15 November 1999

PROPOSED EXTENSION OF REREGISTRATION DEADLINE A MIXED BLESSING FOR RUSSIA’S RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service Although a proposed amendment to the 1997 Russian law on religion would extend the reregistration deadline for religious organisations by one year, it would subject organisations unregistered by 31 December 2000 to liquidation by court order, as it also removes the possibility for discernment on the part of the local registering organ provided for by the current text. The task of drawing up the proposed amendment was entrusted to VYACHESLAV POLOSIN, adviser to the State Duma Committee for the Affairs of Social and Religious Organisations, at a meeting of that committee on 17 September. (For further background, see KNS 1 September: DEADLINE FOR REREGISTRATION OF RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS TO BE EXTENDED?) Polosin’s text has since been approved by the State Duma Council and distributed among the various Duma committees in order that they become familiar with the document. In the view of LEV LEVINSON, aide to Duma deputy VALERI BORSHCHEV, however, it is unlikely that the bill will be passed before the original deadline of 31 December 1999: ‘It has yet to be voted on, and there are only a few Duma sessions left. It will then be a new Duma which votes on the document in January or February.’ Levinson pointed out that there had been a delay of several months before the Duma had approved a similar amendment to extend the registration period for social organisations, which expired on 15 June 1999. In the case of religious organisations, he said, ‘it is significant that the Ministry of Justice has distributed a document throughout Russia informing its local departments about a forthcoming amendment to the law. They are taking this into account and are not rushing to get religious organisations reregistered.’ In addition to the postponement of the reregistration deadline, the proposed amendment introduces changes to the second paragraph of Article 27 Point 4. This part of the law currently reads ‘Once this period has expired, religious organisations which have not completed reregistration may be liquidated by court order upon the appeal of the body which conducts state registration of religious organisations.’ Polosin’s text is as follows: ‘Once this period has expired, religious organisations which have not completed reregistration are subject to liquidation by court order by order of the organ carrying out state registration of religious organisations.’ According to Levinson, the initiative to amend this paragraph originates with the Ministry of Justice: ‘It is so that the local departments of the Ministry of Justice will act correspondingly harshly in the provinces - they will be obliged to appeal to the courts for the liquidation of religious organisations.’ ALEKSANDR KUDRYAVTSEV, head of registration of religious organisations at the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, told Keston that in his view the proposed wording was more precise: ‘In the current law it is imprecise and allows room for subjectivity - some organisations may be considered “good” and it is therefore unnecessary to take them to court, while others might be seen as “bad”, and could be taken to court. This should be decided by the court.’ When Keston asked whether this wording might be interpreted by the local departments of the Ministry of Justice as an appeal to refer to the courts for liquidation all those religious organisations which had not managed to obtain reregistration, Kudryavtsev answered: ‘Yes, once this period has expired, they should be taken to court. There should not be any exceptions.’ Here is the full text of the amendment, obtained by Keston on 10 November: Draft law proposed by deputy of the State Duma V.I. Zorkaltsev Federal Law of the Russian Federation ‘On the Introduction of Amendments to Article 27 Point 4 of the Federal Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations”’ Article 1 The following amendments are to be inserted into Article 27 Point 4 of the federal law ‘On Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Organisations’ (Legislative Assembly of the Russian Federation, 1997, No 39, Article 4465): 1.  In the first paragraph replace the words ‘31 December 1999’ with ‘31 December 2000’. 2.  Change the wording of the second paragraph to the following: ‘Once this period has expired, religious organisations which have not completed reregistration are subject to liquidation by court order by order of the organ carrying out state registration of religious organisations.’ Article 2 This federal law comes into force from the day of its official publication. President of the Russian Federation, 18.10.99’ (END) All Keston News Service material is protected by copyright: (c) Keston Institute 1999 Reproduction for personal use only. Subscription payments directly help religious freedom as we cannot provide this material unless we have income. If you have colleagues and friends who you think would be interested in receiving KNS, please invite them to log on to our website http://www.keston.org/ which has details of some latest KNS stories with sample articles. It also has details of our magazine ‘Frontier’ and academic journal ‘Religion, State & Society’. Subscription information is on the website and at the end of this message. 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