Washington, D.C.- The Institute on Religion and Public Policy condemns Tuesday's passage of a dangerous and restrictive religion law by the Senate of Kazakhstan.
In a letter to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Expert Committee on Legislation and Implementation of the Institute spelled out the numerous violations of religious liberty and of political commitments to religious liberty that Kazakhstan has made with the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Kazakhstan is scheduled to chair the OSCE in 2010.
"This legislation, if passed and enacted, would constitute the most oppressive religion law in the entire OSCE region," the letter states. "The draft Religion Law is completely inconsistent with fundamental human rights as it contravenes the principles of equality and non-discrimination. The draft Religion Law provides for harsh penalties for unregistered religious activity. Local religious communities will only be allowed to register if they include fifty adult citizen members. Local religious groups will be denied important rights, including the right to engage in educational, publishing or missionary activity."
The letter further states that, "History is replete with examples of laws which constrain individual religious practice by denying legal entity status and recognition to certain religious organizations.These provisions, if drafted, represent intolerance of freedom of thought, conscience and belief in violation of Kazakhstan's human rights obligations under the OSCE Vienna Accords and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."
"In light of the serious human rights defects in the draft Religion Law, we urge you to not sign the draft Religion Law but instead to send it back for further debate, amendment and study to ensure that the provisions in the proposed legislation comply with international human rights standards."
"Such laws clearly violate Kazakhstan's OSCE pledge to 'respect the rights of religious communities to establish and maintain freely accessible places of worship or assembly, organize themselves according to their own institutional structure and to solicit and receive voluntary financial and other contributions,' stated Institute President Joseph K. Grieboski.
"As a result, we strongly urge OSCE member states to reconsider Kazakhstan's chairmanship in 2010 during the upcoming Council of Ministers meeting unless the Kazakh government revises the law to be in compliance with OSCE guidelines concerning religious freedom. Without these changes, a Kazakh chairmanship compromises the integrity and authority of the OSCE and its dedication to religious freedom and corresponding human rights."
The full text of the letter can be found here.