considered the appeal of the prosecutor’s office against the sentence of five local residents convicted of participating in the Tablighi Jamaat religious association banned in Russia under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (participation in the activities of an extremist organization). In September, the Sovetsky District Court of Volgograd sentenced all the defendants in the case to two years of suspended imprisonment with a two-year probationary period. After consideration of the case in the court of appeal, the sentences of three of them – Amanat Lukpanov, Batr Urazov and Gilman Nitaliev – were toughened, replacing the punishment with real imprisonment in a general regime colony. Two other convicts – Aslan Vakuev and Alexander Kolesnikov – the sentence was left unchanged. In addition, all convicts were sentenced to 10 months of restriction of freedom.

Continue reading…

 

10.11.2022 – An appeal in the Vologda Region softened the sentence of one of the convicted Jehovah’s Witnesses

Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2022/11/101636.html

On November 10, 2022, the Vologda Regional Court reviewed Nikolay Stepanov’s sentence for holding religious services. 4 years in prison were replaced with a suspended sentence. The verdict of Yuriy Baranov, another person involved in the case, sentenced to 4 years suspended, was left unchanged.

Stepanov and Baranov became targets of criminal prosecution in December 2019, when a massive raid took place in the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Vologda. On September 5, 2022, the court of first instance issued a a guilty verdict, , which the believers appealed.

Continue reading…

 

08.11.2022 – In Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Dmitriy and Nadezhda Semyonov were given four years suspended sentence for sharing Bible message

Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2022/11/081653.html

On November 8, 2022, the judge of the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky City Court Vladimir Bykov found the spouses Dmitriy and Nadezhda Semenov guilty of extremism and appointed 4 years suspended sentence to each. The verdict can be appealed.

The Semenovs learned about the criminal prosecution in September 2021 — a search was conducted in their house, the believers were interrogated and then released on recognizance not to leave. Three days before, the investigator of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Kamchatka Territory, Maxim Kudantsev, opened a criminal case against the Semenovs under Part 1.1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (involvement in the activities of an extremist organization).

Continue reading…

 

08.11.2022 – A Court in Penza Region sentenced Viktor Shayapov to two years suspended sentence for believing in Jehovah God

Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2022/11/081647.html

On November 7, 2022, Judge of Nikolsky District Court of the Penza Region Nikolay Razdrogin sentenced one of Jehovah’s Witnesses Viktor Shayapov, 32, to 2 years’ suspended sentence with 8 months’ probation. The believer received such a punishment for the peaceful practice of his religion.

Viktor became a defendant in a criminal case for his faith in October 2020. At that time, a wave of searches took place in Nikolsk at the homes of local Jehovah’s Witnesses, including the Shayapov family. In February 2022, Shayapov was detained in the Moscow region, taken to Penza and placed under house arrest. He spent almost 9 months in isolation from society with a location-tracking bracelet on his leg. The believer was also included in the Rosfinmonitoring list.

Continue reading…

 

08.11.2022 – The Court of Cassation upheld the verdict against five Jehovah’s Witnesses from Nevelsk

Link to full text in Russia: https://jw-russia.org/news/2022/11/081642.html

On November 8, 2022, the Ninth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in Vladivostok approved the conviction of five believers from Nevelsk — their suspended sentences of two to six-and-a-half years remain unchanged.

In January 2022, the Nevelsk City Court of the Sakhalin Region found Sergey and Tatyana Kulakov, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Aleksandr Kozlitin and Yevgeniy Yelin guilty of either organizing or participating in the activities of an extremist organization. Three months later, the Sakhalin Regional Court dismissed the believers’ appeal against the verdict.

The fact that the criminal persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses continues contrary to Russian law causes bewilderment and misunderstanding among the international human rights community.

Continue reading…

 

07.11.2022 – New tightening of legislation on “foreign agents” will affect religious organizations

Sova Center – On November 7, 2022, it became known about changes to the draft law on legislation on “foreign agents” adopted by the State Duma in the first reading. The new changes concern Art. 239 of the Criminal Code (creation of a non-profit organization that infringes on the personality and rights of citizens) and toughen responsibility for it.

The current version provides for under part 1 of this article (the creation of a religious or public association whose activities involve violence against citizens or other harm to their health, as well as the leadership of such an association) punishment in the form of a fine of up to 300 thousand, or restriction of freedom up to four years or forced labor or imprisonment for the same period. The amendments propose punishment in the form of forced labor for up to five years, or imprisonment for up to seven years.

Continue reading…

 

07.11.2022 – The owner of the AnderSon cafe chain was complained to the prosecutor’s office because of Halloween

Sova Center – In early November 2022, it became known that the journalist and author of the book The State of Honor. Monarchy is the future of Russia” Anna Palyukh (Shafran) appealed to the prosecutor’s office with a request to conduct an inspection under Art. 148 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (violation of the right to freedom of conscience and religion). The reason for the appeal was the holding of a children’s Halloween in the cafe and a master class on cooking monsters.

Continue reading…

 

07.11.2022 – The Ministry of Defense confirmed the granting of a deferment to the clergy

Sova center – On October 31, 2022, the Ministry of Defense confirmed the granting of a deferment from military service during the period of mobilization to clergymen and students of theological and theological faculties.

This is stated in the response signed by the head of the department for interaction with religious associations of the Main Military-Political Directorate of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation O. Veselkov to the appeal of the head bishop of the Russian United Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) Sergei Ryakhovsky dated September 29.

Continue reading…

 

07.11.2022 -A Court in Rubtsovsk sent Andrey Danielyan, 53, to a Penal Colony for six years for talking about the Bible

 Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2022/11/071330.html

On November 7, 2022, the judge of the Rubtsovsk City Court of the Altai Territory, Aleksey Bezrukov, considered reading and discussing the Bible extremism, finding Andrey Danielyan guilty and assigning the believer 6 years of real imprisonment in a penal colony. The believer was taken into custody in the courtroom.

Joint worship of God with other believers was interpreted by the prosecution as illegal activity with criminal intent. Although there is not a single victim in the case, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence Danielyan to 7 years in prison. The verdict has not entered into force and can be appealed. The believer insists on his complete innocence.

Continue reading…

 

04.11.2022 – Appeal in Pskov overturned the acquittal verdict against one of Jehovah’s Witnesses Aleksey Khabarov

Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2022/11/041621.html

On November 3, 2022, the Court of Appeal in Pskov overturned the acquittal verdict against Alexey Khabarov and sent the case for a new trial to a different court of first instance.

The believer was criminally prosecuted under Article 282.2 (2) of the RF Criminal Code because of his religion. The verdict of “not guilty” was handed down by the Porkhovsky District Court of Pskov region on June 27, 2022. The prosecutor’s office, which had requested a sentence of 3.5 years in prison, appealed the acquittal verdict to the Pskov Regional Court of Appeal.

Continue reading…

 

04.11.2022 – In Belgorod, an inspection is underway in connection with the distribution of a book by ex-governor Savchenko about his new religion

Sova Center – On April 7, 2022, it became known about the check against the speaker of the Belgorod Regional Duma Olga Pavlova, her deputy Valery Sergachev and the leader of the regional branch of United Russia Elena Bondarenko. The reason for the inspection was the distribution of the book of the former governor of the Belgorod region Yevgeny Savchenko “Shock”, in which he describes his new religion. Security officials do not rule out the presence of signs of extremism in the book.

Continue reading…

 

03.11.2022 – The Constitutional Court refused to define the difference between a religious group and a joint confession of faith

Sova Center – On November 3, 2022, it became known that the Constitutional Court refused to consider the complaint of believers who asked to clarify how the joint confession of faith differs from the creation of a religious group.

Earlier, Baptists from Anapa turned to the Constitutional Court with a request to check whether they comply with Art. Art. 28 and 30 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the provisions of the first sentence of paragraph 1 of Art. 7 and the first sentence of paragraph 2 of Art. 7 of the law “On freedom of conscience and religious associations”. The Constitutional Court registered the complaint, but refused to accept it for consideration.

Continue reading…

 

01.11.2022 – Russian Baptists called for an end to hostilities in Ukraine

Sova Center – The RSECB published an appeal to the presidents of four countries calling for the soonest establishment of peace on the territory of Ukraine and the prevention of the use of nuclear and chemical weapons.

On October 20, 2022, the Russian Union of Evangelical Christian Baptists (RSECB) published an appeal to the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, France and the United States. The appeal was published on behalf of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), the European Baptist Federation (EBF) and the RSECB itself.

The authors of the document call on the heads of the mentioned states “for a peaceful and just solution to the conflict currently taking place in Ukraine.”

Continue reading…





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RUSSIA : Seven Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to six years in prison in October

Seven Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to six years in prison in October

40 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been sentenced to heavy prison terms since 1 January

By Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers

 

The European Times (02.11.2022) – https://bit.ly/3DvJlNt – The persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses is going on unabated. In the last 10 months, 40 of them have been sentenced for merely practicing their religion in private and put behind bars.

Here is the list of the last seven Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced in October 2022 and serving heavy prison terms:

On 25 October in the Amur Region:

Vladimir Bukin, 50 years (6 years and 6 months)

Mikhail Ivanovich Burkov, 39 years (6 years and 2 months)

Valeriy Slashchev, 41 years (6 years and 6 months)

Sergey Vitaliyevich Yuferov, 47 years (6 years and 6 months)

On 6 October in Sevastopol (Crimea):

Vladimir Ivanovich Maladyka, 59 years (6 years)

Vladimir Fedorovich Sakada, 52 years (6 years)

Yevgeniy Sergeyevich Zhukov, 53 years (6 years)

Four Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to 6 years in prison in the amur Region

On October 25, 2022, Ivan Kuznetsov, judge of the Tyndinskiy District Court of the Amur Region, sentenced four of Jehovah’s Witnesses from the city of Tynda to imprisonment in a penal colony. Vladimir Bukin, Valeriy Slashchev and Sergey Yuferov were given 6 years and 6 months each, and Mikhail Burkov — 6 years and 2 months.

The believers were taken into custody in the courtroom. They can appeal the verdict to a higher court.

On November 11, 2019, FSB investigator V.S. Obukhov opened a criminal case against four residents of Tynda for their faith. A week later, searches and interrogations took place in their families, during which the men were persistently persuaded to cooperate with the investigation. The believers were accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization (Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) for holding worship services and “home-based Bible studies.” Also, the investigation considered the conversations of Bukin, Yuferov and Slashchev about the Bible with informant D. Nurakov, who in 2018 began collecting information about local believers, as an involvement in extremist activity (part 1.1 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

The investigation lasted for a year and a half. On June 28, 2021, the case (consisting of at least 15 volumes) went to court. As “evidence of illegal activity” of the defendants, the prosecutor presented texts from seized postcards and printouts on the topics “Good manners are an integral feature of God’s people”, “What kind of treatment God expects for the elderly” and “Love strengthens”. Although during the hearings no specific facts of extremist actions on the part of the defendants were provided, the prosecutor asked to assign them long prison terms: for Vladimir Bukin — 8 years and 6 months, for Sergey Yuferov and Valeriy Slashchev — 8 years and 4 months each and for Mikhail Burkov — 6 years and 6 months of imprisonment in a penal colony.

Addressing the court with the last plea, the believers stressed that they consider themselves innocent. “Our only ‘guilt’ is that we want to glorify God and keep his commandments,” Vladimir Bukin said. “Therefore, if I am found guilty, it is guilty of loving God, his holy name and his word, the Bible.” And Mikhail Burkov noted: “I am being judged because I am learning to show positive qualities: kindness, peacefulness, compassion, patience, respect … A reference from the place of employment and two letters of gratitude from the mayor of the city of Tynda confirm that I am a hardworking, sympathetic and peaceful citizen ready for any good work.”

In the Amur Region, 23 Jehovah’s Witnesses suffered for their faith. Aleksey Berchuk and Dmitriy Golik are serving long terms in a colony, while Konstantin Moiseyenko and Vasiliy Reznichenko received a suspended sentence. Another seven men are defending their right to profess the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses in court. Most of the cases against believers in this region were initiated by FSB investigator Obukhov.

Three Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to 6 years in prison in Crimea

On October 6, 2022, judge Olga Berdnikova of the Nakhimovsky District Court of Sevastopol found three Jehovah’s Witnesses guilty of extremism.

They were prosecuted under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 1 – Six to 10 years’ imprisonment, plus a compulsory ban on holding certain positions and/or carrying out certain activities for up to 10 years and compulsory restrictions on freedom for one to two years after release; or a 400,000 to 800,000 Rouble fine.

 

Yevgeny Zhukov, Vladimir Maladyka and Vladimir Sakada received 6 years in prison each. This sentence is to be served in a correctional colony of general regime, with deprivation of the right to engage in educational activities, activities related to speeches and publications in the media, posting materials in information and telecommunication networks, including the Internet for a period for 7 years, with restriction of liberty for a period of 1 year

The believers were immediately taken into custody. They intend to appeal the verdict.

Right from the courtroom, Zhukov, Maladyka and Sakada were taken to SIZO No. 1 in the city of Simferopol.

 

Zhukov, Maladyka and Sakada faced persecution for their faith on October 1, 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. For the fact that believers participated in peaceful religious meetings, a criminal case was initiated against them. They, as well as their co-religionists from Sevastopol, were searched. On the same day, four believers, including Zhukov, Maladyka and Sakada, were sent to a pre-trial detention center, where they spent 6 to 7.5 months. In addition, Vladimir Maladyka and his wife were subjected to compulsory examination in a psycho-neurological dispensary because of a bag of powdered milk found at their home, which seemed suspicious to the investigators.

Vladimir Sakada and Vladimir Maladyka have families, Evgeny Zhukov takes care of his disabled brother. All three believers have a reputation as respectable people and law-abiding citizens.

The investigation was conducted by the FSB of Russia for the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol for about six months. In April 2021, the case went to court. As “evidence” of the believers’ guilt, the investigation used hidden video recordings of worship services made by FSB agents. In the video, believers pray, sing and discuss the Bible. During the court hearings, Vladimir Sakada stated that the videotapes presented to the experts and the court “were subjected to unauthorized changes.” However, the court refused to verify this material evidence. FSB officer Dmitry Shevchenko, who conducted operational-search activities, said in court that there were no signs of extremism and facts of inciting religious hatred in the actions of the defendants. According to him, he has been familiar with the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Sevastopol since 2015, and their services have always been of an exclusively religious nature.

However, the court returned a guilty verdict.

In Crimea, a total of 16 Jehovah’s Witnesses have faced persecution for their faith, four of them are serving sentences in a penal colony. In June 2022, the European Court of Human Rights declared the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia unlawful, and all charges against them unfounded.

In the photo: Sergey Yuferov, Mikhail Burkov, Vladimir Bukin and Valery Slashchev near the Tyndinsky District Court of the Amur Region. September, 2022. Credit: Jehovah’s Witnesses

Further reading about FORB in Russia on HRWF website





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ERITREA : An 80-year old Jehovah’s Witness in prison for 11 years

An 80-year old Jehovah’s Witness in prison for 11 years

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom calls for his release

HRWF (21.10.2022) – USCIRF Commissioner Frederick Davie has called on the US State Department to secure the release of 80-year-old Tesfazion Gebremichael, who has been in prison in Eritrea for 11 years for the peaceful practice of his Christian beliefs. (see link). Tesfazion is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Due to his age and the poor prison conditions, there is growing concern that Tesfazion may not live long enough to ever be reunited with his family and friends. Four imprisoned Jehovah’s Witnesses between the ages of 62 and 77 have died, since 2011.

Tesfazion’s wife, four children, and five grandchildren are now safely living outside of Eritrea. Therefore, the entire family is now in favor of widely publicizing Tesfazion’s situation, as it would no longer inadvertently endanger them.

Prison conditions

  • In the Mai Serwa Camp, prisoners are crowded into small cells with no room for movement and not enough space to lie flat. Prisoners who need to lie down must do so on their side pressed up against one another
  • No sanitation facilities.Prisoners, men and women alike, are only permitted to relieve themselves at fixed times—twice a day—surrounded by soldiers who observe them
  • No medical care or adequate food/water supplied
  • Prisoners are forced into unpaid slave labor
  • Visitors are not allowed
  • None of those presently imprisoned have ever been formally charged or had the opportunity to defend themselves in court. Since there are no effective domestic legal remedies available to them, their imprisonment amounts to a de facto life sentence

Nationwide persecution

Jehovah’s Witnesses experience ongoing intense persecution in Eritrea. Since the country became independent in 1993, the government has imprisoned, tortured, and harassed Jehovah’s Witnesses.

See, link to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ newly released 2022 annual report on Eritrea. You’ll also find a detailed list of all 20 Jehovah’s Witnesses (14 males and 6 females) in prison.

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Africa, Europe, and the United States have made considerable efforts to diplomatically address the persecution. They have made numerous requests for dialogue with Eritrean officials in Asmara, but the officials either do not respond or refuse to meet with the Witnesses.

 

International advocacy

Amnesty International

“Amnesty International has documented the religious persecution in Eritrea, including the unlawful detention and inhumane detention conditions for members of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the absence of any information about their whereabouts and their fates, their detention amounts to enforced disappearance. Hence, for years Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have been requesting the Eritrean authorities to disclose their whereabouts and their fates, and they are still alive, to release them immediately and unconditionally.”—Fisseha Tekle, Amnesty International’s researcher covering Eritrea and Ethiopia [issued October 11, 2022.

International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance

September 2022, the IRFBA Council of Experts and Steering Committee accepted the case of Tesfazion Gebremichael for international advocacy

The US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom currently serves as the Secretariat of the Alliance (link)

Photo: Tesfazion Gebremichael – USCIRF (Courtesy of Jehovah’s Witnesses).

Further reading about FORB in Ethiopia on HRWF website





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BELGIUM: Recognition of religions raised at the OSCE: Belgian delegation replies

Recognition of religions raised at the OSCE: the Belgian delegation uses its right of reply

After HRWF raised the issue of the Belgian discriminatory system of recognition of religions criticized in a recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, the Belgian delegation used its right of reply

RIGHT OF REPLY BY BELGIUM

Warsaw Human Dimension Conference Plenary Session III: Tolerance and Non-Discrimination I (29 september 2022) Combating racism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance, including based on religion or belief

Belgium is strongly committed to the defence of fundamental values and the maintenance of the rule of law, as well as to the exercise of freedoms within a legal framework, including freedom of religion and belief, citizenship, and principles as tolerance and non-discrimination. These values are enshrined in Belgian positive law, and by international bodies of which Belgium is a member, including the OSCE.

Belgium wishes to use the right of reply following the intervention of the representative of “Human Rights without Frontiers” concerning the final judgement of the European Court of Human Rights on July 5 in the case of “Associations chrétiennes des Témoins de Jéhovah d’Anderlecht et autres c. Belgique”.

The ruling concerns the criterion of “recognized religions” for the granting of the exemption from real estate tax in the Brussels Capital Region. According to the Court, since the procedure for recognizing a religion or non-confessional philosophical organization does not offer sufficient clarity, precision or accessibility, the use of this criterion to obtain a tax advantage was deemed discriminatory.

The lack of a legal basis setting out the recognition of religions or non-confessional philosophical organizations criteria has not prevented the Union of Buddhist associations of Belgium from applying for recognition as a non-confessional philosophical organization , nor has it prevented the Hindu Forum of Belgium from applying for recognition as a religion.

As regards to the execution of the first part of the judgment, the Belgian state has already paid just satisfaction and suspended the criterion in question (“recognized religion”) from the Brussels ordinance.

The judgement also invites Belgium to adopt legislation setting out the criteria for the recognition of religions and non-confessional philosophical organizations. With a will towards cooperation, a working group has been set up which has begun to reflect on this.

Since the criteria for recognition have considerable organizational and financial impact on the federal as well as the regional levels, the reflection requires the necessary time and consultation between all participants. Under no circumstances has the Court of Justice imposed a time limit for this. The different possibilities for the preferred legal norms will also be examined by the working group.

In accordance with the federal coalition agreement of 30 September 2020, a draft law on the recognition of the Union of Buddhist associations of Belgium as a non- confessional philosophical organization will soon be submitted to the House of Representatives. The entry into force of the law is planned for 2023.

In order to allow the Hindu Forum of Belgium to get structurally organized, the award of a subsidy is also foreseen in 2023. It is a first phase that will finally lead to the recognition of Hinduism as a religion in Belgium.

The initiative of recognition is not a privilege of the Minister of Justice. Already in 2019, several representatives of the Chamber of Representatives introduced a legislative proposal to support the demand for recognition by the Union of Buddhist associations of Belgium. A similar proposal was made to support the demand for recognition by the Hindu Forum of Belgium.

The final recognition as a religion or an non-confessional philosophical organization always takes place through the adoption of a law.

Photo: Palace of Justice in Brussels

Further reading about FORB in Belgium on HRWF website


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