KAZAKHSTAN: Controversial Religion Law Sent to Constitutional Council.

Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 6 March 2002

Kazakhstan's controversial religion law, approved by parliament at the end of January and sent for signature by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, has now been sent to the Constitutional Council for it to give its expertise, Keston News Service has learned. Sources in the presidential administration in the capital Astana reported on 6 March that this process is likely to take about a month and that the law will then be returned to the president.

Ever since the law - which the president declared "urgent" in mid-January - was adopted by parliament, its progress has been shrouded in secrecy (see KNS 22 February 2002).

If it is eventually signed in present form, the law would allow unregistered religious groups to be banned, require all missionaries to be registered and deny legal registration to all Muslim organisations outside the framework of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kazakhstan. In its survey of opinion among religious communities in January, Keston found that only the Spiritual Administration offered unequivocal support for the new law, while a range of faiths strongly criticised many of its provisions. Many provisions have also been criticised by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. (END)