For Immediate Release
September 10, 2002
The OSCE to hear from victims of human rights violations
“It is ironic that although I was twice imprisoned for my religious beliefs during the Soviet era, I am subject to more persecution now than ever before.” Genade Gudadze, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Georgia, will make this powerful statement as part of his personal testimony at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, Poland, September 9-19, 2002. Gudadze will speak at the Fundamental Freedoms session on Thursday, September 12. His experience is not an isolated one.
Despite ongoing efforts by the OSCE to promote religious freedom and encourage the government of Georgia to comply with OSCE commitments, the attacks on religious minorities have been continuing for almost three years. On August 16, 2002, Gudadze witnessed a particularly violent incident against a minority, when arsonists torched a convention site of Jehovah’s Witnesses. At the OSCE meeting he will implore the Georgian government to stop shielding the perpetrators and thereby end this persecution of religious minorities by extremists, often with the support of the police.
Georgia does not stand alone in human rights violations. A number of other member states of the OSCE are failing to abide by international agreements regarding the right of conscientious objectors to perform alternative civilian service. The government of Armenia, as a member of the OSCE, will hear Lyova Margaryan speak concerning 26 conscientious objectors who are currently being held in detention. Margaryan won a landmark court case in Armenia on April 19, 2002, after being prosecuted for his religious beliefs and activities as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
On October 17, 2002, five Jehovah’s Witnesses in Cyprus face a sentence of imprisonment or a fine by the Military Court in Limassol because existing legislation in that country fails to recognize the fundamental right of reservists to become conscientious objectors and to qualify for alternative civil service.
In Turkmenistan six Jehovah’s Witnesses are serving sentences that have a combined total of 22 years. Two of these are young men who were convicted as a result of their conscientious objection to military service. Four others are serving prison terms on trumped-up charges because of their religious beliefs.
In Uzbekistan there is a severe deterioration in the sphere of human rights for members of religious minorities. The government of Uzbekistan, as a member of the OSCE, will hear about the raiding of peaceful religious meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses and about Murat Muradisov, who was convicted and held in detention after refusing to sign a statement renouncing his faith.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are scheduled to hold a press conference at 2 p.m. on Thursday at the OSCE Implementation Meeting facilities in Warsaw. There they will present more information regarding human rights violations. Video footage of mob action and violent attacks will be available.
Contact: J. R. Brown, telephone: (718) 560-5600