NHC report urges the implementation of commitments on freedom of religion or belief

Freedom of religion or belief is under threat together with other fundamental rights in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, according to a report by NHC and Forum 18.

The report has testimonies from local people and analysis of recent legal changes and state initiatives. It shows that both governments think their obligation to protect everyone’s right to believe or not believe is less important than imposing restrictions and silencing alternative opinions, allegedly in the name of stability, tradition, or anti-terrorism.

– Freedom of religion or belief is restricted in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan today both by the authorities and the public, says Lene Wetteland, NHC Central Asia advisor and co-author of the report.

–Restrictive legislation results in censorship, arrests and fines, deportations, complicated registration procedures and even forced psychiatric treatment, whereas public condemnation and harassment of believers is rather encouraged than prevented on a local level. Kazakhstan has long boasted about its policy of harmony and tolerance in the religious sphere, but the practice as illustrated in this report demonstrates the true face of this policy. In the neighboring Kyrgyz Republic, promising reform of the state’s religious policy through dialogue and inclusion have so far not resulted in concrete improvements on the ground, says Wetteland.

The new report, “Below Freedom of Religion or Belief Standards: State Policy in Kazakhstan, arbitrary protection in the Kyrgyz Republic”, is one of the outcomes of a joint project with Forum 18 News Service, the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human rights, and the Stefanus Alliance. Forum 18 is co-author of the report which describes the situation in the two countries, analyses legislation and puts forward recommendations in the field of freedom of religion or belief. It builds on and updates a report issued in 2010 entitled “Broken Promises: Freedom of Religion or Belief issues in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan».

– We hope that the report’s recommendations and clear description of the effect the laws have on believers can be taken into consideration for reforms of the law on religious organisations in both countries, concludes Wetteland. – The laws are in violation of the states’ respective constitutions and international obligations, and we fear the consequences the severe restrictions and the atmosphere they create in society will have in the long run.

Download English version of the report here

Download Russian version of the report here