Police raids at head office and church buildings Jehovah's Witnesses for abuse
The police attacked three of the buildings of Jehovah's Witnesses on November 19 as part of a major investigation into sexual abuse.
The police came in at the head office of the religious community in Emmen and at two church buildings, so-called kingdom halls. In addition, four houses have been searched. The police were looking for pieces of internal lawsuits.
Nine sex abuse cases
Reason are multiple declarations of victims of sexual abuse against members or former members of the faith community. This is evident from answers from the Public Prosecution Service to questions from RTL Nieuws.
According to the Public Prosecutor's Office, there are currently nine sex offenses involving (former) members of the religious community as suspects. The Public Prosecution Service announces that it is currently not investigating the religious community as a whole.
A woman who claims to have been abused by a (former) member of Jehovah's Witnesses says in a reaction to RTL News that she is happy that abuse victims are being taken seriously by the police and the judiciary.
She says that the Public Prosecutor also conducts research in her case."We have not heard or even been silenced by the pressure from the Jehovah's Witnesses for so long, I am glad that action is finally being shown, and I hope that the Jehovah's Witnesses will recognize that changes are necessary to further harm others in the prevent future. "
In addition to the invasion at the headquarters of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Emmen, according to sources from the RTL News, the police have invaded the kingdom hall of Dordrecht. The location of the other church where the police invaded is unknown.
Perpetrators of sexual abuse are tried internally within Jehovah's Witnesses, in so-called judicial committees. Reports are made and saved from those internal lawsuits and from conversations of perpetrators with elders.
To those documents, the police and the Public Prosecution Service were looking. The Public Prosecution Service says that the files and reports of the internal lawsuits are necessary to involve the criminal investigation.
In a criminal case earlier this year, the Public Prosecution Service requested similar documents from the Jehovah's Witnesses. A member of the Jehovah's Witnesses then stood trial because of abuse of his underage niece. That request from the Public Prosecution Service was refused at the time. The faith community appealed to its privilege.
Exceptional position churches
Minister of Justice Sander Dekker said last month to the House of Representatives that the privilege of law only applies to clergymen and not to any adherent of a faith. And that right can only be invoked in cases of assisting believers in spiritual need.
As far as is known, it is the first time in the Netherlands that the police have invaded church buildings as part of a criminal investigation.Churches enjoy an exceptional position within the law, under which the police can not just enter a church.
"If these police raids lead to criminal cases and ultimately also to the trial of perpetrators, this is a good thing," says Raymond Hintjes of the Foundation Reclaimed Voices. This foundation stands for victims of sexual abuse within closed religious communities such as the Jehovah's Witnesses. "We are very happy that this has happened in any case, that the Public Prosecution Service takes the situation seriously enough and recognizes that there are no other possibilities to get information."