IRF Roundtable Letter on Declining Religious Freedom Conditions in Kazakhstan

UCSJ, along with other members of the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Roundtable, sent a letter to the UN regarding our concern for declining religious freedom conditions in Kazakhstan. Click the above link to view it, or read an excerpt below:

Prof. Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Palais des Nations CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Dear Mr. Rapporteur, We write as an informal group of organizations and individuals who are scholars, religious leaders, human rights advocates and practitioners to express our deep concern about rising restrictions on religion in the Republic of Kazakhstan. According to the 2012 Annual Report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, “Conditions for religious freedom declined sharply in Kazakhstan during the reporting period.”

We urge you to visit Kazakhstan at the earliest possible opportunity, perform a review of the situation, identify existing and emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief, and present recommendations on ways and means to overcome these obstacles.

Your visit would be consistent with recommendations that were made to Kazakhstan in 2010 as part of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). In fact, Kazakhstan accepted the recommendation “To reach out to the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief to arrange a visit at the earliest possible opportunity (United States of America).”

At the same time, Kazakhstan rejected the recommendation “To abolish requirements for the registration of religious groups from the existing Administrative Code, in accordance with the laws adopted in 2005 on the elimination of extremism and the strengthening national security, and to review the provisions of the Law on Freedom of Religion and Religious Associations in order to effectively guarantee freedom of belief and a non-discriminatory legal system for the registration of religious entities (Mexico).”

Further, Kazakhstan rejected the recommendation “To consider the rules for the registration of religious groups, and to take steps to promote interfaith harmony, including with regard to those faiths considered to be non-traditional in the country, in order to adhere to the Constitution and to international norms (Norway).”

Finally, the subsequent rising restrictions on religion are the result of two new laws that were enacted without debate and signed by President Nazarbaev in October 2011 – a new Religion Law and an Administrative Code Law that amends nine other laws and legal provisions related to religious activity and religious associations.