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New Religion Law restricts religious freedom in Kazakhstan

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New Religion Law restricts religious freedom in Kazakhstan

by JW-Media.org | For Immediate Release | November 1, 2011 | (Russian)

ASTANA, Kazakhstan—Despite serious concern expressed by the international community, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan signed the proposed Religion Law entitled “The Law On Religious Activity and Religious Associations.” The law came into effect after October 25, 2011.

The new law will force all existing religious organizations to submit reregistration documents within one year and will require each organization to have at least 50 members. Without reregistration it will be illegal to publish, import or distribute religious literature within the country. Violations of the law will lead to severe fines and can result in the complete ban of an organization.

Provisions in the new law appear to be open to interpretation, allowing strict oversight of religious activity, obligating missionaries to reregister annually, and granting officials broad authority to approve or decline the importation of religious literature.

A statement issued on October 13, 2011, from the United States Mission to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) urged “the government of Kazakhstan to work with [the] ODIHR [Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights] to address these concerns in order to ensure that this law does not improperly restrict freedom of religion or belief in any way that is inconsistent with the country’s OSCE commitments and its international obligations.”

There are over 17,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kazakhstan and more than 7.5 million Witnesses around the world.

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