Jehovah's Witnesses will not have to go to Flemish court

26-10-2021

Western Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis, CNE.news

A Jehovah's Witness during an international congress in the Netherlands in 2019. image ANP, Jeroen Jumelet

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Belgium do not have to go to court for sexual abuse of minors. The Brussels council chamber has decided this.

According to the council chamber, the “unilateral statements” are not supported by enough evidence, the Flemish broadcaster VRT reported last week.

The cult observatory Iacsso, an independent centre of the federal public service of the Belgian justice, reported at the end of 2018 that it had received various testimonies from people who had suffered sexual violence as children at the hands of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their statements would show that the abuse in this society was covered up through an internal legal system.

The federal prosecutor’s office subsequently opened an investigation and in April 2019 carried out house searches at the headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Belgium, in Kraainem.

That investigation has now ended, and at the beginning of this month, the court decided to follow the federal prosecutor’s claim and order a non-prosecution for the “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses”, which falls under the category of “non-profit association”, i.e. an association that has its legal personality that is separate from that of its members.

“In rejecting the charges, the court concluded that Iacsso’s unilateral statements were not supported by any other evidence,” the Jehovah’s Witnesses told VRT. Meanwhile, on June 18 this year, the organization filed a “civil claim for libel” with the Ministry of Justice of Belgium, responsible for Iacsso, over the “false statements” made by this cult observatory about the child protection policy of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. A hearing on this libel charge is scheduled for May 5 next year.

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