SEPTEMBER 27, 2018
Courts in the Czech Republic and Slovakia Exonerate Our Fellow Worshippers
Records Are Cleared After Decades of Criminalizing Conscientious Objectors
In recent years, courts in the Czech Republic and Slovakia have exonerated our brothers who were criminally charged in the past for conscientiously refusing to perform military service or for participating in the preaching work—actions no longer considered crimes. One of the overturned convictions was issued in 1925. (See story of Brother Martin Boor, who was exonerated 90 years after his conviction.) The courts’ decisions support our brothers’ fundamental right to act in accord with their religious convictions.
Since May 2017, the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic annulled the verdicts for 45 of our brothers who refused to perform military service during the Communist regime and were convicted and sentenced. In October 2017, the Supreme Court also exonerated Brother Martin Magenheim, who was sentenced in 1978 for his preaching activity.
As for Slovakia, the District Court of Bratislava I exonerated four of our brothers for the “crime” of conscientious objection, and the Regional Court in Trenčín did the same for yet another one of our brothers. One sister, Eva Borošová, who was sentenced in 1974 for participating in the preaching activity, was exonerated by the District Court of Rimavská Sobota. On January 9, 2018, the District Court of Michalovce canceled the verdict of a 1993 case against Brother Miloš Išky Janík, who was repeatedly sentenced for refusing to participate in civil service that violated his conscience.
André Carbonneau, an attorney representing Jehovah’s Witnesses, explains: “By acquitting Witnesses who were convicted for conscientious objection to military service or for participating in the ministry work decades ago, these courts are upholding a timeless principle embodied in fundamental human rights: respect for individual freedom of conscience and worship. The efforts of these courts to rectify the unjust treatment of conscientious objectors perpetrated during a time when human rights were not internationally acknowledged provide a progressive role model for the international community. Additionally, the courts have helped remove the tarnish on the reputations of our innocent fellow worshippers. We greatly appreciate this, since the Bible describes a good name as something of high value.”—Ecclesiastes 7:1.