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By JW Insider
Sometimes, the Watchtower publications have pointed back to a time when the Watchtower predicted World War One (WWI) in 1914 and then also predicted that the United Nations would rise up to replace the League of Nations. These two "predictions" have even been paired together and presented nearly back-to-back in our publications. They were even brought up again at the 2014 convention and the 2009 convention. The reason the Watchtower has reviewed these two ideas from our history is probably already obvious and clear, and it has been clearly stated, too.
One of the most recent reviews of the history of Jehovah's Witnesses contains very similar claims, and is found in one of the videos, now also available on tv.jw.org: https://tv.jw.org/#en/mediaitems/VODOrgHistory/pub-ivfa2_x_VIDEO
These online transcripts appear fairly accurate:
Video Transcript Jehovah's Witnesses Faith in Action Part 1 Out of Darkness.pdf Video Transcript Jehovah's Witnesses Faith in Action Part 2 Let the Light Shine.pdf Here is the relevant part about 1914:
—Geoffrey W. Jackson—
They realized that 1914 had a significance, —Gerrit Lösch—
When World War I broke out in July, they felt vindicated and it strengthened their faith in the Bible, and in Jehovah’s prophetic Word. Also, it enhanced their trust that Jehovah was using Brother Russell and his friends to explain truth to others. —Anthony Morris III—
Just looking at the sign of the times that Jesus told us to look at is enough, but it's still significant that they could pinpoint that year. That's phenomenal. Here is the relevant part about the UN and League of Nations:
. . . And soon, they would boldly proclaim a Bible prophecy that pointed to the outcome of that war. ——Chapter 4: "Taught By Jehovah"——
The year was 1941. Having taken the lead for 25 momentous years, J. F. Rutherford had become seriously ill and was about to make his final public appearance. . . . The second World War was raging. Some felt that these events could lead directly into Armageddon. In spite of this, in 1942, Nathan H. Knorr—the one next appointed to take the lead among Jehovah's Witnesses—spoke at a convention about a Bible prophecy that indicated that significant events had to occur first. —Knorr (reenactment)—
This international war is not 'the battle of the great day of God Almighty.' Before Armageddon comes, the Scriptures show, a peace must come. —John Wischuk—
There was no peace on the horizon, and yet we said, "Peace—Can It Last?" —Narrator—
Knorr centered attention on Revelation 17:8, which indicates that a figurative wild beast would come into existence, would cease to exist, but then would come back to life. Knorr then drew his listeners' attention to the defunct League of Nations. —Knorr (reenactment)—
The League is in effect in a state of suspended animation and needs to be revived if it is ever to live again. It has gone into the abyss of inaction and ineffectiveness. It "is not." Will the League remain in the pit? Again the Word of God gives answer: The association of worldly nations will rise again. —Narrator—
That association did rise again three years later as the United Nations. —Anthony Morris III—
They didn't know it was going to be called the United Nations, and we don't make that claim. But they knew it was coming out.
[Should be noted that Morris is claiming something that they "KNEW" in advance but he is also correcting a common claim that not only did Knorr predict the rise of the League of Nations three years ahead of time, but that he even used the term "United Nations." As one person writes on a website "Knorr prophesied in 1942 that the League of Nations would rise out of the abyss. Knorr used the expression 'United Nations.' How could he have known the exact name of the new incarnation, when it wasn't established until 1945?"]
Witnesses got these ideas about a correctly predicted prophecy from an article published a few years later under Knorr's administration in 1960. These quotes should be compared with the actual transcript of the speech Knorr made on September 20, 1942, which was made available as a booklet, and can be found here: http://www.strictlygenteel.co.uk/booklets/peace.html
The July 15, 1960 Watchtower, page 444, said this:
"In 1942 the “faithful and discreet slave” guided by Jehovah’s unerring spirit made known that the democracies would win World War II and that there would be a United Nations organization set up." You can also see a reference to the 1942 event in the Revelation book (p.248) on WOL at jw.org: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101988034
You can also read the following about it in the April 15, 1989 Watchtower, p.14 https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101988034
By divine providence, Jehovah’s Witnesses received enlightenment on that mystery in 1942. . . . Nathan H. Knorr, president of the Watch Tower Society, gave the public talk, “Peace—Can It Last?” Therein he reviewed Revelation 17:8, . . . . Was that Bible-based forecast fulfilled? Truly it was! In 1945 the international “wild beast” emerged from its abyss of inactivity as the United Nations. See also the Kingdom Come book kc chap. 17 pp. 162-173 and and interesting version of events found in a 1981 Watchtower about why this "insight" was given w81 12/15 pp. 28-30
The Proclaimers book states it like this on page 192-3 ( jv chap. 14 pp. 188-201 )
This time, it involved the United Nations, successor to the League. While World War II was still under way, in 1942, Jehovah’s Witnesses had already discerned from the Bible, at Revelation 17:8, that the world peace organization would rise again, also that it would fail to bring lasting peace. This was explained by N. H. Knorr, then president of the Watch Tower Society, in the convention discourse “Peace—Can It Last?” Boldly Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaimed that view of the developing world situation. In 1993 the idea was stated as follows:
“The Disgusting Thing” 12, 13. What was “the disgusting thing,” and—as foreseen by the faithful and discreet slave—when and how was it reestablished? 12 When the end of the second world war was in sight, there was another development. “They will certainly put in place the disgusting thing that is causing desolation.” (Daniel 11:31b) This “disgusting thing,” which Jesus also mentioned, had already been recognized as the League of Nations, the scarlet-colored wild beast that according to Revelation went into the abyss. (Matthew 24:15; Revelation 17:8; see Light, Book Two, page 94.) It did this when World War II broke out. However, at the New World Theocratic Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1942, Nathan H. Knorr, third president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, discussed the prophecy of Revelation 17 and warned that the beast would rise again from the abyss. 13 History bore out the truth of his words. Between August and October 1944, at Dumbarton Oaks in the United States, work was begun on the charter of what would be called the United Nations. The charter was adopted by 51 nations, including the former Soviet Union, and when it came into force on October 24, 1945, the defunct League of Nations in effect came out of the abyss. There are several more examples, but this should suffice. I am struck by how often the point is emphasized that these were Knorr's words, "his words" and that they were a Bible-based forecast "foreseen" and "discerned" and "known" in advance through "divine providence" and "enlightenment" and men being "guided by Jehovah's unerring spirit." This is an odd focus on the insights and discernment of men. These expressions are also dangerously presumptuous in that they are so often applied to the one or two times when it seems something was foreseen correctly, but there is no balanced way of discussing the reasons that literally dozens of predictions were made incorrectly and have been dropped as "old light."
But, as many Witnesses already know, there is something even deeper that is wrong with these claims of accuracy in discernment. The claims are inaccurate! It turns out that this was not really even predicted in advance. A close look at the original transcript of Knorr's talk actually solves the mystery of why he used the term United Nations in his speech. It's because he gave the speech AFTER official work on the United Nations had already begun.
The United Nations Will Soon Act Against Russia, South Korea, Singapore and Eritrea for Human Rights Violations Against Jehovah's WitnessesBy The Librarian
Listen to "The United Nations Will Soon Act Against Russia, South Korea, Singapore and Eritrea for Human Rights Violations Against Jehovah's Witnesses" on Spreaker.
Jehovah's Witnesses have long been persecuted as a religious minority but the United Nations is telling Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Eritrea that time is up! Listen to investigative journalist Joseph Bonner break down the facts.
Macron to UN: "Our fight against terrorism is also a political, cultural, moral fight"
The similar demolition of a Catholic church last year is prompting Christians to worry that the central government will begin ordering the mass destruction of church buildings nationwide as new religious regulations go into effect next month. These regulations grant the Chinese Communist Party increased power over religion, paving the way for escalated persecution.
according to ChinaAid
Chinese Police Dynamite Christian Megachurch
By The Librarian
The heated language of Trump’s presidential campaign is affecting American Muslims, who find themselves increasingly on the receiving end of hate crimes. A year into Trump’s presidency, how will his words and decisions affect the country’s Islamic minority? We ask Trita Parsi, former informal Obama administration’s adviser and head of the National American Iranian Council.
'Mismanagement' keeps UN from reaching full potential, Trump says in debut speech
WHAT DOES TRUMP THINK ABOUT PUTIN’S WAR ON RELIGION?
BY ROMAN LUNKIN ON 8/12/17 AT 12:20 AM This article first appeared on the Wilson Center site.
Just ten years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that the crackdown on civic activism in Russia would target religious communities, not just NGOs. And yet it is happening.
The Russian state persecutes Baptists, Pentecostals, and Adventists and closes down Orthodox parishes that are not part of the Moscow Patriarchate.
For the first time since the Soviet Union collapsed, preachers are now being fined for proclaiming God’s word outside church buildings.
And a recent Supreme Court decision has opened the door to liquidating Jehovah’s Witnesses communities in Russia.
“Traditional” versus “Nontraditional” Religions
Russia divides all faiths into “traditional” and “nontraditional.” This concept, while absent from the Russian Law on Religious Freedom (although mentioned in the law’s preamble), has been introduced under pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and Patriarch Kirill personally.
Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism are deemed “traditional,” while Old Believers, Catholics, various Protestant denominations, and many others are not.
A member of the 'Union of Orthodox Banner-Bearers' takes part in a demonstration against the movie 'Matilda' in front of the Church of the Resurrection in Moscow on August 1, 2017. 'Matilda', a Russian movie about a love story between the last Russian Tsar Nikolay II and the ballerina Mathilda-Marie Feliksovna Kschessinskaya set for theater release in October, is believed by many Russians to insult the monarchy and offend religious sentiment.MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/GETTY
The concept of traditional religions not only pits worshippers against each other, it also ignores the religious diversity of Russia. Today there are some 15 million practicing Orthodox believers in Russia, 10 million Muslims, 3 million Protestants, 500,000 Buddhists, 200,000 Jews, 175,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, 100,000 Hindus, and 100,000 followers of other religious faiths (e.g., there are an estimated 10,000 Mormons in Russia).
The ROC has usurped the right to a close relationship with the government and accuses Catholics and Protestants of proselytizing in the territory that it considers its own. As for Muslims, the ROC accepts as “traditional” only those who are loyal to the government.
The ROC’s concern is understandable. According to the Russian Ministry of Justice, ROC organizations are the most numerous in the country (around 16,000 communities), while Protestants and Muslims are second and third (5,000–6,000 communities each).
However, polls show that Protestants and Muslims may be twice as numerous as official figures suggest. For example, evangelicals are now the second largest Christian denomination in Russia after Orthodox Christians in terms of numbers and presence throughout the country.
In fact, in many regions of Siberia and the Far East, the number of Protestant communities and active parishioners is higher than the number of practicing Orthodox believers. In light of this, Patriarch Kirill has repeatedly urged the authorities in the Far East to “fight against sects” and support the Orthodox projects.
Tightening the Screws
The path toward tightening the screws on various non-traditional religions began in 2012, with the “foreign agent” law limiting the activity of foreign-funded noncommercial organizations. Furthermore, the law on meetings and demonstrations was also tightened. And in 2015 a new directive was introduced specifying that all religious groups must inform authorities of their existence.
Then, in June 2016, the State Duma adopted a series of laws known collectively as the Yarovaya Law. Named after Duma Deputy Irina Yarovaya, who initiated it, the law amends Russian public safety and anti-extremism legislation.
The part of the law that has already come into force and has received the broadest coverage consists of the statutes regulating liability for failure to report “extremist activity”—a very broadly defined set of activities under Russian law, ranging from calls for violence to the vague “incitement of racial, nationalist and religious hatred” and “propaganda of exceptionalism” based on religion or nationality.
The part of the Yarovaya Law that has received much less attention is the provision imposing new restrictions on missionary work. The law now imposes a fine of 50,000 rubles on a private citizen for illegal preaching and up to 1 million rubles on a religious organization.
Illegal preaching may mean preaching in a building that is not designated for such purposes and lacks proper signage. As a result, the police and the prosecutor’s office now consider the activity of religious groups lacking official registration as illegal—a change from the recent past.
Targeting Jehovah’s Witnesses
The recent court proceedings against Jehovah’s Witnesses are a case in point. The campaign against Jehovah’s Witnesses began in 2009, during the still relatively liberal Dmitry Medvedev’s premiership.
In a number of cases the courts, relying on poorly and unprofessionally conducted evaluations, concluded that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ literature could be defined as “extremist,” referring as it did to the faith as the only true faith.
The adoption of the Yarovaya Law, therefore, opened the door to liquidating Jehovah’s Witnesses communities on the basis of their possessing “extremist” literature.
On April 20, 2017, on the basis of the totality of these cases, the Russian Supreme Court ruled to liquidate the Jehovah’s Witnesses Management Center and all of the regional organizations. On July 17, 2017, a Supreme Court panel declined the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ appeal, and the decision entered into force.
The decision means prohibition of activity for over 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses organizations all over Russia and criminal prosecutions of more than 170,000 believers if they continue to gather and read faith publications and the Bible in their specific translation. (There are more than 2,000 groups engaged in this activity in Russia.)
On top of that, because Jehovah’s Witnesses organizations are now judged “extremist,” the state is confiscating the profession’s assets: 118 buildings in fifty-seven regions whose total value is 1.9 billion rubles.
For the West, it was specifically the prohibition against Jehovah’s Witnesses that came to symbolize pointless religious discrimination in Russia and a drastic reduction of religious freedoms in the country. The EU’s Office of Foreign Policy, the U.S. State Department, and the U.S. Helsinki Committee have all broadly criticized the move and called on Russia to rescind it.
On top of that, Jehovah’s Witnesses has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. It is clear in advance that the judgment won’t be in Russia’s favor. Taking into account the losses sustained by the faithful, the fine that the Strasbourg court will impose on Russia for the benefit of Jehovah’s Witnesses may reach astronomical heights.
The fact is, authorities’ fight against nontraditional religions and religious denominations, which they peg as weird and scary sects, takes ugly, almost caricature forms.
Journalists, politicians, and Orthodox activists accuse those of other faiths of activities that constitute the core religious activities of all faiths, including the ROC itself: collecting donations, engaging in prayers with emotional overtones, and instructing followers, including children, in the tenets of the faith. In the context of the massive anti-West hysteria, xenophobia, and search for spies, all of these generally normal activities become a crime.
Most politicians and public figures, both conservative and liberal, readily jump on the bandwagon, portraying unfamiliar “sects” as threatening to the secular state and even citizens’ psychological health. And the media ignore the persecution of those targeted under the Yarovaya Law.
There are now more than 100 court cases challenging the imposition of fines against religious communities and individual faithful, yet they are proceeding unnoticed by the general public.
Many assume that the suppression of religious dissent automatically benefits the ROC. But that is not necessarily the case. Representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate are torn by irreconcilable contradictions.
On the one hand, there are those who would like to prohibit all sects legislatively and in that way eliminate all competitors. (They are particularly troubled by the evangelicals in the Far East, who at this point exceed the number of the Orthodox.)
On the other hand, many experts note that as soon as the word “sect” is introduced into the law, half the Orthodox communities could be prohibited. Rank-and-file priests and believers have stated that the anti-missionary statutes of the Yarovaya Law could also be used to prevent Orthodox sermons and missions among youth.
In Russia, the gap is growing between the discriminated-against non-Orthodox Christians and the Orthodox, between the ROC bureaucracy and Orthodox activists of different persuasions, between the ROC’s leadership and the pro-democracy-minded part of society, between the desires of law enforcement organs and the aims of the missionaries of different churches, including the ROC.
These conflicts are getting sharper because Russian society betrays more civility than the Russian state. Ordinary Russians are much more tolerant of those professing different beliefs than are the police and the prosecutor’s office.
And the trend toward aligning the government’s policy with the interests of the ROC produces a boomerang effect: civil society criticizes priests and bishops from the Orthodox standpoint, not from an atheistic one.
This is why the state has decided to safeguard itself against independent religious authority by heavily regulating it.
Roman Lunkin is Senior Researcher at Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences, head of the Center for Religious Studies in the Institute of Europe (Russian Academy of Sciences), a member of Russian team of Keston Institute (Oxford, UK) project “Encyclopedia of religious life in Russia Today”, editor-in-chief of the web-portal “Religion and Law” (www.sclj.ru), a public policy scholar in the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Kennan Institute (2011) and The Galina Starovoitova Fellowship scholar of the Kennan Institute (2017).
By The Librarian
The US leader's comments marked a change in tone after his sometimes anti-Islamic rhetoric during the presidential race.
Trump urges Muslim leaders to 'drive out' terror
Donald Trump has likened the fight against Islamic extremism to a battle between "good and evil" and not different faiths.
Speaking to leaders from around 50 Muslim-majority countries in Saudi Arabia, the President attacked militants as "barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life".
The US leader urge the nations to "confront Islamic terror of all kinds", deny sanctuary to extremists and stand together against the murder of innocent Muslims by groups like Islamic State.
According to Mr Trump, "95% of the victims of terrorist attacks are themselves Muslims".
He said America was seeking a "coalition of nations" in the Middle East with the aim of "stamping out extremism".
Trump in Saudi: 'Tremendous progress tackling IS' He said the countries "cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them".
Striking a conciliatory line, his comments marked a change in tone for Mr Trump after his remarks during the presidential campaign where he told the US: "Islam hates us."
Addressing the Arab-Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, he said: "We now face a humanitarian and security disaster in this region that is spreading."
Saudi King: 'Islam is the religion of peace' Mr Trump told leaders at the meeting that he brought "a message of friendship and hope and love", and urged Muslim countries to ensure "terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil".
He announced a deal with Gulf countries to crackdown on the funding of extremists.
The President also hit out at Iran, accusing Tehran of "fuelling the fires of sectarian conflict".
He said among Iran's destabilising interventions was in Syria, where President Bashar al Assad has "committed unspeakable crimes".
"From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region," Mr Trump said.
Sky's Foreign Affairs Editor Sam Kiley said the President's comments "will be very much welcomed by the predominantly Sunni attendees from some 50 nations.
"And it will strike a degree of horror into (Shia-dominated) Iran.
"Terrorism is sponsored through groups like Hizbollah, by Iran, but there are also Sunni Islamic terrorist groups that the Iranians are fighting, not least Islamic State in Syria."
Mr Trump also called upon countries around the world to work together to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
The UN should create a set of international rules to help stop the pandemic of fake news and Cold war-style disinformation, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said during a session of the UN Committee on Information in New York.
Bolivian Ambassador Remembers The U.S. Saying Iraq Had Chemical Weapons!
GENEVA (4 April 2017) – Moves by the Russian Government to ban the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses using a lawsuit brought under anti-extremism legislation have been condemned as “extremely worrying” by three United Nations human rights experts*.
“This lawsuit is a threat not only to Jehovah’s Witnesses, but to individual freedom in general in the Russian Federation,” the experts said.
“The use of counter-extremism legislation in this way to confine freedom of opinion, including religious belief, expression and association to that which is state-approved is unlawful and dangerous, and signals a dark future for all religious freedom in Russia,” they stressed.
The condemnation follows a lawsuit lodged at the country’s Supreme Court on 15 March to declare the Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Centre ‘extremist’, to liquidate it, and to ban its activity.
A suspension order came into effect on that date, preventing the Administrative Centre and all its local religious centres from using state and municipal news media, and from organizing and conducting assemblies, rallies and other public events.
A full court hearing is scheduled for 5 April and if the Supreme Court rules in favour of the authorities, it will be the first such ruling by a court declaring a registered centralized religious organization to be ‘extremist’.
Concerns about the counter-extremism legislation have previously been raised in a communication by the three experts to the Russian authorities on 28 July 2016.
The Suspension Order imposed on 15 March is the latest in a series of judicial cases and orders, including a warning sent to the organization last year referring to the ‘inadmissibility of extremist activity’. This has already led to the dissolution of several local Jehovah’s Witness organizations, raids against their premises and literature being confiscated.
“We urge the authorities to drop the lawsuit in compliance with their obligations under international human rights law, and to revise the counter-extremism legislation and its implementation to avoid fundamental human rights abuses,” the UN experts concluded.
(*) The experts: Mr. David Kaye (USA), Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Maina Kiai (Kenya), Special Rapporteur on freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, and Mr. Ahmed Shaheed (the Maldives), Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, country page: Russian Federation
- See more at
The Clean Seas campaign was launched last week, aimed at eliminating major sources of marine plastic and changing shopping habits.
The United Nations has declared war on plastic. In an unexpected announcement that emerged from the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali last week, the UN officially launched its ‘Clean Seas’ campaign. The goal is to eliminate major sources of pollution, including microplastics in cosmetics and single-use disposable plastics, by pressuring governments and individuals to rethink the way goods are packaged and their own shopping habits.
Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, stated:
“It is past time that we tackle the plastic problem that blights our oceans. Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables. We’ve stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse. It must stop.”
It’s a problem that must be dealt with as aggressively as possible. Scientists say that the equivalent of a dump truck load of plastic is deposited in the world’s oceans every minute, and this quantity will only increase as consumption and population grow, too. By 2050, it’s said there will be more plastic than fish in the seas. The UN writes, “As many as 51 trillion microplastic particles – 500 times more than stars in our galaxy – litter our seas, seriously threatening marine wildlife.”
On the campaign website, people can commit to certain actions to combat their personal plastic pollution, such as not using disposable grocery bags, bringing their own coffee cup, avoiding cosmetics with microbeads, and pressuring firms to reduce excess packaging. The campaign’s press release says it will make announcements throughout the year, highlighting advances made by countries and companies to reduce disposable plastics.
Some countries have taken noteworthy steps, with ten already signing onto the #CleanSeas campaign. Indonesia, for example, has pledged to reduce marine litter by 70 percent by 2025, and Costa Rica says it will “take measures to dramatically reduce single-use plastic through better waste management and education.” Other nations are turning to taxes on plastic bags.
The UN Clean Seas campaign is a good place to start, as it will spread the awareness of a little-known problem much further afield. Awareness, however, is just the first small step. It must translate into real lifestyle changes in order to make any sort of difference. It requires people to think ahead – request no straw with a drink, pack containers and bags when going to the store, trade in the diaper wipes for a washcloth, kick the bottled water habit – and it requires municipal governments to take a strong, often unpopular, stance.
Just as microbeads are being eliminated in many places, plastic shopping bags should be, too; or at least the tax should be high enough to deter anyone, say $5 a bag, instead of 5 cents. Every town should have a bulk food store where the use of reusable containers is incentivized. Styrofoam and plastic takeout containers should be made illegal. Places to return packaging directly to manufacturers should be built alongside recycling facilities, based on the successful model of returning wine and beer bottles for refund in the province of Ontario. Schools need to start teaching children to care proactively for the Earth and to live with a reduced footprint, much like the strong anti-littering messages taught in Japan.
Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard quotes Wang Yang Ming in his book, Let My People Go Surfing: “To know and not to do is not to know.” Hopefully the Clean Seas campaign will be that crucial first step toward informing greater swaths of the world’s population and inspiring them to further action.
By The Librarian
United Nations Building, New York City
Photo Credit: Flash 90
For years, critics of the United Nations have been calling on the U.S. to defund and even quit the world body. Some have urged that a rival or successor organization be established. Now, the empty sheet of bitter discontent with the UN has been filled in with a new name and a new movement calling to “defund and replace” the troubled organization with the Covenant of Democratic Nations. This writer has been a participating witness to the birth of this movement.
Just days after the passage of UN Resolution 2334, which declared, among other things, that Israel’s Jewish connection to the Western Wall was effectively illegal, concrete replacement action began. It has started with a conversation of ideas proposing an official international conference that would carefully propound a multilaterally-signed diplomatic convention to be ratified by countries as a binding treaty that would juridically forge the covenant into operational reality.
The entire process would be limited to nations governed by democratic principles. Each member would or could defund the United Nations while it labored to construct a successor entity dedicated to world peace along democratic principles with equal respect for all people regardless of religion, gender, race, identity, or national origin, as well as formulating a mechanism to resolve disputes.
A prime mission of the new world body would be to re-ratify, amend, or nullify all acts and resolutions of the United Nations and its agencies such as UNESCO. Thus, the Covenant would create a new body of long-overdue, reformed, clarified, and updated international law. Sensibly, most CDN nations would remain as vestigial members of the UN overseeing its collapse from economic and bureaucratic processes as was done when the League of Nations was dissolved after World War II and replaced with the present UN.
Clearly, the history of world bodies, fluttering high-minded banners of peace on earth following wars that scorched the world and scarred all humankind, is not a good one. The League of Nations was born after World War I out of a quest for revenge by the victors, laced with a visionary desire to end colonialism and empower self-determination among nationally awakened peoples, so long as the whole business conquered the oil fields of the Mideast, lubricating the machinery of the post-Second Industrial Revolution West—and the multinational corporate palms that controlled it.
Countries were invented that had never existed, carved and chipped off the toppled Turkish and German empires, with handpicked kings and sovereigns put into place who could legally sign lucrative petroleum contracts. Backstage, oil companies got the oil. But the flaccid League of Nations – which never included the United States –proved its utter uselessness during the Hitler regime.
After World War II, the League was replaced by the United Nations. Although enshrined as a democratic enterprise, profoundly undemocratic and scheming governments penetrated the organization from its inception. Civil war-torn China and a tyrannical and hegemonic Soviet Union joined France, Great Britain, and the United States to create the Security Council. Expansion, inclusion, and extension eventually enrolled 193 nations, including such egalitarian democracies as North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Saudi Arabia. The world body began as a sick organ and deteriorated from there.
The Covenant conversation launched in earnest on January 23 when a panel of like-minded voices assembled in a crowded Gold Room of the Rayburn House Office Building. Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ,) who currently supports a bill to defund the UN, opened the Covenant Launch proceedings by declaring, “This is a critically important issue. The United Nations started out with a noble charter…but the United Nations has not only failed their charter, they have distinctly moved in the opposite direction and done actual harm…. They have become an anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-democratic, anti-freedom mob…. We need some type of alternative – a Covenant of Democratic Nations…. We need to repeal and replace.”
Sarah Stern, founder of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), pinpointed America’s 22 percent share of the overall UN budget. Stern said America was not getting what it pays for when “despotic, ruthless, tyrannical regimes” such as Syria “could pass judgment on the one democracy in the Middle East.” The UN has, she said, proven to be “abysmal” and added, “It is now time to begin having this conversation about dissolving the United Nations and replacing with a Covenant of Democratic Nations that share our common values…of tolerance, human rights, and the rule of law.”
Famed constitutional attorney Nathan Lewin, who has worked on 28 Supreme Court cases, proclaimed to the room, “The United Nations deserves an obituary…because the United Nations committed suicide when it adopted Resolution 2334. It wrote its own death warrant…. Today I am happy to join a group that would spell the end of the United Nations, the end of its funding, it presence and significance in the world order.”
The Covenant launch in Washington was only the beginning. Additional panels and town hall meetings will convene in several locales in the coming weeks. The conversation has begun.
About the Author: Edwin Black is the author of several books including “ IBM and the Holocaust” and the initiator of the Covenant of the Democratic Nations effort. For his prior efforts, he has been awarded the Moral Courage Award, the Moral Compass Award, and the Justice for All Award.
UNESCO has intervened in the long-running Israeli-Arab conflict over Jerusalem's holy sites of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. It passed a resolution for the sites to be referred to only by their Arabic names - Haram al-Sharif and the Buraq Wall - thereby ignoring any Jewish connection.
By The Librarian
Over the past year we have been celebrating 70 years of the United Nations and indeed, there is much to be proud of and grateful for. Over the past year alone, Member States adopted an ambitious development agenda – Agenda 2030 – as well as the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change, a process in which I was honoured to play a role. These agreements demonstrate, once again, the power and the value of the UN when its Member States are united in purpose.
At the same time, the world is facing complex challenges that the UN’s founders could have scarcely imagined 70 years ago. As our societies have grown more interconnected, so have our problems. The global migration and refugee crisis has demonstrated that armed conflict, environmental degradation and human rights violations in one part of the world can have repercussions across the world. We are already witnessing the effects of climate change, the impacts of which are being felt most acutely by the poorest societies that are least able to cope. We have also been made painfully aware that terrorism knows no borders and that violent extremists are increasingly adept at exploiting power vacuums, instability and discontent to spread hatred and destruction.
Image: United Nations Working together to tackle the biggest challenges
It is evident that we can no longer afford to deal with such challenges in an isolated manner or ignore the full range of their impacts – social, political, environmental and economic. Doing so risks inflaming vicious cycles of conflict. The only way to take on these challenges is by working collectively; either we figure out ways of winning together, or we will all lose together.
In these complicated times, and in a fraught and shifting geopolitical environment, the United Nations remains the indispensable organization that can bring the world around the table to formulate collective responses to shared challenges. Even as these challenges grow increasingly complex, Member States continue to turn to the UN as the universal forum to build consensus and unity in the face of daunting obstacles. But in order to deliver on its crucial responsibilities in a fast-moving world, the UN as an institution has to evolve. This requires visionary leadership and creativity to adapt the way we think, the way we engage, and the way we work.
Four priorities for peace and security
For the UN to take on the global challenges of the 21st century, I believe the next secretary-general should focus on four broad priorities in the field of peace and security.
First, conflict prevention and strengthened political engagement must be brought to the forefront of the UN’s agenda. This is not a new idea –three major reviews of the UN’s peace and security architecture over the past year have reiterated this point. The UN secretariat needs to be more creative in presenting to the Security Council the full spectrum of instruments we have at our disposal to prevent and de-escalate conflicts, from special envoys, regional political offices and political missions, to peacebuilding support efforts and specialized, interdisciplinary teams that can provide host governments with focused support. The UN should also use its greatest assets – its convening power and legitimacy – to be more active at bringing together stakeholders to negotiate political settlements and resolve conflicts before violence erupts.
Additionally, we must remember that conflict prevention requires sowing the seeds of long-term peace through development and prosperity. Agenda 2030 highlights the old truth that there is no peace without sustainable development – and no sustainable development without peace.
A second priority should be promoting full integration of UN system-wide efforts. Too often the UN’s political, developmental and human rights efforts are functioning at cross-purposes. This must stop. The multi-dimensional challenges we face require multi-dimensional thinking and action. We must overcome institutional inertia and instil a culture of systemic collaboration and inter-disciplinary thinking appropriate for the interconnected world we live in. The new secretary-general and their team should find innovative ways of harnessing the full capacities of the UN system, including the agencies, funds and programmes to be able to tackle issues on all fronts. This also requires undertaking renewed efforts to promote better internal governance, transparency and accountability. And we must heed the call from both Member States and UN staff to adapt our bureaucratic processes to be more agile and effective, and better respond to evolving realities in the field.
Third, the UN must become a better partner. Regional and sub-regional organizations such as the African Union, European Union, Arab League, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and others play a critical role in conflict resolution and prevention. We must recognize that other actors are sometimes better placed to react more rapidly and effectively. In such cases, we should work together with these organizations to identify the ways the UN can best support and enable regional efforts. And our approach should be grounded in a spirit of mutual respect and recognition of comparative advantages.
Finally, the next secretary-general should redouble diplomatic engagement with Member States, particularly the Security Council, through closer and more regular interaction aimed at finding and expanding points of consensus. While the Council has been criticized for its handling of the Syrian crisis, we must recognize that it found common ground on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons and on authorizing cross-border humanitarian access. Even in the most seemingly intractable conflicts, there is room for agreement on issues of common interest, and the secretary-general should use their diplomatic arsenal and creativity to facilitate consensus among Member States, even when consensus seems impossible.
Making the impossible a reality
Indeed, a universal agreement to combat climate change seemed impossible only a few years ago. But through persistent, hopeful leadership and old-fashioned multilateral diplomacy –the UN’s raison d’être and greatest strength – we were able to make the impossible possible. I am confident that together we can do the same for the multitude of challenges we face today. Billions of people around the world affected by conflict, poverty and hardship are counting on us. We cannot fail them.
But academia only held the fervent Catholic's interest for a couple of years. . .......
By Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service
Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience Bahram Hemdemov was not freed in the February amnesty and an appeal on his behalf is now being prepared to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 News Service. Despite rulings from the UN Committee in 2015 that the rights of four imprisoned Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors had been violated (both by their imprisonment and torture during their imprisonment), the Turkmenistan government has failed to expunge their criminal records, offered recompense or taken measures to prevent similar violations in future. No alternative to compulsory military service has been introduced. Pirnazar Hudainazarov, Chair of Parliament's Legislative Committee, refused absolutely to discuss this with Forum 18. At the labour camp at Seydi where Hemdemov is being held, Muslim prisoners are too afraid to attend the prison mosque for fear of being branded "Wahhabis" and sent for harsher punishment, a former prisoner told Forum 18.
Jehovah's Witnesses have expressed disappointment that 52-year-old prisoner of conscience Bahram Hemdemov was not included in the prisoner amnesty declared in February, when 1,485 prisoners were reportedly freed. All Hemdemov's attempts to overturn his sentence on appeal have failed. "Since his imprisonment, officers have pressured him to confess to fabricated violations, subjected him to hard physical labour, and severely beaten him in retaliation for judicial complaints filed by his wife on his behalf," Jehovah's Witnesses lamented to Forum 18 News Service. No civilian alternative to compulsory military service has been introduced.
An appeal on Hemdemov's behalf is being prepared to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18.
Hemdemov is being held in the general regime section of the Seydi Labour Camp, in the desert in the eastern Lebap Region. Many prisoners of conscience have been held there in recent years, including Jehovah's Witness and Protestants. Many of these have been tortured in the camp in recent years (see Forum 18's Turkmenistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1676).
Muslims in the Seydi Labour Camp are too frightened to attend the prison mosque (see below).
No conscientious objectors to military service are known currently to be imprisoned. The last known imprisoned conscientious objector, Ruslan Narkuliyev, was freed in February 2015 (see F18News 18 February 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2039).
UN: rights violated
In March and October 2015 the UN Human Rights Committee found that Turkmenistan had violated the rights of four young men by imprisoning them for refusing compulsory religious service on grounds of religious conscience. The Committee also ruled that beatings and other maltreatment (such as a head being repeatedly bashed against a wall) of Zafar Abdullayev, Mahmud Hudaybergenov, Ahmet Hudaybergenov and Sunnet Japparov is torture and the government needs to provide reparations (see below).
The government is also under an obligation to arrest those guilty of the torture.
No one at the Foreign Ministry in the capital Ashgabad was available on 5 April to discuss with Forum 18 what measures – if any – have been put in place to compensate the four young men for the violation of their rights or to prevent others similarly having their rights violated.
The official who answered the telephone at Turkmenistan's Mission to the United Nations in Geneva on 5 April told Forum 18 that Ambassador Atageldi Haljanov was unavailable and asked for questions to be sent in writing. The same day Forum 18 wrote to ask what steps the government has taken to recompense these four young men for the violations of their rights and what steps it has taken to prevent the violations (imposition of compulsory military service, torture) happening again. Forum 18 had received no response by the end of the working day in Switzerland.
New Religion Law, but no alternative service law
On 26 March, Turkmenistan's parliament, the Mejlis, adopted a new Religion Law. The text had not been made public by 5 April (see forthcoming F18News article).
However, despite the UN Human Rights Committee's reminder to Turkmenistan that guaranteeing those with conscientious objections to serving in the armed forces requires the provision of a genuine civilian alternative, the country has not adopted an alternative service law or any other civilian alternative to compulsory military service.
Turkmenistan offers no alternative to its compulsory military service. Article 41 of the Constitution describes defence as a "sacred duty" of everyone and states that military service is compulsory for men. Military service for men between the ages of 18 and 27 is generally two years. A proposed Alternative Service Law was reportedly drafted in 2013, but officials have been unable to tell Forum 18 if and when it might be adopted (see F18News 29 September 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2002).
Pirnazar Hudainazarov, Chair of the Mejlis Legislative Committee, refused absolutely to discuss why no civilian alternative service has been introduced. "You shouldn't call me – you need to speak via the Foreign Ministry," he insisted to Forum 18 on 5 April. He then put the phone down without explaining why the Foreign Ministry needed to be involved. The telephone of Atamurad Tayliev, Chair of the Mejlis Committee on the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms, went unanswered the same day each time Forum 18 called.
Raid, arrest, torture, prison term
Police arrested Hemdemov on 14 March 2015 during a raid on a meeting for worship in his home in Turkmenabad [Turkmenabat] (formerly Charjew), following which they tortured him. On 19 May 2015 a Judge at Lebap Regional Court sentenced him to the maximum four year prison term on charges of inciting religious hatred under Criminal Code Article 177, Part 2. The Judge also ruled that Hemdemov's property should be confiscated (see F18News 21 May 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2063).
"The prison warden refused to allow anyone to visit Bahram Hemdemov in prison - including close relatives - until the time limit for appealing against the verdict had passed," Jehovah's Witnesses complained to Forum 18. "The warden thus prevented Bahram or a representative from appealing against the conviction."
On 10 June 2015 the authorities transferred Hemdemov from his home town of Turkmenabad to the labour camp in Seydi.
Hemdemov's wife, Gulzira Hemdemova, appealed to the Supreme Court in Ashgabad. However, the deputy chair of the Supreme Court found no basis to grant the appeal. In early August 2015, Hemdemov's lawyer filed a supervisory appeal. On 25 August 2015, the Supreme Court denied the appeal because Hemdemov "propagates the religious beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses", fellow Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18.
Hemdemov's address in prison is:
746222 Lebap vilayet
Afraid to attend prison mosque
Although the general regime Seydi labour camp has its own prison mosque, prisoners are afraid to attend, according to a former prisoner in the camp. "The mosque is open to any prisoner, but Muslim prisoners won't go for fear of being branded a ‘Wahhabi'," the former prisoner told Forum 18. "So at Friday prayers there are usually only about four or five people." The former prisoner added that the prison library – which prisoners make good use of - has no religious literature.
The term "Wahhabi" is widely used in Central Asia for any devout Muslim, regardless of whether they do or do not commit or espouse violence.
Prisoners branded as "Wahhabis" are given harsh treatment and are often confined in special sections of prisons. In February 2015 in the strict regime Seydi Labour Camp, Muslim prisoners convicted of alleged "Wahhabism" were subjected to brutal beatings. One man suffered a broken hand, while another suffered a broken rib and damage to his lung.
Many imprisoned "Wahhabis" are also held in a closed section of the isolated top-security prison at Ovadan-Depe in the Karakum desert 70 kms (45 miles) north of Ashgabad (see F18News 18 February 2015 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2039).
Forum 18 has been unable to find out if these "Wahhabis" were imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief or for committing crimes.
Authorities frequently use torture
The authorities frequently use torture and violence, including violence apparently ordered by the government. In 2011 the UN Committee against Torture found that, in Turkmenistan "persons deprived of their liberty are tortured, ill-treated and threatened by public officers, especially at the moment of apprehension and during pretrial detention, to extract confessions and as an additional punishment after the confession" (see UN reference CAT/C/TKM/CO/1 http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4ef0540f2.html).
This includes against the relatives and friends of 15 then-current and former conscientious objector prisoners who appealed to the UN Human Rights Committee between September 2012 and August 2013 against their imprisonment and maltreatment. The prisoners of conscience were in Seydi Labour Camp regularly subjected to spells in the punishment cell and some were brutally beaten (see F18News 21 March 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1940).
After the UN sought information from the government about the complaints, the home of a prisoner was raided in January 2013 and individuals were beaten, threatened with rape and fined (see F18News 14 February 2013 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1801).
UN says rights violated
The four Jehovah's Witness conscientious objectors - Abdullayev, Mahmud Hudaybergenov, Ahmet Hudaybergenov and Japparov - all lodged cases against Turkmenistan to the UN Human Rights Committee in September 2012. They complained both about their conviction and punishments for wishing to perform a civilian alternative service in place of the compulsory military service, as well as beatings and other torture they endured while imprisoned. Abdullayev also complained that he had been convicted and punished twice for the same "crime".
In a 17 March 2014 response to the UN Human Rights Committee, the Turkmen authorities insisted all four were not eligible for exemption from compulsory military service and that each man's criminal offence was "determined accurately according to the Criminal Code of Turkmenistan" and had been "considered carefully" by the courts. The response failed to address the issue of why the men had not been offered a civilian alternative to military service or why they had been tortured while imprisoned.
The UN Human Rights Committee issued its decisions in 2015 (Zafar Abdullayev v. Turkmenistan, 25 March 2015 (CCPR/C/113/D/2218/2012); Mahmud Hudaybergenov v. Turkmenistan, 29 October 2015 (CCPR/C/115/D/2221/2012); Ahmet Hudaybergenov v. Turkmenistan, 29 October 2015 (CCPR/C/115/D/2222/2012); Sunnet Japparow v. Turkmenistan, 29 October 2015 (CCPR/C/115/D/2223/2012)). The UN made public Abdullayev's decision in May 2015, the other three in December 2015.
The Committee found in all four cases that the men's right to freedom of religion or belief under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights had been violated.
"The right to conscientious objection to military service inheres in the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion," the Committee noted. "It entitles any individual to an exemption from compulsory military service if such service cannot be reconciled with that individual's religion or beliefs. The right must not be impaired by coercion. A State may, if it wishes, compel the objector to undertake a civilian alternative to military service, outside the military sphere and not under military command. The alternative service must not be of a punitive nature. It must be a real service to the community and compatible with respect for human rights."
The Committee found in all four cases that the men's right to be free from torture under Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights had been violated.
"The Committee takes note of the author's claim that, when he was arrested on 4 September 2010, the police slammed his head against a wall and that, after his conviction, during the first 18 days of his detention he was beaten on four occasions," the UN ruling in the case of Ahmet Hudaybergenov notes. "The author also claims that upon arrival at the LBK-12 prison on 8 October 2010, he was again beaten and that beatings continued regularly throughout his imprisonment. The State party has not refuted these allegations, nor provided any information in this respect. In the circumstances, due weight must be given to the author's allegations."
In Abdullayev's case, the Committee found that his right not to be punished twice for the same offence under Article 14, Part 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights had been violated.
"Under an obligation" to make reparation
All four judgments point out that under Article 2, Part 3a of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Turkmenistan's government is "under an obligation" to provide the victims with an effective remedy. "This requires it to make full reparation to individuals whose Covenant rights have been violated. Accordingly, the State party is also obligated, inter alia, to expunge the author's criminal record and to provide him with adequate compensation. The State party is under an obligation to avoid similar violations of the Covenant in the future, which includes the adoption of legislative measures guaranteeing the right to conscientious objection."
The government has not expunged the criminal convictions of Abdullayev, Mahmud Hudaybergenov, Ahmet Hudaybergenov or Japparow, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. Nor has it offered compensation. Nor has it adopted a civilian alternative to compulsory military service.
The UN Human Rights Committee said it "wishes to receive" from Turkmenistan its response on measures it had taken within 180 days. It also requested Turkmenistan to publish the Committee's rulings in the cases.
Forum 18 is not aware that the Turkmen government has responded to the UN Human Rights Committee on Abdullayev's case. However, it provided "brief" responses on the other three cases and "dialogue" is continuing, Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. (END)
Russia Targets Jehovah’s Witnesses With Anti-Extremist Legislation, Reports UN Human Rights CommitteeBy Nicole
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia—The year 2016 marks 125 years since czarist authorities banished Semyon Kozlitskiy, one of the first Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, for preaching the Bible’s message. In 1891, without a trial, Mr. Kozlitskiy was shackled in chains and exiled to Siberia, where he lived until his death in 1935.
Over the past century, Russia’s feelings toward Jehovah’s Witnesses have remained largely the same. As noted in the latest reporting cycle of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, numerous sources indicate that Russia continues “to curtail freedom of expression, . . . and freedom of religion, targeting, inter alia, Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
The Human Rights Committee has been mandated to monitor compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Russia is a state party. “The drafters of the ICCPR,” says Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, “recognized the essential character of freedom of religion or belief by making it, in its internal sphere, non-derogable [cannot be taken away or compromised] even in times of emergency (Article 4.2). Being non-derogable is a status that few other categories of human rights enjoy.” Following its 113th session (see top image), the Committee issued its latest periodic report of the Russian Federation, concluding that while Russia ostensibly protects freedom of religion by being party to the Covenant, courts throughout the federation have been arbitrarily wielding anti-extremist legislation against the Witnesses.
Russia’s Federal Law “On Combating Extremist Activity” (No. 114-FZ), was adopted in 2002, partly to address concerns about terrorism. However, Russia amended the law in 2006, 2007, and 2008 so that it extends “far beyond any fears of extremism linked to terrorism,” according to the article “Russia’s Extremism Law Violates Human Rights,” published in The Moscow Times. Now the law “simply seizes upon the ‘terrorist’ vocabulary that has become commonplace internationally since the 9/11 assault on the Twin Towers in [New York City], and uses it to describe unwelcome religious groups across Russia,” explains Derek H. Davis, formerly the director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. Hence, “the ‘extreme’ label,” says Mr. Davis, “has been unfairly and disproportionately used against Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
The Human Rights Committee detects that the heart of the problem lies in the law’s vague definition of extremist activity. Geraldine Fagan, author of Believing in Russia—Religious Policy After Communism,explained to The Washington Post that the law’s open-ended language makes it very easy for local courts “to rustle up a few so-called experts who may not particularly like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and get them to write a report that their literature is extremist.”
Such was the case at the start of this year, when negative testimony by an expert linguist resulted in a Vyborg City Court judge declaring two of the Witnesses’ magazines extremist. The same prosecutor also filed a claim to declare as extremist the New World Translation, the Bible produced by the Witnesses. Hearings began on March 15, 2016.
Bible literature intended for import to Russia stored at the Central Europe branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses located in Selters, Germany. In March 2015 Russian customs officials began blocking imports of the Witnesses’ publications.
The Witnesses’ legal difficulty in 2016 was presaged by alarming developments in 2015. As Roman Lunkin, head of the Center for Religion and Society Studies at the Institute of Europe Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, points out, “not only did persecution become more severe in 2015 but it also significantly increased.” In March, Russian authorities blocked all imports of the Witnesses’ religious literature, even literature that Russian courts had previously examined and declared free of any signs of extremism. In July, Russian customs officials began blocking the importation of Russian-language Bibles published by the Witnesses. Also in July, the Russian Federation became the only country in the world to ban the Witnesses’ official website, jw.org. In November, Jehovah’s Witnesses were denied import of a shipment of Russian Synodal Bibles commonly used by other Christian communities in Russia—including the Russian Orthodox Church. The year ended with what The Washington Postdescribed as “one of Russia’s largest anti-extremism trials in recent memory,” when a judge in the port city of Taganrog convicted 16 of Jehovah’s Witnesses on criminal charges for organizing and attending peaceful religious meetings.
In the Taganrog case, as well as others like it, there is great irony. “The older generation of Jehovah’s Witnesses who are being prosecuted already hold certificates as victims of repression,” recalls Mr. Lunkin. During the Soviet era, thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses were imprisoned. In 1990, Russia released the last of the Witnesses. These former prisoners had their reputation officially cleared, each receiving Certificates of Rehabilitation, which stated they were not “enemies of the nation,” but innocent victims. Thus, reasons Mr. Lunkin, “Russian authorities are now, by means of the anti-extremist legislation, in effect, revoking that rehabilitation.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia did, however, win a rare legal victory on May 27, 2015, when the Russian Federation Ministry of Justice restored the registration of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a Local Religious Organization (LRO) in Moscow, a status the Witnesses lost when their legal entity in Moscow was liquidated on March 26, 2004. The Witnesses appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and on June 10, 2010, the ECHR ordered Russia to reinstate the Witnesses’ registration in Moscow as well as pay moral damages.
Lyubov and Alexey Koptev, Jehovah’s Witnesses, embrace in their garden in Taganrog, Russia, on November 11, 2015. On November 30, 2015, Mr. Koptev, along with 15 other Witnesses, was convicted at the Taganrog City Court for extremist activity—organizing and attending peaceful religious meetings. Mr. Koptev, a retiree with grandchildren, holds merits from the state for 38 years of faithful work at the legendary Factory ‘Red boilermaker’ (‘Krasnyy Kotelshik’).
“I agree with the ECHR’s finding,” states the UN Special Rapporteur. “Banning Jehovah’s Witnesses’ right to organize themselves according to their religion was ‘drastic’ and ‘disproportionate,’ and violated freedom of religion.” Per the ECHR ruling, the Russian government paid the fine; but they waited to restore the Witnesses’ legal entity until last May—nearly five years after the ECHR order.
Certificates of Rehabilitation. Thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses who were imprisoned for their faith during the Soviet era received these documents upon their release, officially clearing their reputation and confirming that they were not “enemies of the nation.”
A spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, Yaroslav Sivulskiy, states: “Moscow is home to over 9,600 Jehovah’s Witnesses, with an estimated 175,000 Witnesses living throughout the federation. All Witnesses in Russia, as well as our global brotherhood of over 8 million worshippers, remain hopeful that the registration issued from Russia’s capital proves to be a harbinger of genuine religious freedom throughout the federation.” However, experts such as Mr. Davis suggest Russia’s move to restore Jehovah’s Witnesses as an LRO, “while integral to its facial obligations to practice religious freedom, should be viewed principally as a political move to appease the world community.”
In 2015 the Human Rights Committee reiterated its recommendations from 2003 and 2009, that Russia should “revise without undue delay the Federal Law on Combating Extremist Activity,” clarifying the definition of “extremist activity,” ensuring that it requires an element of violence or hatred and clearly outlines how materials may be classified as extremist. Additionally, the Committee has implored Russia to “take all measures necessary to prevent the arbitrary use of the law and revise the Federal List of Extremist Materials.”
Nikolay Trotsyuk (second from right) was imprisoned for three years for conscientiously objecting to military service during the Soviet era. On November 30, 2015, he was again criminally charged, this time along with his son-in-law Andrey Goncharov (far left), daughter Oksana Goncharova (third from left), son Sergey Trotsyuk (far right), and 12 other Witnesses in Taganrog.
“The discrimination against communities of Jehovah’s Witnesses constitutes religious persecution in the truest sense,” states Mr. Lunkin, “while other recognized religions can engage in the same religious activity as Jehovah’s Witnesses and remain unpunished.” Yet, after all of the legal accusations, often accompanied by aggressive media campaigns against them, Mr. Lunkin concludes, “Jehovah’s Witnesses remain a nationwide organization, and the number of their followers has steadily grown.”
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