[JURIST] A UN expert on Friday urged [press release] the Kazakhstan government to end the mandatory registration of religious communities. Currently, all religious communities in Kazakhstan are required by law to obtain registration status to exercise collective religious functions. During a visit to Kazakhstan, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt said in a statement [text] that such a law leads to legal insecurity: “Those communities, which fail to meet the threshold set by the law or prefer not to be registered, live in legal insecurity which adversely affects their freedom of religion or belief.” Bielefeldt also expressed concern over restrictive interpretations of the country’s secular constitution that confounded freedom of religion to pre-defined territorial spaces, and recommended, “an open discussion with the meaning and implications of secularism” to help “overcome restrictive attitudes within the administration and within law-enforcement agencies.” Bielefeldt will present a report to the UN Human Rights Council in 2015 with his conclusions and recommendations.
Kazakhstan has recently drawn international criticism for its human rights record. Last November a court in Kazakhstan upheld [JURIST report] the conviction of an outspoken opposition leader accused of inciting dissent in an attempt to overthrow the government. In October Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] claimed that oil workers in the country face mistreatment [JURIST report] and repression at the hands of the government and oil companies. In August HRW urged Kazakhstan to ensure that the trials of Kozlov, another political activist, and an oil worker comport with international legal standards [JURIST report] for fair trials. In July UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for an independent probe [JURIST report] into the December unrest between oil workers and an oil company. In June HRW demanded [JURIST report] that the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan publicly disclose the reason for bringing new charges against a group of labor activists and an oil worker who participated in the December unrest. The committee charged them with “calling for the forcible overthrow of the constitutional order.” Earlier that month a court in Kazakhstan sentenced [JURIST report] 13 out of 37 defendants to between three and seven years of imprisonment for their participation in unrest that occurred last December. Sixteen of the remaining defendants faced conditional sentences [BBC report] while five defendants were given amnesty and three were acquitted.