Mandated shunning news from Belgium

Belgium


Information about mandated shunning stories and legal cases will be added as they are shared and make their way through the courts


Belgium's Timeline for Progress in Stopping Mandated Shunning


2011


Activists study the court case of Jacques Lejeune in Liège (Belgium). Jacques is a huge source of inspiration for them, a real warrior for human rights. He was the first to split off "shunning" from "disfellowshipping" and bring this treatment of disfellowshipped ones before a civil court.


2012


Fifty ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses meet in Belgium to discuss how the Watch Tower organisation uses mental manipulation and coercive control. After the meeting, it is suggested that all in attendance bring shunning before the Ghent criminal court. Recognising that speaking out may result in loss of contact with their loved ones within the organisation, many are nervous about putting their testimony in writing and presenting it to the court. Winning a court case against JWs appears to be impossible.


2015


A complaint before the public prosecutor in Ghent is filed. The file contains 35 testimonials and 15 victims subscribe as “civil party”. Shortly after this, the public prosecutor files a lawsuit in criminal court against the JW shunning policy. Unia, an organisation which campaigns against discrimination joins the fight against shunning and declares it to be “mandatory social death sentencing”.


2021


March: The Ghent court decides that the shunning policy by JWs is a hate and discrimination crime.

June: Despite the Watch Tower organisation refusing to accept an invitation for an interview during the initial judicial investigation, claiming that court has nothing to do with their freedom of religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses appeal the court’s decision saying they were not heard and that the shunning policy is a personal decision conforming to what one learns out of the Bible, being an expression of freedom of religion.


2022


The Appeals Court listens to arguments from JWs about why shunning should not be a crime. Before the court, each perpetrator maintains that shunning is a personal decision and had nothing to do with their religion. The Appeal Court agrees with JW’s argument that they were not heard and Watch Tower is acquitted of any crime. UNIA’s lawyers advise taking the case to the Belgian Supreme Court.


2023

The Belgian Supreme Court upholds the decision of the Belgian Appeal Court.


2024


Serious thought is given to taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France on the basis that shunning is not a personal decision but is mandated by the Watch Tower organisation and that, as such, the policy is in violation of seven article (3, 5, 7, 12, 18, 19 and 30) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Legal counsel advises that the Belgian case would have to be taken to the ECHR “as is” and that new elements such as the mandated nature of the shunning may not be introduced into the debate. Losing the case before ECHR would dramatically damage the chances of success for upcoming court cases, so it is decided not to take such a risk.

Summary


The current situation in Belgium is on hold. Activists are assessing the progress in other countries to stop mandated shunning before deciding what they will do next.


Further Reading


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There are several European court cases underway that will prosecute either a specified high control group, or will set a legal precedent that mandated shunning is a crime. We are seeking to fund cases with the ICC in the Hague and the European Court of Human Rights.

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