At Least 146 Fines in 2013 for Practicing Religion in Kazakhstan

ICC Note: The exercise of religion in Kazakhstan comes with a very real price. According to a recent report from Forum 18, the fines against individuals for exercising their religious beliefs without state permission has totaled more than $118,000. There have been 119 individuals who have been fined, some of them on multiple occasions. The average of the fines has been equivalent to approximately two months average salary. The fines have been handed down to a wide range of religious groups and for varying reasons, but it has clearly demonstrated that the freedom of religion is severely restricted in Kazakhstan.

By Felix Corely

11/11/2013 Kazakhstan (Forum 18) – Many people have been fined in 2013 in Kazakhstan for the “offence” of exercising freedom of religion or belief without state permission. So far in 2013, at least 146 administrative fines have been imposed on 119 named individuals, some of whom have been fined up to five times, according to a list compiled by Forum 18 News Service. Fines have mostly been equivalent to either one or two months’ average salary. Such fines, including fines for refusal to pay such unjust penalties, have been imposed on Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hare Krishna devotees and Muslims. In addition, eleven fines were imposed on commercial booksellers and other traders. If people refuse to pay such fines – imposed against Kazakhstan’s international human rights obligations – they can also be banned from leaving the country. The list of documented fines is incomplete as state authorities refuse to make information public. Fines for the “offence” of exercising a human right without state permission are still being imposed.

At least 146 administrative fines have been handed down in Kazakhstan so far in 2013 on 119 named individuals (some of them up to five times) to punish them for exercising the right to freedom of religion, according to a list compiled by Forum 18 News Service. A further individual was given a written warning. Four more named individuals were given small administrative fines and two were given short-term imprisonment in 2013 for failing to pay earlier fines.

Others are known to have been given administrative fines in 2013 to punish them for exercising the right to freedom of religion, but Forum 18 has been unable to find their names.

Fines are handed down for such “offences” as leading or meeting for worship without the compulsory state registration; selling or distributing religious literature which has not undergone state censorship and in a place which does not have a state licence to sell religious materials; sharing one’s faith with others without being personally registered as “missionaries”; and inviting others to attend religious meetings (see eg. F18News 30 October 2013 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1891).

Fines

All the known administrative fines together so far in 2013 total 10,460 Minimum Financial Indicators (MFIs). Throughout 2013 one MFI has been 1,731 Tenge. This means the total level of known administrative fines levied so far in 2013 to punish individuals for exercising the right to freedom of religion has reached 18,106,260 Tenge (735,000 Norwegian Kroner, 88,000 Euros or 118,000 US Dollars).

The biggest known administrative fines so far in 2013 (Cherkasov and Zhaksybai) were of 200 MFIs. A total of 57 known fines of 100 MFIs and 86 of 50 MFIs were handed down. The remaining four fines were of 5 MFIs or less.

A fine of 100 MFIs – 173,100 Tenge (7,000 Norwegian Kroner, 850 Euros or 1,100 US Dollars) – is about two months’ average wages.

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