The Courtroom of Brussels Finds the CIAOSN Report Unwell-Based • The European Instances Information

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

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” known as CIAOSN (Centre d’data et d’avis sur les organisations sectaires nuisibles, Centre for Data and Recommendation on Dangerous Cultic Organizations), an unbiased 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 in regards to the report had been printed by a number of Belgian media, claiming {that a} CIAOSN official doc had indicated that the Jehovah’s Witnesses had been hiding instances of sexual abuses of minors occurring inside their congregations, and a public investigation was wanted. In actual fact, 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 helpful that the “research of the CIAOSN report” can be continued by the Parliament.

On the identical time, additionally primarily based 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 they’d grow to be conscious of, thus violating Articles 422 bis and 442 quarter of the Legal Code of Belgium, which make reporting necessary.

In 2019, the Jehovah’s Witnesses sued the writer of a specific 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 primarily based 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 primarily based on a defective methodology, which led to unsupported conclusions and to false and slanderous data unfold to the media.

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

Nonetheless, 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 data and get extra particulars in regards to 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 is just not right. On 29 March 2019, we despatched an electronic mail to CIAOSN about this inaccuracy. At the moment, it got here to our consideration that Koen Geens, Minister of Justice (CD&V), had mentioned on Radio 1 in Belgium: ‘It’s the CIAOSN itself which has gone to the Netherlands to search out this data and has acknowledged that among the many 286 Dutch complaints there have been three Belgian ones.’ One thing related was mentioned on tv at ‘Van Gils & Friends.’ Within the Dutch media, we have now solely testified in regards to the scenario within the Netherlands. The figures that had been talked about are solely alleged victims of abuse within the Netherlands.”

How the info for the Netherlands had been collected and compiled is very questionable as nicely, however so far as Belgium is anxious the actual fact of the matter is that the three Belgian instances within the Reclaimed Voices checklist by no means existed. Within the Brussels case, the Belgian authorities acknowledged this reality, however claimed that this didn’t invalidate the report as an entire.

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 take care of Belgium, there have been no particular instances quoted, and a lot of the “data” 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 choice of June 16, 2022, the Courtroom of Brussels sums up the primary level of our criticism as follows: “lack of dialogue of the methodology; a selective use of some dependable educational 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 triggered; 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 primarily based largely on unconfirmed allegations of abuse throughout the household and outdoors of any institutional context; the reliance on CIAOSN’s biased principle that their dualistic worldview makes Jehovah’s Witnesses an ‘at-risk’ group, whereas this worldview is shared by most spiritual 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 equipped by anti-cultists, a few of them related 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 is just not substantiated by the report’s personal content material. Sadly, CIAOSN’s Report can’t be thought to be an goal, unbiased report. The truth that no representatives of the Jehovah’s Witnesses had been interviewed in the course of the  preparation of the report, that Reclaimed Voices instances had been accepted at face worth with out an effort to analyze whether or not they actually occurred and had been accurately reported, that press clippings, in addition to data from anti-cult organizations, had been largely and uncritically used, are all components pointing to a bias. We suggest that no governmental or different motion be taken primarily based 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 every one what the Belgian authorities and CIAOSN needed to oppose to the specialists’ 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 permit to disclaim the vital evaluation ready by the specialists.” Certainly, the decide discovered that press clippings and biased accounts, together with the controversial Australian report, had 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 mentioned. Such a posture defended by the Belgian state ignores the ideas of the scientific methodology and reverses the roles. A critical 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 courtroom 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 grow to be 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 businesses coping with the alleged “hazard of the cults” aren’t above the regulation and might be legally prosecuted after they unfold false data and slander.

First printed at BITTERWINTER.

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