Friday, June 13, 2008

More Persecution of Kazakhstan's Religious Minorities On the Way

Forum 18 is reporting that the new religion law to be passed in Kazakhstan is a travesty of justice, a law that will further promote the government's oppressive treatment of religious minorities.

Despite recent changes to Kazakhstan's draft Religion Law, the text still contains many violations of international human rights commitments, Forum 18 News Service has found. It is due to be presented to parliament for its first of three readings tomorrow (11 June) by the parliamentary Working Group.

"They put many distracting points in the draft to take away our attention from the real pitfalls," Aleksandr Klyushev of the Association of Religious Organisations complained to Forum 18. "We need to do everything in our power to stop this Law from being adopted."

Penalties for unregistered religious activity will be stepped up, and 50 adult citizen members will be required to register local religious communities. Local religious groups will not have the right to engage in educational, publishing or missionary activity.

Kamal Burkhanov, who leads the Working Group, defended the restrictions on sharing one's faith in public. "Do people go to the toilet on a bus?" he told Forum 18. "No, they go to a toilet. Therefore whoever needs to meet their religious needs should go to a synagogue, mosque or a church." He showed no sympathy for those - like Baptists - who are often fined for unregistered religious activity. "They should not violate the law."

Burkhanov said the OSCE's review of the draft Law has not yet been received, but he claimed that any criticism of any provisions would be taken into account...

Earlier versions of the draft Law were fiercely criticised by many religious communities – including Lutheran, Baptist, Catholic, Hare Krishna and other representatives – as well as by legal specialists and human rights activists... A Working Group draft from 2 June – which Forum 18 has seen – removes or softens some of the provisions that clearly violate Kazakhstan's international human rights commitments, but many violations of these commitments remain.