By Guest Indiana
Reports from the Kuril Islands say that on February 25, 2019, in the town of Kurilsk and in the village of Reydovo (Sakhalin region), FSB officers searched two women, Olga Kalinnikova and Larisa Potapova, both Jehovah's Witnesses. The searches were conducted using a warrant issued by Chief of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation for the Sakhalin Region Lieutenant General (!) S. Kudryashov, as well as on the basis of a warrant from the judge of the Sakhalin Regional (!) Court, V. Malyovanny.
Although the operation was formally called the “Inspection of the premises," computers, hard drives, cell phones, flash drives, and other personal items were confiscated from the two women. Criminal charges have not been initiated, and the women are not named as suspects or accused. Reason for the seizures was not explained. As a result, the women were left without means of communication on an isolated island.
About 1,600 people live in Kurilsk, and about 1,000 people live in Reydovo.
Law enforcement officials throughout the country continue to misinterpret ordinary religious activities of citizens as “extremist activities." Meanwhile, the Government of Russia has repeatedly insisted that the decisions of the Russian courts to ban the organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses “set out no assessment of the religious denomination of Jehovah’s Witnesses or limitation or prohibition to individually manifest the aforementioned denominations.”
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By The Librarian
"They Oppose Freedom of Worship," by Hayden C. Covington. Audio lecture given at the 1953 International Assembly of Jehovah's Witnesses. At the time, Covington was Chief Legal Counsel of Jehovah's Witnesses and had served as Vice President of the Watchtower Society in the 1940s. Covington helped secure several key legal victories for Jehovah's Witnesses before the Supreme Court of the United States in the 1940s.
Interesting article and video.....
On 11 December most countries will sign the UN Compact in Morocco. It is part of the "Agenda 21" plan for the 21 st century started in 1992. Read up about Agenda 21, agenda 2030 and about this Compact for Migration which will criminalize anyone saying anything against the UN plan. Those countries who signed are obliged to assist migrants financially and basically all people have a right to migrate....(no more borders). About 20 nations are now fighting it and will be forced by fines for not complying. It is part of the UN plan for one world government... Is this real? Or a conspiracy.... ? Watch this little video and give comments of the implications. I have the original documents and on this Youtube link you can also download the UN document "agenda 21". NGOs have already been receiving funds to implement it for the past 20 years and both republican and democratic governments has been changing laws to implement is..... It has been going on under our noses and the general public does not know. My interest in this is the fulfillment of prophecy which indicates the UN or coalition of governments to rule for short period of time before Armageddon. There are huge implications to this .... but first watch this little video to begin the discussion.... here is the link.....
'Mismanagement' keeps UN from reaching full potential, Trump says in debut speech
By The Librarian
Our Brother Bill Underwood wrote an interesting article in the newspaper:
If you had to choose between Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech, which would you choose?Now, you’re thinking, ‘I don’t have to choose, I already have both.’ Are you sure?Last August, the central district court of Tver – the oblast or ‘state’ in which Moscow resides, banned a religious website, jw.org. They did this secretly, not notifying the owners of the website until the day before the ban was to go into effect – January 22, 2014. Had they prevailed, their rationale would have been to claim, as they have in the past, that the ‘free speech’ on jw.org defames other religions. Jw.org won that battle in the court of appeals, but the foundation on which the attack was based still exists.In 1999, Pakistan brought a resolution to the UN calling for a ban on “Defamation of Islam.” Cooler heads prevailed and, after much discussion, the Commission on Human Rights passed instead a resolution banning “Defamation of Religion.”Over the years from 2000 to 2009 the resolution was added to, revised, strengthened, and re-worded, but it was consistently approved. Aside from the lack of elections, U.N. politicians are no different from any other type. It would have been politically incorrect to be seen as anti-Muslim, especially after 9/11, so passing a bill to protect them from defamation seemed like a good idea. Typical was the vote of the UN General Assembly in December, 2007: 108 for, 51 against, and 25 abstaining.In 2009, however, Pakistan pushed again. Their resolution that year stated that they were concerned that defamation of religion led to “the creation of a kind of Islamophobia in which Muslims were typecast as terrorists." They weren't opposed to freedom of expression, oh no. They merely wanted to ban "expression that led to incitement.”They said the hatred of Muslims was just like the hatred of Jews that Hitler had whipped up in pre-WWII Germany, and look what that led to. Has there been a Muslim “krystallnacht” that I didn’t hear about...the night of August 9, 1938 when Germans destroyed over 7,000 Jewish businesses and over 1,000 synagogues? Even in the days after 9/11 when there was enormous outrage against Muslims, the level of hatred never approached that.Pakistan’s proposed resolution said basically that freedom of speech sometimes has to yield in order to maintain peace. Governments such as Russia, Pakistan, and most of the middle east are quick to use this argument: some opinion or expression of yours is causing distress to others; therefore, instead of telling the ‘others’ to grow up and get over it, they tell you to stop expressing your opinion.In any case, this was a step too far, and the pendulum began to swing back. Pakistan’s argument was recognized for what it was, and over 200 civic groups, some Muslim, some Christian, some atheist, demanded that the UN push back.Over the preceding 10 years, the UN had assigned a “special rapporteur” to analyze the subject of defamation of religion and report back. The rapporteur’s report in 2009 included this telling statement:
“[We] encourage a shift away from the sociological concept of the defamation of religions towards the legal norm of non-incitement to national, racial or religious hatred." Three months later when the United States and Egypt introduced a resolution which condemned "racial and religious stereotyping," EU representative Jean-Baptiste Mattei said the European Union "rejected and would continue to reject the concept of defamation of religions." Significantly, he said:
"Human rights laws did not and should not protect belief systems." And the representative from Chile pointed out that,
"The concept of the defamation of religion took them in an area that could lead to the actual prohibition of opinions." A month later, at a human rights meeting in Geneva, the United States representative admitted that defamation of religion is “a fundamentally flawed concept.” The rep from Sweden repeated what the Frenchman had said earlier: international human rights law protects individuals, not institutions or religions.By 2011 the backlash was complete. The UNHRC declared that "Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with” the charter of the Human Rights Committee.In the years since then, any proposal in the UN attempting to ban ‘defamation of religion’ has been shot down. Freedom of speech has trumped freedom of religion.Last week, far from worrying about ‘defamation,’ the UN came out loudly and publicly chastising the Vatican.
This has never happened before. Their purported justification for doing so went like this: The Vatican is a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 34 of which reads in part:
“Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.” The UN accused the Vatican not merely of failing to protect children, but of actively endangering children by their policy of moving pederasts to new parishes where they could continue their predations, and of obfuscating all attempts by law enforcement agencies to find and prosecute the offenders.Now, here’s where it gets really interesting: The UN went further. They also condemned the Church’s doctrines regarding homosexuality, abortion, and ‘reproductive rights.’Chastising a signatory of a contract for failing to abide by the contract is one thing; Attempting to dictate to a church what their doctrines should be is something else. Where is the UN’s authority to do that? Yet they did it anyway.If, as the UN says, religions and belief systems are not protected by human rights - and I agree, they clearly are not – what prevents them from taking the next step: deciding that religions and belief systems are nothing more than ancient superstitions that are doing more harm than good, and that it’s time to ban them?It’s too bad the UN doesn’t have any teeth. Do they? We'll Investigate that next.
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.
By Guest Kurt
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
Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. 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
Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. , Mr. Maina Kiai (Kenya), Special Rapporteur on Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. , and Mr. Ahmed Shaheed (the Maldives), Special Rapporteur on Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. . The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the
Hello guest! Please register or sign in (it's free) to view the hidden content. 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:
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By Guest Nicole
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.
By Guest Nicole
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 Guest Nicole
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)
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Russia Targets Jehovah’s Witnesses With Anti-Extremist Legislation, Reports UN Human Rights CommitteeBy Guest 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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