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ICC Note:

Kazakhstan’s laws are filled with restrictions on religious freedom that have been criticized by international organizations and human rights defenders. In 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee called on Kazakhstan to reform its regulations and laws to promote freedom of religion. In November 2017, Kazakhstan finished its draft of Amending Laws that adjusts its current regulations…but for the worse. If passed, the Amending Laws will restrict freedom of religion even more by requiring religious organizations to re-register with the state to be considered legal, restrict who can become clergy, remove religious persons’ exemption from mandatory military service, and punish the distribution of literature that is religious in nature.  When confronted about the further restrictions, the government refused to answer questions.

12/1/2017 Kazakhstan (Forum 18) – Kazakhstan’s draft Amending Law proposing many wide-ranging changes to the 2011 Religion Law, Administrative Code and many other laws is now with the Prime Minister for approval before being sent to parliament.

A senior official of the Religion and Civil Society Ministry’s Religious Affairs Committee told Forum 18 she expects Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev to approve the draft Law “soon” and send it to the lower house of Parliament, the Majilis.

The Religious Affairs Committee official refused to explain why the Amending Law does not remove restrictions in the existing Law which violate Kazakhstan’s international human rights obligations and why it adds further restrictions (see below).

The Religion and Civil Society Ministry, which prepared the draft Amending Law, completed work on it on 17 November. Government agencies have already given their approval to the draft Law, including the Justice Ministry, Interior Ministry and National Security Committee (KNB) secret police, Aliya Abeldinova, deputy chair of the Religious Affairs Committee, told Forum 18 from the capital Astana on 29 November.

The final text, unlike earlier drafts, will require all registered non-Muslim and non-Russian Orthodox religious organisations to bring their statutes into line with the new provisions and to re-register with the Justice Ministry. Local Russian Orthodox communities will also be required to re-register. The draft gives no timescale for compulsory re-registration (see below).

The re-registration requirement is “very bad”, one legal specialist told Forum 18 from Kazakhstan.

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