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In police custody, former Serbian leader demands $17.6 million, claims persecution

Vojislav Seselj says he’s a victim of religious and political persecution and he’s demanding millions of dollars in damages.

A former deputy prime minister of Serbia, Seselj has been in custody since 2003 when he handed himself over voluntarily to the UN-backed tribunal prosecuting war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, reports Peter Cluskey in the Irish Times. He has demanded compensation of $17.6 million for what he says has been the unlawful deprivation of his liberty.

Serbian campaign posters for Vojislav Seselj (Photo/Wikimedia)

Serbian campaign posters for Vojislav Seselj (Photo/Wikimedia)

In a 57-page submission to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Seselj, who is the founder of the Serbian Radical Party, says his detention by police is wrong.

He says all charges against him are groundless and that he has suffered both defamation of character and damage to his health while in jail.

His story is all too close to the plot of PERSECUTED, a movie scheduled for release July 18. In it, the fictional John Luther is framed and his good name is dragged through the mud when he refuses to go along with U.S. government officials attempting to impose tight restrictions on America’s freedom of religion.

In the real world, Seselj says he has been framed by vengeful authorities and has pleaded not guilty to crimes against humanity – specifically, the persecution of Croats – in Croatia, Bosnia- Herzegovina and Vojvodina between 1991 and 1993, when he was allegedly associated with the paramilitary group, the White Eagles, also known as Seseljevci, or Seselj’s Men.

He denies all charges.

“The nationalist leader’s trial began in November 2006 and has never been straightforward,” writes Cluskey. “Although he planned to represent himself, he was on hunger strike in the UN detention unit at Scheveningen prison when the proceedings opened, and was assigned legal counsel to conduct his defence.

Seselj appealed that decision to assign him counsel and won.

In July 2009, Seselj – formerly a lecturer in political science at the universities of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Michigan in the US – was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for publishing the names of protected witnesses on his website.

On July 1st, the Serbian government said it was willing to give guarantees to the tribunal about Seselj’s security in Belgrade, but only if Seselj himself was willing to give a written commitment that he would abide by the terms of any temporary release agreement reached.

As a result, the Hague tribunal gave Seselj three days to give that commitment. He failed to comply, arguing that he was now being held illegally and wishes to be released without conditions.

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Record number of refugees fleeing persecution, says United Nations report

Worldwide religious persecution has driven 51 million refugees from their homes, says the United Nations.

“The number of refugees, internally displaced people, and asylum-seekers is at the highest level since World War II,” reports Lydia Tomkiw for the Christian Science Monitor.

Young refugees (Photo by Open Doors)

Young refugees (Photo by Open Doors)

Persecution is an increasing problem across the globe — and is the theme of a highly anticipated movie, PERSECUTED, which will be released nationwide July 18. The UN reported a staggering 51.2 million people were displaced in 2013 due to “persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations,” with a large part of the increase due to the ongoing civil war in Syria.

“This is up by 6 million from the 45.2 million refugees in 2012,” reported Tomkiw. “The largest number of refugees are internally displaced people.”

With new and continuing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Pakistan, Kenya, Myanmar, and others, the numbers of refugees may be even higher in 2014.

“UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, underscored the lack of political solutions to ongoing conflicts in comments in the report,” reported Tomkiw.

“We are seeing here the immense costs of not ending wars, of failing to resolve or prevent conflict. Peace is today dangerously in deficit. Humanitarians can help as a palliative, but political solutions are vitally needed. Without this, the alarming levels of conflict and the mass suffering that is reflected in these figures will continue.”

Guterres noted that the numbers aren’t just an increasing trend but a “quantum leap,” he told the New York Times. “What this demonstrates is that the international community today has very limited capacity to prevent conflicts and to find timely solutions. We see the Security Council paralyzed in many crucial crises.”

Recent battles at UN Security Council have seen Russia and the United States on opposing sides over conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, effectively preventing the world body from taking any action.

Pakistan, Iran, and Lebanon took in the most refugees in 2013. Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees compared to its own population with 178 refugees per 1,000 Lebanese. The United States hosted 263,600 refugees in 2013. Worldwide, the largest numbers of refugees came from Afghanistan, Syria, and Somalia.

“With 86 percent of the world’s refugees living in developing countries, finding the resources to deal with numerous wars and conflicts has become more difficult,” reported Tomkiw.

“There is no humanitarian response able to solve the problems of so many people. It’s becoming more and more difficult to find the capacity and resources to deal with so many people in such tragic circumstances,” Guterres said.

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200 Ghana soccer fans seek asylum in Brazil, fear religious persecution if they go home

Ghana’s World Cup team may have headed home after losing all three of its matches in Brazil but at least 200 of its fans have asked to stay behind permanently.

Ghana soccer fans (Photo/Wikimedia)

Ghana soccer fans (Photo/Wikimedia)

“Brazilian authorities say 200 Ghanians who entered the country on tourist visas for the tournament have applied for asylum,” reports Rob Quinn for Newser.

All say they are fleeing religious persecution, like in the about-to-be-released movie PERSECUTED. In the movie, fictional hero and national figure John Luther has to flee vengeful officials when he refuses to embrace restrictive new religious laws proposed in the U.S. Congress.

The Ghanians say they are fleeing religious conflict prompted by extremists demanding Ghana adopt shari’ah religious law — which discriminates against non-Muslims.

“Authorities say they expect another 1,000 Ghanians to seek asylum, reported the BBC, which said fans filed their appeals in a prosperous southern Brazilian city more than 1,000 miles from where the Ghanian team played.

“The fans will be allowed to work and travel in the country while their applications are considered,” reported Quinn, “and a Justice Ministry official says the fact that the fans entered the country on tourists visas won’t be held against them.

“Asylum cannot be requested at a Brazilian embassy. The asylum seeker must be in the country to apply,” he told Quinn.

“Some officials sound suspicious of the Ghanians’ motives,” noted Quinn. “The area where they applied is ‘a magnet for foreign workers,’ that is now ‘overcrowded,’ they say—but local Catholic churches have offered their support, giving the fans shelter and helping them file their asylum claims,AllSports reported.

Vanessa Perini Moojen of the Roman Catholic Church’s Migrant Support Center told the Associated Press that the asylum-seekers “faced life-threatening situations back home. They feel they can find work and better living conditions in Brazil.”

The center provided temporary shelter for the Ghanaians at the city’s seminary and helped them prepare their asylum requests, reported the Miami Herald.

 

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Congressional opposition to worldwide persecution “empty air,” says irked senator

Everybody’s against persecution. Well, that’s what U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) thought.

“Even in hyper-partisan Washington, D.C., an amendment defending persecuted religious minorities could draw support from both sides of the political aisle,” writes J.C. Derrick for World magazine. 

Senator Rand Paul (Photo courtesy of Senator Paul)

Senator Rand Paul (Photo courtesy of Senator Paul)

However, when Paul proposed an amendment prohibiting financial assistance to foreign governments that violate religious freedom, it failed on a 16-2 vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Paul couldn’t even get fellow Republicans to support his plan, which would have barred foreign aid for countries that sentence individuals to death or life imprisonment based on anti-blasphemy laws.

His defeat seemed like something out the movie PERSECUTED, which releases nationwide July 18. In the film, Congressmen are baffled when fictional John Luther is disinterested in going along with their plan to establish a national religion based on Christianity, but so watered down that Luther has no choice but to denounce it.

In real life, it’s Rand Paul who’s baffled and Congress that’s disinterested in denouncing religious persecution. “Every Democrat and every Republican, basically, supported foreign aid without restrictions or conditions,” Paul told Derrick. “They say the foreign aid will convince these people to behave better, [but] we’ve been giving the foreign aid for decade after decade and these countries still are persecuting Christians.”

Paul cited a Tuesday subcommittee hearing convened by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), that examined violence and discrimination against women around the globe. He said the panel heard many horrifying stories. “They complain, they have these big showy hearings, and they say ‘this is wrong,’ but … no one is willing to do anything,” Paul told World magazine.

“It’s all empty air if you’re just going to complain about it and not do anything about it,” Paul said. “People say American foreign aid is supposed to project American power, but you’re not projecting anything but weakness if you’re giving it to people who simply abuse their population.”

“Paul’s proposal also would have applied to countries that hand down harsh sentences for inter-faith marriage—exemplified in Meriam Ibrahim’s ongoing legal battle in Sudan,” writes Derrick.

Paul says he’s baffled. Opposing persecution is a non-partisan issue that should appeal to a wide spectrum of voters as well as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. “Just ask general America,” said Paul, “‘Do you think we should send money to a country that could put you to death for a religious belief or religious expression?’”

“I don’t think you’ll find one American in a hundred who is for this.”

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Top Polish doctor says he’s being persecuted — and prosecuted — because of his faith

Professor Bogdan Chazan, a devout Christian and one of Poland’s top doctors,  is director of the Holy Family Hospital in Warsaw.

He’s under fire for refusing to perform an abortion on a deformed baby — and has been fined $23,000. He has refused to pay and says no law can force him to violate his personal conviction that abortion ends life. In his eyes, that’s murder, which he refuses to commit, infuriating some in the Polish government.

Like the fictional John Luther in the forthcoming movie PERSECUTED, who was ordered by U.S. government officials to violate his faith or face serious consequences, Dr. Chazan knew if he followed his conscience, he would get in trouble. Luther refused to bow to an intrusive government — and so is Dr. Chazan.

The deformed child had been conceived in vitro at a fertility clinic, reports Natalia Dueholm for LifeNews. “Instead of an abortion, Dr. Chazan offered medical advice for the mother, hospital care before, during and after the pregnancy, and perinatal hospice care for the child.”

Although Polish law permits abortion of sick babies until viability, it does not give Polish citizens the right to an abortion. It merely decriminalizes abortion for the doctor and the mother.

Such a change in the law doesn’t matter to Dr. Chazan.

“This particular pregnancy did not pose a danger to the woman’s health,” writes Dueholm. “Also, according to Polish law, any physician can invoke the country’s conscience clause, which ensures that no doctor or medical professional will ever be required to perform, or participate in, an abortion.”

Nonetheless, Dr. Chazan was fined since government officials say he did not invoke the conscience clause properly. In particular, they say he should have given the patient the name of an abortionist.

bogdanchazan

Dr. Bogdan Chazin (Photo provided by Dr. Chazin)

He says he couldn’t do that.

Even before his case, that law was being challenged in Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal by the National Board of Medical Doctors. Poland’s Ordo Iuris Institute is participating in the challenge — and says requiring a doctor to refer women to abortionists destroys the purpose of the conscience clause.

Dr. Chazan’s actions were well within his constitutional rights, says law professor Ireneusz Wołoszczuk — who calls the attacks and fine “scandalous.”

Indeed, Chazan seems to have been singled out for persecution because he is such an outspoken opponent of abortion. Woloszcuk says Dr. Chazan is the victim of a “sting” by activists who want to overturn Poland’s strict abortion laws in the European Human Rights Court.

Because of Dr. Chazan’s  stand, his hospital has been a subject to several government inspections. “In fact,” writes Dueholm, “the government’s four inspections have violated the law, which allows only one at a time. The inspections are odd given the hospital’s outstanding reputation. Pregnant women throughout Warsaw want to give birth there, and the number of deliveries has tripled since Dr. Chazan took over. Dr. Chazan’s unwavering moral convictions have caused a fury in the pro-abortion media. Numerous politicians have joined the attack.”

Dr. Chazan has infuriated them by citing the case of Polish psychiatrist and national hero Karol Mikulski. During the World War II German occupation of Poland,  Nazi officials demanded Dr. Mikulski provide a list of incurable patients in his hospital. Mikulski knew that the Nazis planned to kill the terminally ill — and so refused, losing his life as a result.

Another heroic Polish example Dr. Chazan cites is Stanisława Leszczyńska, a midwife and prisoner during World War II who helped women give birth in Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp. She and an Auschwitz physician, Dr. Irena Konieczna, refused to follow Nazi orders to terminate the pregnancy of any Jewish women in the camp.

They refused, he says.

“And so must I.”

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