Jehovah’s Witnesses protected perpetrator of child abuse in court
Denomination Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to help the Public Prosecution Service in a lawsuit against a suspect of child abuse. This is evident from legal documents in the hands of RTL Nieuws. The Public Prosecutor has claimed a document from the denomination that would contain a confession of the perpetrator. But Jehovah’s Witnesses does not want to give that document.
Jehovah’s Witnesses has been under fire for several months, because it does not report perpetrators of sexual abuse within the organization to the police. Offenders are tried internally, in so-called judicial committees. Reports are made and saved from those internal lawsuits and from conversations of perpetrators with elders.
Convicted for abuse niece
The refusal to cooperate, plays in the case around the 31-year-old Samet G. He was convicted last week for abusing his niece. That abuse lasted from the 4th to the 14th. During the investigation in that case, it turned out that in 2011 he had made a confession to elders of Jehovah’s Witnesses. According to one of those elders, a report had been made of that conversation, and that was kept at the headquarters of the church in Emmen.
The Public Prosecutor made an “urgent claim” to Jehovah’s Witnesses to hand over that report. But the denomination refused that. It wants to ‘protect the privacy of people who approach elders for pastoral care’, wrote it in a letter to the Public Prosecution Service.
Jehovah’s Witnesses appealed to the privilege in this case. That means that clergy can not be forced to declare about something that has been told in confidence. Although there are doubts among legal scholars about whether the privilege applies to elders of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the OM accepted the refusal of the denomination.
The refusal means in practice that the files of internal criminal cases will not come out. Because apart from the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not hand over files to the Public Prosecution Service, it also refuses to cooperate in an independent investigation. Minister Dekker of Legal Protection said earlier that he can not compel them to cooperate.
Need more help
According to victims of abuse within Jehovah’s Witnesses, this shows that they need more help from the minister. “Because it turns out that going to court does not make any sense to get the files up and running,” says Frank Huiting from victim organization Reclaimed Voices. “There really needs to be a statement from The Hague now: someone has to tell Jehovah’s Witnesses that they have to give these files compulsory.”
CDA Chamber Member Madeleine van Toorenburg is also disappointed about the refusal of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “This shows that there is a culture of silence and cover-up, and they do not take responsibility.” Together with other parties in the Lower House, Van Toorenburg asked questions to the minister about the use of the privilege by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Conditional prison sentence and community service
Despite the reluctant attitude of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Samet G. was convicted by the court in Breda. He judged that there was sufficient evidence that he had abused his niece and sentenced him to 9 months of conditional prison sentence* and 240 hours of community service. Yesterday it became clear that G. is going to appeal.