The public prosecution department has begun a criminal investigation into sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses community after at least five people have made a formal complaint, justice minister Sander Dekker told MPs on Thursday.
The complaints are being dealt with by specialised officials in different parts of the country, Dekker said in answer to MPs’ questions. Last month, MPs from across the political spectrum called for an investigation after the church said it would not sanction an independent inquiry into dozens of claims of abuse.
The church authorities say that measures have been put in place to protect children and very few victims have come forward.
However, a foundation set up by victims of sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses has already registered 276 potential cases of abuse.
Dekker said last year that the church should look to the example of the Catholic church to dealing with complaints about sexual abuse. In total, 3,712 people have reported being victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic church to a special hotline set up in 2010.
There are some 30,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Netherlands.
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