JAPAN Forced change of religion in Japan: UN Human Rights Committee denounces Tokyo’s policy of turning a deaf ear

Forced change of religion in Japan: UN Human Rights Committee denounces Tokyo’s policy of turning a deaf ear


UNHR-LogoHRWF (25.07.2014) – On 15-16 July, Japan’s human rights record was reviewed in the framework of the 111th session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. During Japan’s sixth periodic review, the right to freedom of religion or belief and the right not to be coerced to change religion has been raised in detailed reports provided to the Committee by Human Rights Without Frontiers (Brussels) and by the Japanese Association of Victims of Abduction and Forced Religious De-Conversion.

During the review, the German expert of the Committee, Ms. Seibert-Fohr, raised the issue of abductions and so-called “deprogramming” as she said. She explained that the Committee came to know about cases of abductions and forced religious de-conversions of members of the Unification Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses, that adults were abducted and confined by their families for up to six months or more, and that there was a lack of investigation and police search, under the justification that they were “with their families”. She explained that civil cases were brought but no injunction had been pronounced to her knowledge. She asked the Japanese government which steps it was going to take to remedy this situation.

The Japanese Government merely denied the existence of a problem by answering: “The examples cited, we are not aware of. When reports are received, we deal with this appropriately. The Ministry of Justice dealing with human rights, based on regulations, indicates that investigations should be made on cases and that is exactly what we do.”
Still, the Committee, in its Concluding Observations of July 24 said that it was “concerned at reports of abductions and forced confinement of converts to new religious movements by members of their families in an effort to de-convert them (arts. 2, 9, 18, 26)” and it urged Tokyo to “take effective measures to guarantee the right of every person not to be subject to coercion which would impair his or her freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief.”
For decades, Japanese authorities have turned a deaf ear to the complaints of numerous victims of abduction, confinement and attempts of change of religion under physical and psychological coercion. For decades, Japanese police have protected the perpetrators from prosecution letting such crimes continue and thus violating the victims’ human rights. Continue reading

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 Threat of full-face veil to “open, personal relationships” trumps human rights

by FOREF Europe



Vienna, 3 July 2014 – FOREF EuropeBy upholding a French ban on wearing full-face veils, a common Muslim practice, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has failed to protect the religious freedom of Islamic women who choose the veil as an expression of their faith, according to the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe (FOREF), an independent nongovernmental monitoring group.

A French law banning wearing a full-face veil has been in force since 11 April 2011.  According to a press release issued by the Registrar of the Court, the ECHR “emphasized that respect for the conditions of ‘living together’ was a legitimate aim” for the French law, given that “the State had a ‘wide margin of appreciation’ as regards this general policy question…”

“By giving priority to a vague social goal over the fundamental human right to manifest one’s religious beliefs, the ECHR has undermined the freedom of religion with this ruling, ” according to Dr. Aaron Rhodes, president of FOREF.

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UKRAINE: FECRIS criticizes Maidan and persecutes Falun Gong!

FECRIS vice-president, Alexander Dvorkin, persona non grata in Ukraine, criticizes the Maidan movement

By Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers

KYIV,  12.05.2014 (HRWF) – Alexander Dvorkin, vice-president of FECRIS (*) and chairman of the Russian Association of Centres for the Study of Religions and Sects, has been complaining in numerous Russian media in the last few weeks that he was denied entry in Ukraine because of the international “sectarian lobby” behind the Maidan movement in Kyiv.


RUSSIA: Setback for anti-missionary law

Dvorkin had been invited by the Archbishop of Lugansk and Alchevsk Mitrofan (Ukrainian Orthodox Church/ Moscow Patriarchate) to give some lectures about sects on 9-10 April in Lugansk (Eastern Ukraine). He was denied entry in Ukraine at the airport of Donetsk and sent back to Russia.

The official reason justifying his deportation was that he had been seen with the wife of Gubarev, the self-proclaimed governor of Donetsk.

During a broadcast of the Russian radio station “Komsomolskaïa Pravda”, Dvorkin denied any link with Gubarev and accused the international “sectarian lobby” of standing behind “the coup of Kyiv” as well as his deportation.

Like other pro-Russian and Russian Orthodox extremists, Dvorkin discredited the Maidan movement, saying that the Acting President, Alexander Tourtchynov was a Baptist – which is true -, his Prime Minister Arseni Yatseniuk is a Scientologist his sister chairs a major scientologist organization in the USA – both accusations spread by Interfax-Religion, a Russian press agency, and checked as false by Human Rights Without Frontiers (**).

With such allegations, pro-Russian extremists in Ukraine want to show that the Maidan movement is an American plot supported by non-Orthodox/ anti-Orthodox new religious movements and that “foreign sects” are now in power in Kyiv with some extreme-right elements.

(*) European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects
(**) See http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=11127 (5 March 2014)

FECRIS correspondent in Ukraine campaigns with China against Falun Gong in Ukraine

By Willy Fautré/Igor Shershuny, Human Rights Without Frontiers


HRWF (12.05.2014) – The Ukrainian National Center Of Religious Safety And Help To Victims Of Destructive Cults Organisation “Dialogue” a FECRIS correspondent in Ukraine, has launched a campaign against Falun Gong practitioners. It has published the following article on its website under the title “The Falun Gong sect recruits Kherson residents under the guise of an art exhibition”:

The Kherson branch of the Union of Artists of Ukraine for two weeks made available its showroom in Ushakov street, 30/1 to the Chinese Falun Gong sect to be able to recruit citizens. On 15th April the sectarians announced the opening of the Chinese painting exhibition “Truth, Compassion, and Forbearance”.

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Hungarian Government Moves Against Religious Minorities

Hungarian Government Moves Against Religious Minorities, In Disregard of Ruling by European Court of Human Rights

Budapest, 28 04 2014

Parishioners of Church of God United Pentecostal Church during prayer

Enjoying a 2/3 majority in Parliament after being freshly reelected by 44% of the popular vote, the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took new steps to restrict religious freedom just weeks after the European Court of Human Rights ruled Hungary’s law on religion was in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.  Enacted in 2011, Hungary’s religion law stripped most religious communities in the country of legal status, and stipulated that future church status could only be bestowed by Parliament with a 2/3 majority vote.  In April 2013 the European Court found that the law violated the right of religious freedom.

In disregard of the Court’s decision, Hungarian Minister of Human Resources, Zoltán Balog, recently issued an official decision ruling one of the churches deregistered by the religion law, Church of God United Pentecostal Church (Isten Gyülekezete Egyesült Pünkösdi Egyház), unsuitable for legal recognition.  Church of God United Pentecostal has been operating in Hungary since the early twentieth century and is affiliated with United Pentecostal Church International, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri.  In support of his decision, Minister Balog referred to an unnamed government appointed expert on religion, who declared in a written opinion that the Hungarian church’s relationship with United Pentecostal International was invalid.  Church of God United Pentecostal Church in Hungary, which previously filed a lawsuit to prevent the government from liquidating its property, is appealing the Minister’s most recent decision.

Church of God United Pentecostal requested Dr. David Baer, a professor of religion at Texas Lutheran University, to write an opinion contesting that of the anonymous government expert.  Dr. Baer’s opinion is published below.

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Rudy Salles fails to export anti-religious policies to the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe

Rudy Salles fails to export anti-religious policies to the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe


French Euro MP Rudy Salles

French Euro MP Rudy Salles

10. Apr. 2014 – Strasbourg (EIFRF): The recommendations of French MP Rudy Salles which would have had the effect of exporting French anti-religious policies to the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe has not been adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

All Salles´ recommendations – identified by former International Helsinki Federation Director Dr. Aaron Rhodes as “a recipe for discrimination and intolerance” and something that would “provide cover for arbitrary interference in religious life” – were cancelled. Instead, a completely different proposal was proposed and adopted:

“The Assembly therefore calls on the member states to sign and/or ratify the relevant Council of Europe conventions on child protection and welfare if they have not already done so”.

Salles´ proposals to establish information centres, establish a European observatory, carry out specialist training and a range of other actions on groups he derogatorily called ´sects´ – were all rejected by the Parliamentary Assembly.

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Anti-religiöse Richtlinien des Europaabgeordneten Rudy Salles im Europarat abgelehnt

European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom

Anti-religiöse Richtlinien des Europaabgeordneten Rudy Salles im Europarat abgelehnt


Strassburg, 10.4.2014 (EIFRF): Die Empfehlungen des französischen Europaratsabgeordneten Rudy Salles wurden im Europarat nicht angenommen. Er wollte die existierenden französischen antireligiösen Richtlinien in alle 47 europäischen Mitgliedstaaten exportieren. Alle seine Vorschläge wurden gestrichen. Diese waren zuvor vom früheren Direktor der International Helsinki Federation (IHF), Dr. Aaron Rhodes, als ein “Rezept für Diskriminierung und Intoleranz” und etwas, das “als Deckmantel dient um willkürlich in das religiöse Leben einzugreifen” angeprangert worden.

Schließlich wurde seine ursprüngliche Version verworfen und stattdesen eine stark modifizierte Fassung vorgeschlagen und angenommen:

“Der Rat fordert die Mitgliedsländer auf, die relevanten Europarats-Verträge zum Schutz der Kinder und ihrer Fürsorge zu unterzeichnen und/oder zu ratifizieren, sollte dies noch nicht geschehen sein.”

Die Vorschläge von Salles, Informationszentren zu etablieren, ein europäisches Observatorium zu gründen, Spezialausbildungen für Richter, etc. einzuführen und eine Reihe weiterer Massnahmen gegen Gruppen, die er despektierlich “Sekten” nennt, wurden allesamt vom Europarat abgelehnt.

Proteste von über 80 renommierten Menschenrechtsorganisationen und Experten des Strafrechts, der Religionsfreiheit und der Menschenenrechte aus der ganzen Welt sowie eine Petition mit über 10 000 Unterschriften waren zuvor bei der Präsidentin des Europarates, Anne Brasseur und verschiedensten Parlamentariern eingegangen. Sie verlangten, dass die vorgeschlagenen antireligiösen Richtlinien zurückgewiesen werden.

Religiöse Minderheiten müssen jedoch weiterhin wachsam sein, dass einzelne Individuen ihre Regierungspositionen nicht ausnützen, um repressive Richtlinien einzubringen. Die verabschiedete neue Version des Europarates  schützt Minderjährige in religiösen Minderheiten im Sinne von Artikel 9 der Europarats-Konvention. Zur gleichen Zeit  bittet sie die Mitgliedstaaten, Richtlinien zu erlassen, die keinen diskriminierenden Unterschied machen zwischen traditionellen, nicht traditionellen Religionen, neuen religiösen Bewegungen und sogenannten “Sekten”, wie dies in Punkt 9 der endgültigen Resolution zu finden ist:

“Die Versammlung fordert die Mitgliederstaaten auf, sicherzustellen, dass keine Diskriminierung bezüglich der Frage, welche Bewegungen als Sekte oder nicht betrachtet werden, erlaubt ist, dass kein Unterschied gemacht wird zwischen traditionellen und nicht traditionellen religiösen Bewegungen, neuen religiösen Bewegungen oder “Sekten” wenn es darum geht, Zivil- oder Strafrecht anzuwenden und dass jegliche Massnahmen gegenüber nicht traditionellen Bewegungen, neuen religiösen Bewegungen oder “Sekten” mit Menschenrechtsstandards gemäss der Europäischen Menschenrechtserklärung in Einklang sind, sowie anderen relevanten Richtlinien, die die Würde  der Menschen und deren gleiche und unveräusserlichen Rechte schützen.”

Anträge einiger Parlamentarier, das Wort “Sekte”  ganz zu streichen, wurden abgewiesen – obwohl dies ziemlich im Widerspruch mit den Hauptzielen der Mehrheit der Abänderungen stand, die angenommen wurden. Dies muss man jedoch als politischen Konpromiss sehen, im Zusammenhang mit einem Bericht, der keine Fakten als Basis hatte, der Versammlung aufgedrängt  und in einer Letzte Minute Aktion durchgepeitscht werden sollte. Auf alle Fälle ist die Tatsache dass alle negativen und diskriminierenden Vorschläge abgewiesen wurden ein positives Zeichen, dass die Versammlung  den Versuch von Rudy Salles durchschaut hat, der das französische Modell religiöser Diskriminierung den anderen 46 Mitgliedstaaten des Europarates aufzwingen wollte.

Die endgültige Resolution findet sich hier:


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Hungary Breached Freedom of Religion


European Court of Human Rights: Hungary Breached Freedom of Religion

by Veronika Gulyas


hungary european court hr

BUDAPEST, April 8, 2014 (TWSJ) –The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that Hungary breached the freedom of religion and the freedom of association when stripped minor religious groups of their status as churches.

The Church Act, which took effect in January 2012, says the Hungarian parliament has the right to decide in a two-thirds majority vote whether a given religious community or church may attain a recognized church status and also, which church gets state subsidy.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban was reelected to power for another four-year term, with his Fidesz party likely winning a two-thirds majority again.

After a Constitutional Court decision last year, which found certain provisions of the Church Act unconstitutional, Hungary recognizes religious communities as having the same legal standing as recognized churches, but this still doesn’t necessarily mean they also receive state financing.

Churches still need to be recognized officially in Hungary to operate, based not only on formalities but also after considerations such as whether their operations aren’t a threat to national security. This process is now done by the government and parliament, instead of the earlier practice when only the parliament had a say.

Prior to the Church Act of 2012, religious communities had been registered as churches by courts based solely on formal requirements in Hungary and received state funding automatically.

Many of the former churches lost their fully incorporated church status after the parliament recognition. The Strasbourg Court now ruled that this breached the rights to freedom of religion and freedom of association.

In an end-2011 letter to Hungary’s Prime Minister, Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of Washington expressed the US government’s concern about  this law.

“The US government is deeply concerned that no modifications have been made to the Law on Churches. Outside observers note the rules for religions to gain recognition are prohibitively cumbersome, and the requirement for two-thirds approval by Parliament unnecessary politicizes decisions surrounding a basic human right,” Ms. Clinton wrote.

The court said Hungary couldn’t prove that there wasn’t any less drastic way to monitor which religious groups receive subsidies, and said: “the measure imposed by the Church Act had not been necessary in a democratic society.”

The government wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The European Court of Human Rights cannot oblige the parliament in any way to modify the country’s Church Act, said Szabolcs Hegyi, program manager at human rights watchdog Hungarian Civil Liberties Union.

Source: The Wall Street Journal – Real Time Emerging Europe 

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