Hon. Mr. Rafael Catalá Polo, Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Calle de San Bernardo, 45, 28071 Madrid
(Certified Burofax Delivery)
Cc: Vice-President of the Government of Spain
Justice Commission of the Congress of Deputies
Senate Justice Commission
(Delivery by hand or by certified Burofax)
Barcelona, December 13, 2016
Hon. Mr. Minister,
We want to know: Are there two judicial systems in Spain? Are the victims of child abuse unimportant? Surely your Honour will answer NO. However, the undersigned in this letter, with our names, surnames and ID numbers, will tell you the opposite, that there are two judicial systems, and therefore we feel we are victims of little importance. We believe it, we have documentary evidence, and we personally experience it every day. There is a secret parallel judicial system unknown to the general public, which judges Spanish citizens every week without any kind of control, without any legal/constitutional guarantee, without the presence of lawyers, without any assistance and, on top of that, everything is hidden from Spanish society.
The undersigned are united by a similar story. Some of us were born in a family that already belonged to a religious denomination called "Jehovah’s Witnesses", and some of us chose to join this religion at some point in our lives. It’s interesting that this religion is officially recognized in Spain ("notorio arraigo”) by your Ministry. We’ve suffered abuses in this organization, that’s why some of us as victims have recently joined the collective AbusosTJ. Since October of this year, media in our country have echoed in their printed pages, radio and TV programs news regarding this organization. This news, which doesn’t reassure society, is about public denunciations of facts denounced before different police forces, complaints that have been presented with evidence, testimony, written notes, policies of this organization, etc.
As shown by the media, there are currently courts in Spain that play a parallel role to Spanish justice. In these parallel Jehovah’s Witnesses’ courts (called "judicial hearings" by the organization), their members are secretly tried without the proper authorities ever being informed, with crimes as serious as sexual abuse of minors, scams, robberies, and more. (See Principles Statement at www.abusosTJ.org)
The media also proved that, in cases of sexual abuse, this religious organization opens a trial or "judicial hearing" when they become aware of a case. The victim lacks legal help and has to face the perpetrator in order to prove the validity of his claim, and only if a second victim is found or a witness to the crime will any action be taken by the organization. In addition the organization has a database of these abuses which are stored in its National Headquarters located in Ajalvir (Madrid), and in the different congregations located throughout Spain. Such policies, widely explained in the Spanish press, show that every abuse has been recorded in different forms, which include the abuser's data and all the details of the abuse, and are kept in files labelled "Do Not Destroy". These files may also include information in electronic format.
Again, all of this is kept hidden from Spanish society and judicial authorities. No case has been reported up to date; in fact the written internal policies of this organization do not require reporting sexual offenses or other such crimes to the authorities. The press has also shown that these policies do not protect children and teenagers; rather, they leave them in a helpless position. In rare cases the attacked child is able to defend himself from his abuser, but as an adult, they won’t even be encouraged to try to solve their problems. "We must bury the bad experiences," summarized a national newspaper recently of what this organization says.
In May 2014, your Finnish counterpart, Ms. Anna-Maija Henriksson, faced a similar situation in her country. She expressed the following in various national and international media: "Of course, in Finland there can be no other system outside the ordinary judicial system”. When will all those who have suffered this parallel and unsecured judicial system live peacefully? Will children and teenagers accompanying their parents in this organization ever be safe? When will these trials or "judicial court hearings" end? What do we have to do? Should we directly go to the European Parliament and ask them to stop this?
Mr. Minister, we demand you to act immediately in order to change this inconsistent situation in our country. It is not only a legal issue, but a social one. The evidence we are handling speaks of hundreds of victims in a group of less than a hundred thousand active members.
We also demand that the State Attorney General act immediately to protect any victim of abuse, but above all to seize and protect the integrity of the files of sexual abuse that this religious denomination has been gathering for many years. Our collective objective is the change of this situation and that all people in Spain, especially children, whatever religion they or their parents profess, are protected and safe. We only expect redress and justice for those who have been abused. They deserve it.
We hope that you heed our request and we remain at your entire disposal for any additional information you may need.
Signed: Miguel García López
Member of the collective AbusosTJ and victim of sexual abuse
Annex: Signatures additional to this writing.
Annex of additional signatories to this letter:
I subscribe with my name, surname and DNI the letter made today 12/13/16 by the group AbusosTJ: