Posted by: becketfund | February 13, 2009

Kazakhstan: Restrictive Religion Amendments Ruled Unconstitutional

ASTANA – The government has dramatically reversed legislation curtailing religious freedoms after the measure and the jailing and expulsion of two religious activists caused an international outcry, the Washington Times reported on February 13. A spokesman for the Kazakh Embassy said on February 12 that the amendments did not dovetail with international human rights law and were sent back to committee. On February 4, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) assessed the law as not complying with human rights standards. The amendments bolstered the main religions in the country – Islam and the Russian Orthodox Church – whose leaders have been asking the government to crack down on religious minorities. “We are pleased that Kazakhstan has finally listened to the international outcry about the draconian religious registration law,” said Bennett Graham, international programs officer at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “It is encouraging to see the balance of powers play out in this budding democracy. Human rights groups around the globe had complained about the amendments, which ratcheted up penalties for unregistered religious groups such as Baptists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and increased from 10 to 50 the minimum number of members a religious organization must have in order for it to register.

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