VATICAN: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio elected new Pope

13 03 2013

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been elected the Roman Catholic Church’s new Pope.

BBC NEWS – The first Latin American to be Pope, he will call himself Francis I.

An hour earlier, white smoke billowing from the Sistine Chapel chimney announced to the world that cardinals gathered inside had made their choice.

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been elected the new Pope

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been elected the new Pope

Cardinal Bergoglio replaces Benedict XVI, who resigned last month saying he was not strong enough to lead the Church.

The 115 cardinals have been in isolation since Tuesday afternoon, and held four inconclusive votes.

At least 77 of them, or two-thirds, would have had to vote for a single candidate for him to be elected Pope.

Before the conclave began, there was no clear frontrunner to replace Benedict.

Crowds with umbrellas massed in the square flying flags from around the world.

The Catholic News Agency said people were running through the streets of Rome, hoping to reach St Peter’s Square in time for the appearance of the new Pope.

A troupe of Swiss Guards in silver helmets and full regalia marched to the Basilica in preparation for the announcement, as military bands played for the onlookers.

The new Pope will emerge from the loggia overlooking the square to deliver his first speech.

He will have already accepted an invitation to become Pope and the cardinals will have sworn allegiance to him, after which he will have gone to pray alone.

HUNGARY: Newest amendment to the Constitution would seriously undermine the rule of law

12 03 2013


Three Hungarian NGOs, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, the Eötvös Károly Institute and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union addressed the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the European Commission Vice-President, Commissioner in Charge of Justice, Human Rights and Citizenship in order to raise their attention to the planned Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law of Hungary, threatening the rule of law. The NGOs asked the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to request the Venice Commission to perform an analysis of the proposed amendments.

In the view of the Eötvös Károly Institute, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, the proposed amendments violate fundamental principles and values common to the states of Europe, especially the principles of the rule of law and respect for human rights, threaten their full and proper implementation, and are not in line with Hungary’s obligations towards the European Union.

The planned amendments would undermine the rule of law in Hungary by
1. continuing the practice of inserting provisions into the Fundamental Law which had been previously found unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court;
2. including provisions in the Fundamental Law which violate international standards; and
3. further weakening the control exercised by the Constitutional Court over the Parliament.

The amendments would not only include provisions into the Fundamental Law which do not fit into the text of a constitution, but may also have a serious affect on the level of protection of human rights. The NGOs believe that the amendments will result that the Fundamental Law will cease to qualify as a constitution complying with the fundamental constitutional requirements in this regard.

On 26 February, the three NGOs asked Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, to contribute to ensuring rule of law and respect for human rights in Hungary by requesting the Venice Commission to perform an analysis of the proposed Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law. Viviane Reding, European Commission Vice-President, Commissioner in Charge of Justice, Human Rights and Citizenship, was asked by the NGOs to use the means available to her in order to ensure that Hungary complies with its obligations under the Treaty on European Union.

The unofficial English translation of the proposed Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law of Hungary as well as a more detailed outline of the main concerns regarding the Fourth Amendment were attached to the letters and are also available on-line.

The letter sent to Secretary General Jagland is available here.

The letter sent to Vice-President Reding is available here.

The document outlining the main concerns regarding the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law of Hungary can be downloaded here.

The unofficial English translation of the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law of Hungary can be downloaded here.


日本: 人権団体、NGOより、日本の首相、国会議員、法務大臣、警察・検察当局宛、公開書簡

12 03 2013



国境なき人権(2013年3月6日):  独立した人権団体やNGOであり、そして、この文書に署名した私たちは、過去数十年間にわたり、何千と言う市民 (主に女性)が、強制的改宗・棄教のため、力ずくで拉致され、意思に反して私的監獄に閉じ込められ、何ヶ月も、時には何年も、自由を否定され、物理的に虐 待を受け、またあるケースでは、食事制裁を受け、拷問を受けていたことに対し、日本の権威機関が何もしていないことに対し、私たちの驚愕の思いを表明する 次第です。

そのような犯罪から市民を保護できないことは、憲法によって保障された権利と、日本が法的に従う義務のある「市民的および政治的権利に関する国際規約」に 対する重大な侵害です。さらに、被害者の8割は女性であり、「女性に対する暴力の廃絶宣言」そして、日本も調印し、批准している「女子差別撤廃条約」の義 務に対し、日本は違反しています。この問題は、国連当局によっても、アメリカ政府によっても、取り上げられ、日本の評判を著しく損(そこ)なうものです。


その「宗教的改宗目的のための、監禁と自由の剥奪」報告書では、「国境なき人権」は、弱小宗教団体の会員が、力ずくで彼らの家族らにより隔離され、家族 と、プロの「ディプログラマー」から抑圧を受けていると実証しています。被害者は、通常、統一教会や、エホバの証人などの宗教に入会した、若く、そして、 教養のある女性です。


unification_church_carp_rel私たちは、すべての日本国民を保護する責任のある監督官庁に、拉致を終結させ、過去の犯罪について取り組むため、必要な行動を取るよう要請いたします。私 たちは、この真実を明らかにするため、国会に公聴会を開くことを要請いたします。私たちは、過去のおざなりにされたケースの追跡調査のため、司法当局、な らびに警察庁に、独立した内部調査を行うよう要請いたします。私たちは、警察、司法当局が、法律と国際的人権規約に基づき、子供の宗教の自由に関して、何 ができて、何ができないのか、公に発表することを要請いたします。

Willy Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers Int’l (Belgium)
ウィリー・フォートレ、 「国境なき人権」代表 (ベルギー)

Peter Zoehrer, Director of Forum for Religious Freedom (Austria)
ピーター・ゾウラー、「宗教の自由フォーラム」代表 (オーストリア)

Jura Nanuk, Founder of Central European Religious Freedom Institute (Hungary)
ジュラ・ナヌク、「中央ヨーロッパ宗教自由協会」創設者 (ハンガリー)

Hans Noodt, Director of the Gerard Noodt Foundation for Freedom of Religion or Belief (Netherlands)
ハンズ・Noodt 「宗教・信念の自由のための、Gerard Noodt財団」代表 (オランダ)

Antonio Stango, Director of the Italian Helsinki Committee (Italy)
アントニオ・スタンゴ、「イタリアのヘルシンキ委員会」代表 (イタリア)

Dr Aaron Rhodes, Former Director of the International Helsinki Feeration (Germany)
アーロン・ローズ博士 「国際ヘルシンキ連合」元代表 (ドイツ)

Ion Manole, Executive Director of Promo-Lex (Moldova)
イオン・マノウル、 Promo-Lex 理事 (モルドバ)

Joe Grieboski, Director of the Institute on Religion & Public Policy (USA)
ジョー・グリボスキー、「宗教と公共政策協会」代表 (アメリカ)

Ichiko Sudo, Human Rights & Women’s Dignity Representative for Women’s Federation for World Peace (USA)
イチコ・スドウ、「世界平和女性連合」人権と女性問題担当代表 (アメリカ)

Kathryn Cameron Porter, President of the Leadership Council for Human Rights (USA)
キャスリン・キャメロン・ポーター、「人権指導者会議」会長 (アメリカ)

(*) その報告書は、このリンクで。






JAPAN: Open letter from human rights organizations and NGOs to the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament, the Minister of Justice, Prosecutor and the National Police Agency

10 03 2013


Call for Hearings about Japanese Citizens Abducted and Forced to Change Their Religion: 80% are Women

HRWF (06.03.2013) – We, the undersigned independent human rights organizations and NGOs, are writing to express our shock that Japanese authorities do nothing while over the past decades thousands of citizens-primarily women-have been forcibly abducted, held against their will in private detention places, denied their freedom for months, sometimes years, physically abused and in some cases starved and tortured, in order to force them to change their religious belief.

The failure to protect citizens from such crimes is a grave violation of their constitutionally guaranteed rights and their international human rights based on Japan’s legal obligation under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Moreover, as 80% of victims are women, Japan is also in violation of its obligations under the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women signed and ratified by Japan.  This matter has been raised with United Nations officials and by the United States government, and can seriously damage Japan’s reputation.

Human Rights Without Frontiers International, an independent NGO based in Brussels, Belgium, has published a scientific study of this problem, proving beyond any doubt that human rights violations have occurred and continue to take place (*).

In its report, “Abduction and Deprivation of Freedom for the Purpose of Religious De-conversion,” Human Rights Without Frontiers documented that members of minority religions are being forcibly detained by their family members and subjected to coercion by their families and professional ‘deprogrammers.’  The victims are usually young, educated women who have joined religions like the Unification Church or the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Over many years, victims have sought to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.  To date, prosecutors have ignored clear evidence of crimes, and have not pursued a single criminal case.  The result is continuing impunity for perpetrators and more crimes being committed.

unification_church_carp_relWe ask you, authorities responsible for the protection of all Japanese, to take needed actions to stop the kidnappings and to address past crimes.  We ask the Diet to hold public hearings to bring out the truth.  We ask the Judiciary and National Police Agency to conduct an independent internal review, to follow up on cases that have been neglected.  We ask that Police and Judicial authorities inform the public of what steps can and cannot be taken regarding the religious beliefs of children, based on the law and international human rights standards.

Willy Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers Int’l (Belgium)

Peter Zoehrer, Director of Forum for Religious Freedom (Austria)

Jura Nanuk, Founder of Central European Religious Freedom Institute (Hungary)

Hans Noodt, Director of the Gerard Noodt Foundation for Freedom of Religion or Belief (Netherlands)

Antonio Stango, Director of the Italian Helsinki Committee (Italy)

Dr Aaron Rhodes, Former Director of the International Helsinki Feeration (Germany)

Ion Manole, Executive Director of Promo-Lex (Moldova)

Joe Grieboski, Director of the Institute on Religion & Public Policy (USA)

Ichiko Sudo, Human Rights & Women’s Dignity Representative for Women’s Federation for World Peace (USA)

Kathryn Cameron Porter, President of the Leadership Council for Human Rights (USA)

(*) The report is av available at

Hungary shows determination on constitution

8 03 2013


By Neil Buckley in London and Kester Eddy in Budapest

Just last week, Gabor Ivanyi, head pastor of the Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship, an independent Methodist congregation in Budapest, was celebrating. Hungary’s top court had annulled a controversial law last year that reduced the number of officially recognised churches from more than 350 to little more than two dozen.

The court said the churches law – part of a new constitution introduced by the government of Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party in January 2012 – could lead to politically motivated decisions on recognition. Pastor Ivanyi’s group lost its church status, hitting its funding and charitable work including tending daily to 1,000 homeless people.

“The Fellowship, in God’s name, welcomes the constitutional court ruling with joy. [The church law] destroyed the right to freedom of conscience and religion,” he wrote in an email.

The joy may not last. Amendments being debated by Hungary’s parliament and voted on next week are set to restore both the bulk of the church law and many controversial parts of the new constitution that the constitutional court or European institutions had successfully challenged.

The turnround has taken not just Pastor Ivanyi but the international community by surprise.

The 2012 constitution, and associated “cardinal” laws on different areas also passed by a two-thirds parliamentary majority, was denounced by critics as a “constitutional coup”. They said it weakened democratic checks and balances and endangered media freedom and independence of the judiciary.

Though in piecemeal fashion, the European Commission won some changes to the media and judiciary laws. The Council of Europe, the continent’s top human rights body, secured alterations to the church and justice laws.

Hungary’s constitutional court also struck down some elements, despite being composed increasingly of Fidesz appointees.

Now, critics warn, 14 pages of constitutional amendments could reverse much of that.

“Orban views checks and balances as outdated instruments to tame his will and, accordingly, he is doing his best to remove any obstacle from the glorious road of his ‘revolution’,” said Gordon Bajnai, Hungary’s technocratic prime minister in 2009-10 after the collapse of a discredited socialist government.

Mr Bajnai said the amendments reincorporate into the constitution “all those [areas where] decisions taken by the constitutional court . . . repealed some pivotal elements of Orban’s revolution”.

Mr Orban’s government always insisted Hungary needed a constitutional “reboot” after too long relying on a rewritten Stalin-era constitution. It rebuffed criticisms of the new fundamental law as groundless and orchestrated by its arch-foes, the socialists.

The government this week said criticism was again misplaced and the amendments were anyway being introduced in a Fidesz MP’s private member’s bill, not a government bill.

But why take such provocative action now?

One reason may be that Fidesz’s ratings have fallen sharply since it won 53 per cent of votes in 2010 parliament elections and two-thirds of seats. Recent polls have shown its support at below a quarter of all voters, though large numbers answer “don’t know” or “won’t vote”.

Economic output shrank 1.7 per cent last year – exacerbated, say economists, by Fidesz’s unorthodox policies. But Mr Orban has found blaming foreign banks and EU “interference” resonates politically.

“In some elements it’s just popular [with voters],” says Tamas Boros, director of Policy Solutions, a Budapest think tank.

He adds that Mr Orban takes any defeat badly. “It’s [Fidesz’s] philosophy to aim to win all fights; that no one else should have a say on these issues,” says Mr Boros.

Kim Lane Scheppele, director of Princeton University’s law and public affairs programme, who has monitored Hungary’s new constitution, says legal complexities also played a part.

A constitutional court judgment in December raised the risk of an “unravelling of [Fidesz’s] constitutional system”. The government had to address that risk – and took the opportunity to reinsert some contentious elements.

European Commission officials said it was unclear how serious the latest developments in Budapest would become, but they were monitoring them. The problem if Hungary’s parliament does pass the amendments, say EU experts, is Brussels already used most of its limited tools to deal with backsliding on democratic standards last year – but now Budapest is fighting back.

Hungary’s Top Court Overturns Controversial Church Law

1 03 2013

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Budapest for Radio Vatican

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Hungary’s top court on Tuesday, February 26, overturned controversial religious legislation that dramatically reduced the number of recognized churches, but the government threatened to challenge the ruling with constitutional amendments.

0012xsUnder the recently adopted ‘Law on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion, and on Churches, Religions and
Religious Communities’ only 32 of over 300 faith groups in Hungary received formal recognition by Parliament to operate as churches.

However the Constitutional Court said the law failed to “stipulate that detailed reasons” must be provided when a request for church status is refused.

It also complained that “no legal remedies” were provided to those being refused church status and said granting church status by parliamentary vote “could result in political decisions”.

Hungary’s center-right government argued that the ‘church law’, as it also known, aims to prevent abuse of Hungary’s tax regulations and related legislation.


The court ordered Parliament, however, to establish new rules “to filter out groups” that claim to be churches but do not carry out religious activities.

Formal recognition gives churches tax-free status, qualifies them for government support and allows them to collect donations during services and do pastoral work in jails and hospitals of this heavily Catholic nation of some 10 million people.

Hungary’s Ombudsman Máté Szabó, an elected official for civil rights, had asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the law amid concerns the legislation violated religious freedom and the constitutional separation of church and state.

Jura Nanuk, the founder and president of the Central-European Religious Freedom Institute in Budapest welcomed Szabó’s legal challenge.

“There are things in this law that are contrary to many international recommendations on such laws. I believe it is a very good thing what the ombudsman did, I appreciate what he did,” Nanuk told BosNewsLife.


Critics claimed the European Union’s most restrictive church bill only served the interests and ideology of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The EU and the United States have also questioned the legislation and Orbán’s perceived crackdown on previously independent institutions.

Some evangelical Christians and former democracy activists compared the legislation to Hungary’s Communist-era when religion was discouraged.

Szabó said earlier that the concerns expressed by faith groups prompted him to launch the legal challenge. “…Freedom of religion makes it indispensable that the decision on the recognition of the church, on rendering the religious status meets all guarantees protecting fundamental rights,” he stressed.

While Tuesday’s outcome came as a moral victory for churches, including several evangelical congregations, trial observers cautioned that Prime Minister Orbán wanted to use his Fidesz party’s super-majority in parliament to change the constitution it passed in 2011.


Among the proposed changes included in the constitution — or Basic Law as it is known in Hungary — would be Parliament’s right to decide which churches are officially recognized. That would make it impossible to challenge the legislation, and effectively bypass the ruling of the Constitutional Court.

Recent policies have already impacted churches. “Many of the churches which lost their status last year have disappeared or have turned themselves into associations,” said lawyer Szabolcs Hegyi of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union in published remarks.

“The government’s good will and assistance would also be needed to restore the churches’ rights and that is far from being the case.”

Szabó has made clear he hopes Hungary’s legislature will uphold religious rights for all churches. “On the basis of the principle of separation of power the Parliament cannot exercise tasks, during which it makes political decisions affecting fundamental civil rights, without having appropriate constitutional guarantees,” he said in an earlier statement obtained by BosNewsLife.

News of Tuesday’s ruling came a day before EU President Herman Van Rompuy was due in Budapest to meet Orbán in an attempt to ease tensions.


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