National legislation must be in line with international human rights

As a result of long-term work on freedom of religion or belief in Central Asia the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights were invited to conduct a workshop with Kyrgyz parliamentarians discussing how to ensure that national legislation is line with international human rights. The workshop took place in Bishkek on 10-11 February 2014.

There seems to be an understanding in Kyrgyzstan that current legislation on religion is not in full compliance with human rights, says Lene Wetteland, Central Asia Advisor in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – This was discussed during the workshop. Lawmakers are engaged in reforming policies on religion, and in doing so they should ensure that new legislation and policies are in full compliance with human rights, while also addressing security issues.

The workshop was attended by around 20 parliamentarians, advisors and experts at the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic, Zhogorku Kenesh.

The topics discussed at the workshop included human rights with a particular focus on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of speech and freedom of association. Participants had lively discussions on various human rights related challenges. The sessions on law-making, how to ensure that legislation is in line with international human rights, cooperation between civil society and authorities, as well as on soft security issues triggered constructive debates.

A one-day workshop with religious groups on 13 February discussed similar topics.

– Despite some positive developments in Kyrgyzstan, there are concerns that authorities restrict human rights in order to deal with security issues, says Wetteland. – The government should address the root causes of intolerance and violent extremism. From a human rights point of view, it is regrettable if religious communities are denied registration or practice of their religion because of fear of violent reactions from other belief communities. The ongoing work on a national strategy for sustainable development and a new state concept on religion is a golden opportunity to address how to ensure respect for human rights while dealing with security issues effectively.