WTBTS and JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES continue to hold NGO Status within the COUNCIL OF EUROPE
Documents recently declassified by the COUNCIL OF EUROPE confirm that THE EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES continues to officially hold NGO status.
The six page document DH-DD(2010)61, entitled "Communication by an NGO in the case of 97 Members of the Gldani Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses and others against Georgia (application No. 71156/01) and reply of the Government" can be downloaded here.
The official objectives of the Council of Europe are:
The primary aim of the Council of Europe is to create a common democratic and legal area throughout the whole of the continent, ensuring respect for its fundamental values: human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Interestingly enough, the WATCHTOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY OF BRITAIN and the INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION operate in all 47 members States of the Council of Europe. THE EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES is used as the front organization.
Shortly after the WTBTS became a NGO with the United Nations in 1991, they started using their NGO status to lobby conservative politician Mr David Atkinson, Member of the House Of Lords, United Kingdom, who had only just been appointed as the UK's representative to the Council of Europe in June 1991 and representative of the European Democratic Group within the Council of Europe.
At the time there was no code of conduct regarding the lobbying of member States by NGO's within the Council of Europe and secret lobbying, particularly by religious organizations seeking to extend their activities into Eastern Europe was rife.
Mr Atkinson would lobby other European States, particularly Eastern European States, through his status within the Council of Europe on behalf of the interests of the WTBTS / IBSA and Jehovah's Witnesses.
Mr David Atkinson, was, on behalf of the WTBTS and the IBSA, after lobbying, able to table a Motion for an order within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe:
Doc. 8351 revised
13 April 1999
Russian law on religion and Jehovah's Witnesses
Motion for an order
presented by Mr Atkinson and others
This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only
the members who have signed it
1. The Assembly is concerned at reports that Moscow prosecutors are attempting to ban Jehovah's Witnesses in the Russian capital in a case which is the first real test of its law on religion passed by the State Duma and Federal Council and ratified by President Yeltsin in September 1997.
2. The case marks the culmination of a wave of persecution of Christian and other religious groups since the law was passed. Observers have noted dozens of cases of harassment by local police and local authorities.
3. The case is a cause of concern for other religious groups who also expect to be banned if the Jehovah's Witnesses were to lose. In a report last November the Moscow Helsinki Group said that the conditions had been created for large-scale persecution of non-Orthodox faiths in Russia.
4. A motion for a recommendation tabled on 6 November 1997 ( Doc. 7957 ) considered that the new law contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights, the Russian commitments upon accession and, indeed , the Russian constitution. This motion was referred by the Bureau to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights for report.
5. The Assembly urges that the committee take account of this case against the Jehovah's Witnesses in preparing its report for debate at a future part-session. It also wishes to draw it to the attention of the two rappporteurs responsible for the monitoring of Russia's commitments upon accession.
Signed : 1
Atkinson, United Kingdom, EDG
Davis, United Kingdom, SOC
Dinçer, Turkey, SOC
Eltz, Croatia, EDG
Enright, Ireland, EPP/CD
Eörsi, Hungary, LDR
Fyfe, United Kingdom, SOC
Iwinski, Poland, SOC
Kelam, Estonia, EPP/CD
Kuzmickas, Lithuania, EDG
Poptodorova, Bulgaria, SOC
Severinsen, Denmark, LDR
Sinka, Latvia, EDG
Surjan, Hungary, EPP/CD
1 SOC: Socialist Group
EPP/CD: Group of the European People’s Party
EDG: European Democratic Group
LDR : Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group
UEL: Group of the Unified European Left
NR: not registered in a group
On lobbying, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in 2009 noted:
1. The Parliamentary Assembly notes that during recent decades the activities of different interest groups have been constantly increasing. This phenomenon is true both at the level of the Council of Europe member states, and at the level of the European institutions. Moreover, a strong increase and concentration of lobbying activities in both Brussels and Strasbourg has been observed with the unification process and European Union enlargement. Today, it is estimated that over 15,000 special-interest groups are active in Brussels, more than 2,600 of which have their permanent offices there and perform lobbying activities with the EU institutions.
2. The Assembly is convinced that pluralism of interests is an important feature of democracy and it is perfectly legitimate for members of society to organise and lobby for their interests. However, unregulated, secret lobbying as such may undermine democratic principles and good governance. In a democracy, all interests ought to be duly taken into account and all citizens should have equal access to the law and decision-making.
3. The Assembly notes that very few Council of Europe member states have regulated lobbying activities in some way. Thus surveys have shown that among 14 countries having regulated lobbying or considered the issue within their parliaments, only four European countries have adopted a law on this issue. 4. The Assembly is concerned by the fact that such a situation may undermine democratic principles and good governance in those Council of Europe member states where democratic traditions are not deeply rooted and where absence of effective mechanisms of checks and balances exercised by civil society constitute a danger.
Doc. 11937 - 05/06/2009 - Lobbying in a democratic society (European Code of conduct on lobbying)
One of those special-interest groups that are active in Brussels, and of which has permanent office there and perform lobbying activities with the EUROPEAN UNION is the THE EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES.
The main political lobbying arm of the WTBTS in Belgium for Europe is:
THE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF JEHOVAH'S CHRISTIAN WITNESSES
Chariman: Marcel Gillet
Address: Rue d'Argile 60, 1950 Kraainem, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0)2 782 0015
Fax: +32 (0)2 782 0592
Email: [email protected]
What is the Council of Europe?
According to Wikipedia:
The Council of Europe (French: Conseil de l'Europe ) is an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in the areas of legal standards, human rights,democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation. It was founded in 1949, has 47 member states with some 800 million citizens, and is an entirely separate body from theEuropean Union (EU), which has only 27 member states. Unlike the EU, the Council of Europe cannot make binding laws. The two do however share certain symbols such as the flag of Europe. The Council of Europe has nothing to do with either the Council of the European Unionor the European Council, which are both EU bodies.
The best known bodies of the Council of Europe are the European Court of Human Rights, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights, and the European PharmacopoeiaCommission, which sets the quality standards for pharmaceutical products in Europe. The Council of Europe's work has resulted in standards, charters and conventions to facilitate cooperation between European countries.
Its statutory institutions are the Committee of Ministers comprising the foreign ministers of each member state, the Parliamentary Assembly composed of MPs from the Parliament of each member state, and the Secretary General heading the secretariat of the Council of Europe. TheCommissioner for Human Rights is an independent institution within the Council of Europe, mandated to promote awareness of and respect for human rights in the member states.
The headquarters of the Council of Europe are in Strasbourg, France, with English and Frenchas its two official languages. The Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and theCongress also use German, Italian, and Russian for some of their work.
Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) can participate in the INGOs Conference of the Council of Europe and become observers to inter-governmental committees of experts. The Council of Europe drafted the European Convention on the Recognition of the Legal Personality of International Non-Governmental Organisations in 1986, which sets the legal basis for the existence and work of NGOs in Europe. Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to freedom of association, which is also a fundamental norm for NGOs. The rules for Consultative Status for INGOs appended to the resolution (93)38 "On relation between the Council of Europe and non-governmental organisations", adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 18 October 1993 at the 500th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies. On 19 November 2003 the Committee of Ministers changed the consultative status into a participatory status (Resolution Res (2003)8) “considering that it is indispensable that the rules governing the relations between the Council of Europe and NGOs evolve to reflect the active participation of international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) in the Organisation's policy and work programme”.
The Council of Europe web site (English): http://www.coe.int/lportal/web/coe-portal In the search box type in "Jehovah" and press enter. This will provide a list of related documents, press releases, and statements.