FRANCE: Compromising Freedoms Clouds Fight Against Terrorism

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FRANCE: Compromising Freedoms Clouds Fight Against Terrorism

By Aaron Rhodes

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statue of liberty paris

PARIS, 15.01.2015 (FOREF Europe) – A day after at least 1.5 million came out to protest the murder of Charlie Hebdo journalists and support freedom of speech, the French Minister of the Interior announced criminal proceedings against Dieudonné, a comedian, for his “apology for terrorism.” After participating in the demonstration in Paris, Dieudonné posted that he felt like “Charlie Coulibaly,” thus provocatively combining the name of the victimized publication with that of the terrorist who killed four Jews at a kosher supermarket a day after the Charlie attack.

Diedonné had already been banned from performing in France for his harsh satire of Jews. French law criminalizes defamation and incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence against people based on their race or religion. But while the courts have ruled that Charlie Hebdo‘s irreverent cartoons spoofing the Pope and Mohammed did not constitute such an offence, they ruled differently against Dieudonné’s caustic humor, fueling stories about a Jewish conspiracy, especially among Muslim youth. Less than a handful of public figures stood up for freedom of expression in his case.

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GERMANY: Controversy Surrounding “Twelve Tribes” – Sociologist Warns against Targeted Misinformation by Sect Experts

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GERMANY: Controversy Surrounding “Twelve Tribes” – Sociologist Warns against Targeted Misinformation by Sect Experts

How a Religious Community Gets Harassed by Authorities Spurred on by FECRISDo “Sect Experts” Use Controversial Deprogramming Methods to Turn Children against their own Parents?

FOREF Reports Exclusively

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Police raid at the religious community “Twelve Tribes” in Nördlingen, Bavaria.

MUNICH, 01.01.2015 (FOREF) – A good 20 years ago, a branch of the religious community “Twelve Tribes” was established in Germany. In August 2013, the community was prohibited from running a school of their own since they discipline their children corporally – although in a soft manner, as the community emphasizes. One month after that, in a controversial large-scale operation the police went and got 41 children out of the communities in Nördlingen-Klosterzimmern and Wörnitz. At this point after more than a year, 20 children are still in the custody of the Jugendamt (Youth Welfare Office). Susan J. Palmer, sociologist of religion, points out that after the police raids in September 2013, the doctors did not find any evidence of abuse. She criticizes the blind trust the German authorities put in the self-proclaimed sect experts who are running a targeted disinformation and demagoguery campaign against the community.

Note in advance: FOREF distances itself from the use of physical chastisement, even if moderate, and rejects the disproportionately harsh intervention of the authorities in this case as well, which have long term traumatizing consequences for the children. Cf. Art. 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to be protected against the use of force, abuse, and neglect (see below). 

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Austria’s Violations of Freedom of Religion

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Austria’s Violations of Freedom of Religion

FOREF Europe Reports to the UN Human Rights Committee

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VIENNA, 23.12.2014 (FOREF) – The Forum for Religious Freedom Europe filed this report on cases of violations of the freedom of religion in Austria and sent it to the UN Human Rights Committee for further investigation. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) will host its 113th session from 16 March until 02 April  2015 in Geneva, in which the Country Report Task Forces will consider issues on Austria among other countries.

Note (25.12.2014): After this post was released, the website of HRWF, an international human rights organization, has been hacked by a professional team based in France and taken down from the internet. Therefore, the link to the PDF-File that contained the extensive scientific study on FECRIS will be temporarily dysfunctional.  

1. Brief information about FOREF Europe

The Forum for Religious Freedom Europe is an independent, secular, nongovernmental organization based in Vienna.  FOREF Europe was founded in 2005 by the internationally recognized jurist and expert on freedom of religion Professor Christian Bruenner, who served as Dean of the School of Law and Rector of Graz University and also in the Austrian Parliament, and human rights activist Peter Zoehrer.

FOREF’s website (www.religionsfreiheit.at) was initiated in 1998 “out of necessity”, since the government has just introduced two new laws, severely curtailing the rights of religious minority groups: First, the establishment of a “federal sect observatory office” (Bundesstelle für Sektenfragen) and second, the introduction of a law for “confessional communities”.

FOREF Europe regularly reports to the media, OSCE, US-State Department, Human Rights Without Frontiers and various other human rights organizations on religious freedom violations in Austria and other countries. FOREF Europe has established an international scientific board of experts as well as an interdenominational religious board. Since its establishment, FOREF Europe has achieved a number of important victories in helping victims of religious intolerance to gain respect for their rights and vindicated from injustice, discrimination or persecution. FOREF Europe’s Facebook community numbers over 1000 members.

In 2014, FOREF Europe named international human rights activist Dr. Aaron Rhodes president. Recent actions have included, inter alia, a successful campaign against a discriminatory resolution in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; a  critical analysis of Hungary’s religion law presented to the OSCE; a critical analysis of the decision by the European Court of Human Rights to uphold France’s ban on the burqa; a detailed report on actions by German authorities against a minority Christian group; and an analysis of Austria’s proposed law on Islam.

 

2. Brief Summary of Concerns

Austria’s population is over 60 percent Catholic. Islam, with around 574,000 Muslims constitutes the second largest faith community. There are approximately 600 religious minority groups. Only 17 faith communities enjoy special privileges by the state.

The Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee on Austria following its review in 2007 made no reference to problems of freedom of religion.  FOREF wishes, in this brief report, to express concern about policies of the Austrian federal state that violate the spirit and letter of Article 18 of the Covenant, particularly as regards equal treatment of religious communities and neutrality. Austria has embraced policies and practices that demonize “sects” and “cults,” and most recently has promoted legislation imposing grossly unequal treatment on the Austrian Muslim community. Austria also finances anti-cult organizations such as GSK (a branch of FECRIS), which spread biased and distorted information stigmatizing new religious movements and their members.

 

3. Anti-Cult Efforts of the Austrian Federal Agency for Sect Issues[1] (Bundesstelle für Sektenfragen)

The Austrian government’s campaigns against so-called “sects” and “cults,” especially through the establishment and actions of a “Federal Agency for Sect Issues” (BSS), have demonized religious minorities and placed the state in opposition to these groups, while cooperating with the established churches.

  • The executive director of the BSS, Dr. German Müller, is a former co-worker of the association GSK (Gesellschaft gegen Sekten und Kultgefahren), the Austrian branch of FECRIS. His longstanding mentor, Friedrich Griess (a technical engineer by profession), is the co-founder of FECRIS.[2]
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Exploiting Chinese Culture to Justify Repression?

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Exploiting Chinese Culture to Justify Repression?

By Aaron Rhodes

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BEIJING, 26.11.2014 (China in Perspective) – China’s human rights record has deteriorated under the rule of President Xi Jinping. The persecution of religious minorities and human rights activists has worsened. The ability of Chinese to speak and associate freely has been further restricted. China has even more aggressively rejected international concerns about such problems, with official sources denying the existence of universal human rights values and claiming a special Chinese approach to human rights. 

At the same time, Xi has frequently invoked ancient Chinese philosophical traditions, in particular traditional Confucianism, as legitimating the restriction of individual rights and freedoms, suggesting that the idea of human rights is “Western,” incompatible with Chinese culture. Xi told President Obama that due to differences in history and culture, “it is only natural that we have some differences on the issue of human rights.”

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Blasphemy Laws: OPEN LETTER to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

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Blasphemy Laws: OPEN LETTER to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Authored by Set My People Free & FOREF Europe

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To: Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
cc: Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General
cc: Heiner Bielefeldt,  UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

December 3, 2014

In re: Application of apostasy and blasphemy laws

Your Excellency,

We wish first to congratulate you on your appointment as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. We wish you all success in encouraging compliance by UN members with their international human rights obligations. We particularly welcome the appointment as High Commissioner of one who, coming from the Middle East and an Islamic society, understands the particular challenges of implementing human rights protections in the region.

We are addressing you about the fact that 1.3 billion Muslims do not have the freedom to change their religion, an internationally guaranteed human right. As you know, individuals who try to leave Islam are often faced with torture, imprisonment and even death. Former Muslims are not allowed to exist in Islamic states.

This in contradiction to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes freedom of thought, conscience and belief, including the right to change one’s belief. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Professor H. Bielefeldt has emphasized that there is no religious freedom without the freedom to change one’s belief.

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JAPAN: A landmark court decision!

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JAPAN: A landmark court decision! Kidnappers and deprogrammers to pay dozens of million yen for attempted forceful change of religion

By Willy Fautré, HRWF

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Toru Goto’s case in a nutshell:

  • Toru Goto confined by relatives for 12 years and 5 months for ‘deprogramming’ by an Evangelical pastor and another person
  • Brother, sister-in-law and sister to pay 22 million yen (1 EUR=145 yen)
  • Deprogrammer Takashi Miyamura to pay 11 million yen
  • Evangelical pastor Yasutomo Matsunaga to pay 4.4 million yen
  • Japanese media totally silent as usual about such cases
  • HRWF Int’l report ” Japan: Abduction & deprivation of freedom for the purpose of religious de-conversion” available on Amazon (here)
Toru Goto's persistent legal fight for freedom of faith finally bears results.

Toru Goto’s persistent legal fight for freedom of faith finally bears results.

Tokyo, 17.11.2014 (HRWF) – On 13 November, the Tokyo High Court issued a ruling ordering five people (three close relatives of the victim, an Evangelical pastor and another person) to pay damages to a victim of abduction and attempts of forceful religious de-conversion in confinement conditions from September 1995 to February 2008.

In the civil suit filed by Toru Goto (51) against three members of his family and professional ‘deprogrammers’ involved in the case, Judge NoriakiSudo of Tokyo High Court acknowledged the reality of the facts. Until now, courts massively dismissed the illegal nature of abduction and attempted forceful religious de-conversion in confinement conditions and ruled that such cases were “mere talks between parents and children.”

The first three trial defendants: his brother, sister-in-law and younger sister, were ordered to pay a total amount of 22 million yen.

The first trial defendant, a professional deprogrammer, Mr. Takashi Miyamura, was ordered to pay 11 million yen.

Pastor Yasutomo Matsunaga of the Niitsu Evangelical Christian Church (Niigata City) was ordered to pay 4.4 million yen. It was indeed determined that he not only gave ‘tacit consent’ and ‘encouragement’ to Mr. Goto’s family’s unlawful actions, but he ‘aided and abetted in restricting his freedom and persuading him to change his religion.”

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JAPAN: Abduction and confinement of a couple for forceful change of religion

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JAPAN: Abduction and confinement of a couple for forceful change of religion – Criminal charges brought against a pastor of Kobe City

By Willy Fautré, HRWF

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Handschellen

Hiroshima, 17.11.2014 (HRWF)  – On 7th November, a couple living in Hiroshima City, who are members of the Unification Church, submitted a criminal charge to the West Hiroshima Police Station against a pastor from Kobe City and others for being abducted, confined and subjected to attempted forcible conversion for six days, from July 26 – 31, 2014. According to the charges, on July 26th, the husband (age 43) was forced to ride in a van by his family members, who said they were going to visit a relative at a hospital. The van was driven by a man unknown to him, and he was taken to a room in an apartment located in Osaka City, Yodogawa Ward and confined there.

Next, his wife (age 40), was invited to her parents’ home in Hiroshima City with their 8-year old daughter and 3-year old son. Her family members suddenly pounced on her, bound her arms and feet and put her in a sleeping bag. They tied up the sleeping bag, confined her in a van and then locked up in a room in the apartment where her husband was also confined whilstbeing separated from their two children. The front door to the apartment unit was locked multiple times with two kinds of padlocks and some chains. The crescent locks on the windows leading to the veranda of the rooms were fixed with wires so that they could not be opened or closed. Inside the apartment, their family members kept guard over the couple. Furthermore, a woman unknown to them who was not a family member,kept the keys to the padlocks of the front door and wore them around her neck. The couple was placed under strict confinement, in which no one could freely leave the rooms without permission from this woman.

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