Legal recognition in Austria—left in a holding pattern?

Legal recognition in Austria—left in a holding pattern?
Austria’s Federal Ministry of Education, Arts, and Culture had until January 11, 2009, to decide on the recognition of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religious community, but the deadline passed without a decision being rendered.

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES OFFICE OF PUBLIC INFORMATION

For Immediate Release
January 23, 2009
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Legal recognition in Austria—left in a holding pattern?

VIENNA—Austria’s Federal Ministry of Education, Arts, and Culture had until January 11, 2009, to decide on the recognition of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religious community, but the deadline passed without a decision being rendered. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled six months earlier (July 31, 2008), supporting the right of Jehovah’s Witnesses to legal recognition. The ECHR specifically objected to the inactivity of the Austrian decision-makers. Their delay has forced Jehovah’s Witnesses to wait an inordinately long time for recognition. Because of the excessive length of the proceedings, the right to a fair trial has been violated.

Johann Zimmermann, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Austria, says: “We’re puzzled at the tardiness of the Austrian decision-makers. We submitted all the needed information months ago. There were clear indications a decision would be reached by the end of the year, clearly before the deadline.” He continues: “We have been waiting for recognition for more than 30 years. Eventually, a decision has to come. We will do everything we can to hasten the process so as not to be put off again for years. If dealings with the Federal Ministry of Education cannot resolve the matter, a first step would be to present the facts to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. We hope that Austrian decision-makers want to comply with international human rights standards and that our recognition will not be delayed further.”

Contact in Austria: Johann Zimmermann
Telephone: 0043-1-804 53 45-39; E-Mail: legal@at.wtbts.org

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