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The Courtroom of Brussels Finds the CIAOSN Report Ailing-Based • The European Occasions Information


The governmental “cult watchdog” CIAOSN printed a textual content that was methodologically defective and included false statements, the decide stated.

Palais de Justice of Brussels - Jehovah’s Witnesses and Sexual Abuse: The Court of Brussels Finds the CIAOSN Report Ill-Founded
The Palais de Justice of Brussels, the seat of the Justice Courtroom of Brussels. Credit.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have obtained one other authorized victory in Belgium on June 16, 2022, this time towards the governmental “cult watchdog” referred to as CIAOSN (Centre d’info et d’avis sur les organisations sectaires nuisibles, Centre for Info and Recommendation on Dangerous Cultic Organizations), an impartial heart established by the Belgian regulation of June 2, 1998, amended with the regulation of April 12, 2004, on the Belgian Ministry of Justice.

On November 30, 2018, CIAOSN produced the report “Signalement sur le traitement des abus sexuels sur mineurs au sein de l’organisation des témoins de Jéhovah” (Report on the Therapy of the Sexual Abuse of Minors Throughout the Group of Jehovah’s Witnesses). The report was shared with the Home of Representatives and the Minister of Justice. Within the following months, information concerning the report have been printed by a number of Belgian media, claiming {that a} CIAOSN official doc had indicated that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been hiding instances of sexual abuses of minors occurring inside their congregations, and a public investigation was wanted. In truth, in February 2019, a parliamentary Working Group investigating the difficulty was created. On April 5, 2019, the Working Group issued an interim report, which really useful that the “examine of the CIAOSN report” shall be continued by the Parliament.

On the identical time, additionally based mostly on the CIAOSN report, a prison case was began. As reported by Bitter Winter final yr, on October 5, 2021, after an investigation and a search on the nationwide Belgian headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Tribunal of First Occasion of Brussels dismissed the accusations towards the Belgian group of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and particular person members of the group, who had been accused of not reporting to the police allegations of kid sexual abuse of their congregations that they had turn into conscious of, thus violating Articles 422 bis and 442 quarter of the Legal Code of Belgium, which make reporting obligatory.

In 2019, the Jehovah’s Witnesses sued the creator of a selected vicious article printed within the Belgian newspaper Le Soir and the writer of the newspaper. On November 16, 2020, the Courtroom of Brussels discovered towards the Jehovah’s Witnesses, arguing that the newspaper had based mostly its article on a report by CIAOSN, a dependable governmental company. The Jehovah’s Witnesses then proceeded to sue the Belgian state, which is accountable for the actions of CIAOSN, on June 17, 2021.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses famous that the CIAOSN report was based mostly on a defective methodology, which led to unsupported conclusions and to false and slanderous info unfold to the media.

CIAOSN acknowledged within the doc that, “In June 2018, CIAOSN acquired a notification based on which three of the 286 testimonies acquired by the Basis ‘Reclaimed Voices’ within the Netherlands concern information which have allegedly taken place in Belgium.” It will appear that this was one of many components that induced the manufacturing of the CIAOSN report.

Nevertheless, on March 9, 2021, the Brussels-based NGO Human Rights With out Frontiers reported that, “A Dutch-speaking member of the board of Human Rights With out Frontiers (HRWF) contacted Reclaimed Voices in The Netherlands to examine the credibility of this info and get extra particulars concerning the three alleged instances of sexual abuse in Belgium. In his reply, the top of Reclaimed Voices within the Netherlands denied such a information made public in Belgium, saying in a non-public correspondence dated 10 February 2021: ‘The knowledge within the report of the CIAOSN shouldn’t be appropriate. On 29 March 2019, we despatched an e mail to CIAOSN about this inaccuracy. At the moment, it got here to our consideration that Koen Geens, Minister of Justice (CD&V), had stated on Radio 1 in Belgium: ‘It’s the CIAOSN itself which has gone to the Netherlands to search out this info and has acknowledged that among the many 286 Dutch complaints there have been three Belgian ones.’ One thing related was stated on tv at ‘Van Gils & Friends.’ Within the Dutch media, now we have solely testified concerning the state of affairs within the Netherlands. The figures that have been talked about are solely alleged victims of abuse within the Netherlands.”

How the info for the Netherlands have been collected and compiled is extremely questionable as properly, however so far as Belgium is anxious the very fact of the matter is that the three Belgian instances within the Reclaimed Voices record by no means existed. Within the Brussels case, the Belgian authorities acknowledged this reality, however claimed that this didn’t invalidate the report as a complete.

Other than the wrong reference to 3 Belgian instances “discovered” within the Netherlands, CIAOSN talked about that it had acquired different “direct or oblique” complaints, however most of its report didn’t cope with Belgium, there have been no particular instances quoted, and a lot of the “info” provided got here from press clippings.

The CIAOSN report - Jehovah’s Witnesses and Sexual Abuse: The Court of Brussels Finds the CIAOSN Report Ill-Founded
The CIAOSN report.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses additionally relied on an skilled report criticizing the CIAOSN textual content ready by the undersigned (Massimo Introvigne) and by American students Holly Folks and J. Gordon Melton.

In its resolution of June 16, 2022, the Courtroom of Brussels sums up the primary level of our criticism as follows: “lack of debate of the methodology; a selective use of some dependable tutorial sources; a subjective appreciation of sure beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses as peculiar or weird, when these beliefs are shared by many Christian denominations; the predominance of newspaper clippings as sources of data, and the omissions and errors that such sources have induced; an absence of contact with the nationwide workplace of the Jehovah’s Witnesses; the shortage of verification of the reality of the allegations; the shortage of proof of an alleged connection between sexual abuse and disfellowshipping of those that report it; the reliance on the controversial Australian Parliamentary Fee’s [Royal Commission] report, whose figures are based mostly largely on unconfirmed allegations of abuse inside the household and out of doors of any institutional context; the reliance on CIAOSN’s biased concept that their dualistic worldview makes Jehovah’s Witnesses an ‘at-risk’ group, whereas this worldview is shared by most non secular communities.”

The choice stories our conclusions as follows: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are singled out as a result of the anticult ideology stigmatizes them because the quintessential ‘cult,’ and creates a local weather the place “cults’ can’t hope to be handled pretty. The CIAOSN Report is methodologically problematic, and depends largely on press clippings and knowledge provided by anti-cultists, a few of them linked with FECRIS, a company an official American fee has denounced for systematically spreading false details about teams it labels as ‘cults,’ significantly the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The declare that there’s a huge variety of instances of unreported sexual abuse amongst Jehovah’s Witnesses in Belgium shouldn’t be substantiated by the report’s personal content material. Sadly, CIAOSN’s Report can’t be considered an goal, unbiased report. The truth that no representatives of the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been interviewed throughout the  preparation of the report, that Reclaimed Voices instances have been accepted at face worth with out an effort to research whether or not they actually occurred and have been accurately reported, that press clippings, in addition to info from anti-cult organizations, have been largely and uncritically used, are all components pointing to a bias. We advocate that no governmental or different motion be taken based mostly on this doc [the CIAOSN report].”

Massimo Introvigne J. Gordon Melton and Holly Folk - Jehovah’s Witnesses and Sexual Abuse: The Court of Brussels Finds the CIAOSN Report Ill-Founded
From left to proper: Massimo Introvigne, J. Gordon Melton, and Holly Folks.

The decide famous that each one what the Belgian authorities and CIAOSN needed to oppose to the consultants’ vital evaluation was that “the disputed report ‘is predicated on cross-checked and dependable sources, cited within the footnotes.’” The decide was not persuaded, and concluded that “the straightforward allegation by the Belgian state that the report is the results of meticulous analysis work by the CIAOSN doesn’t enable to disclaim the vital evaluation ready by the consultants.” Certainly, the decide discovered that press clippings and biased accounts, together with the controversial Australian report, have been the one sources of the CIAOSN report. A governmental “analysis heart that claims to be goal and neutral can’t moderately base most of its evaluation on press clippings or tv stories, the decide stated. Such a posture defended by the Belgian state ignores the rules of the scientific methodology and reverses the roles. A severe scientific discourse can’t discover its supply within the media.”

In conclusion, the Courtroom of Brussels, along with ordering the Belgian state to pay the authorized bills of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, discovered “that the CIAOSN dedicated misconduct in drafting and disseminating in December 2018 the report entitled ‘Report on the Therapy of the Sexual Abuse of Minors Throughout the Group of Jehovah’s Witnesses’.” The court docket ordered “the State to publish, at its personal expense, the current judgment on the homepage of the CIAOSN web site, for a interval of six months from the expiration of a interval of eight days from the date of service of the current judgment;” and “to publish a point out of the current judgment with a reference to its full textual content within the ‘information’ part of the CIAOSN web site.”

The judgement will certainly turn into a key precedent. It states that students of faith are a extra dependable supply on these issues than journalists and anti-cultists, and that governmental companies coping with the alleged “hazard of the cults” are usually not above the regulation and may be legally prosecuted once they unfold false info and slander.

First printed at BITTERWINTER.

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