KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 19 February 2001

I. KAZAKHSTAN: TOUGH NEW AMENDMENTS TO RELIGION LAW
PROPOSED. If adopted and fully implemented, the latest draft amendments
to Kazakhstan's 1992 law on religion will place the country among those
former Soviet republics with the harshest climate for religious freedom. The
provisions repeat and extend those of a draft discussed at a 17 January state-
organised round table in former capital Almaty and condemned by some as
`unconstitutional and discriminatory'

II. KAZAKHSTAN: HARSH PROVISIONS OF DRAFT AMENDMENTS
TO RELIGION LAW. The October 2000 draft religion law, rejected by the
culture ministry, introduces terminology which is nevertheless adopted and
elaborated upon in subsequent drafts in January and February. Their 40
extensive amendments contain forceful provisions significantly in excess of,
for example, Russia's 1997 religion law. Some of the restrictions � such as
registration being made compulsory - would violate Kazakhstan's
international human rights commitments

I. KAZAKHSTAN: TOUGH NEW AMENDMENTS TO RELIGION LAW
PROPOSED

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

If adopted and fully implemented, the latest draft amendments to
Kazakhstan's 1992 law on religion obtained by Keston News Service will
place the country among those former Soviet republics with the harshest
climate for religious freedom (see separate KNS article). The provisions
repeat and extend those of a draft discussed at a 17 January state-organised
round table in former capital Almaty and condemned as `unconstitutional
and discriminatory' in a 24 January letter to Minister of Justice, Igor Rogov,
and Minister of Culture, Information and Public Accord, Altenbek
Sarsenbayev, by the largely-Protestant Association of Religious
Organisations of Kazakhstan (AROK).

Last December AROK raised similar objections to an entire draft believed to
be that drawn up by the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Kazakhstan
(SDMK) and announced by SDMK head Absattar Derbysalayev in the 25
October edition of national newspaper Kazakhstanskaya Pravda. On 15
January acting culture minister Oleg Ryabchenko informed AROK that this
draft had been rejected by his ministry which, together with the secretariat of
the government's Committee for Relations with Religious Organisations
(CRRO), was currently drawing up amendments to the 1992 law that would
`undoubtedly take into account commonly recognised democratic norms'.

Given that none of the October, January or February drafts have any date,
signature or indication of origin, government officials can refuse to comment
on them by pleading their unofficial status, as did the head of the
Department for Religious Organisations at Almaty akimat (council)
Vladimir Ivanov when interviewed by Keston on 6 February. This also
makes it impossible for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in
Europe (OSCE) to comment, complained Birgit Kainz, human rights officer
at the organisation's Almaty office. `We are very worried - we have been
trying to obtain official texts for a month now,' she told Keston on 6
February.

The February draft now appears to be under active consideration by officials
in the capital Astana. The president of Emmanuel Christian Society for
Evangelisation and Charitable Activity, Roman Dudnik, told Keston in
Almaty on 7 February that since the appearance of the January draft a culture
ministry official had commented to him that the ministry was considering a
further draft it deemed `acceptable'. Following fine-tuning of legal
terminology by the CRRO in mid-February, according to the president of
AROK, Vladimir Leshevsky, the draft will be presented to parliament at the
beginning of March. There is no requirement in law for the draft to be made
public before then.

Why such a radical overhaul of the law on religion? Ninel Fokina of Almaty
Helsinki Committee suggests two reasons: the threat to state security from
Islamic militancy - as exemplified by car bombings in the Uzbek capital
Tashkent in February 1999 and incursions by the Islamic Movement of
Uzbekistan into neighbouring Kyrgyzstan in the autumns of 1999 and 2000 -
and Muslim and Russian Orthodox fears they are losing their flock and
income to competing Protestants. Neither the secretary of Almaty Orthodox
diocese, Father Sergei Goryunov, nor Mufti Derbysalayev, however, was
familiar with the drafts when Keston spoke to them on 7 February, although
Mufti Derbysalayev insisted all religious organisations should be registered
and commented that members of his organisation did not `walk the streets
like totalitarian sects'.

According to Kainz of the OSCE, the religion law `is under permanent threat
of being changed'. Since the Muslim and Orthodox desire for state protection
predates the more recent attempts to change it, the perceived threat from
radical Islam appears to be decisive. On 8 February Oleg Rubets, an
influential religious broadcaster and convert to Islam, told Keston that after
two years trying to persuade President Nursultan Nazarbayev of the threat to
Kazakhstan posed by radical Islam, his warnings were now being heeded.

Religious activity has indeed become a recent concern in Nazarbayev's
speeches, which are closely followed by officials in the state administration.
In a speech to akims of all levels on 30 January in Astana, Nazarbayev spoke
of the necessity of `exhaustive measures' to prevent `the radicalisation of the
religious consciousness of Kazakh citizens'. In particular, he complained it
had become `the fashion to build mosques, churches and prayer houses... but
no one is interested whether a mosque or church is necessary in a particular
place or not'. All mosques, he insisted, should be under the auspices of
SDMK, before setting `increased control and regulation of religious activity'
as the tenth of ten tasks for the akims.

Almost all those interviewed by Keston in Almaty were agreed that radical
Islam could pose a threat to state security. However, Leshevsky, Rubets and
Roman Podoprigora, a lawyer at Almaty's Adilet (`Justice') Law Institute, all
pointed out that the draft laws did not pose the slightest obstacle to Islamic
militants, as they refused to acknowledge secular law. Fanatics bent on
establishing an Islamic state, Leshevsky argued, `need to be fought not with
legal means but with harsh measures'.

The Ministry of Culture, Information and Public Accord was forced to
withdraw an earlier highly restrictive draft bill in March 1999 after protests
by many religious communities and human rights activists (see KNS 17
March 1999). (END)


II. KAZAKHSTAN: HARSH PROVISIONS OF DRAFT AMENDMENTS
TO RELIGION LAW

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

Rejected by the culture ministry and described by Ninel Fokina of the
Almaty Helsinki Committee as the product of `legal incompetence', the
October 2000 draft religion law (see separate KNS article) introduces
terminology which is nevertheless adopted and elaborated upon in
subsequent drafts. The October draft - believed to have been drawn up by the
Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Kazakhstan (SDMK) � also specifies
compulsory registration (Kazakhstan's 1992 law on religion merely stated
that registration was necessary in order to obtain legal personality status).
Although some of the October draft's more outlandish measures - such as
bans on private religious tuition and the public appearance of non-clergy in
`cult attire' - are absent from the January and February drafts, their 40
extensive amendments do contain forceful provisions significantly in excess
of, for example, Russia's 1997 religion law.

In addition to the October draft's legal definitions of terms such as `religious
organisation', `confession' and `religion', the amendments to Article 1 of the
1992 law in the January and February drafts include the following:

`Religious sects - particular groups of an extremist disposition professing a
creed of a nontraditional tendency.'

`Reactionary fundamentalism - a religious movement professing adherence
to initial concepts and values of particular teachings and which demands that
deviations forming in their development be forcibly overcome in order that
the original position might be restored.'

`Religious extremism - adherence to a creed with extreme views and
measures.'

`Missionary activity - activity with the aim of preaching and spreading any
religious teaching by means of religious-educational, charitable or other
activity.'

Other articles of the drafts build on this new terminology. According to
Amendment 5 of the January and February drafts, `the activity of religious
sects in the Republic of Kazakhstan is prohibited.' Amendment 16 states that
`the preparation, preservation and distribution of literature, cine-, photo- and
video-products and other materials containing ideas of religious extremism
and reactionary fundamentalism are prohibited.' Under Amendment 6 of the
February draft, `citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan, foreign citizens and
persons without citizenship may conduct missionary activity on the territory
of the Republic of Kazakhstan only with the permission of the competent
state organ' (in the January draft, `the state organ for relations with religious
organisations').

The January draft introduces an amendment to the 1997 Criminal Code
under which missionary activity conducted without permission is subject to
punishment of between 100 and 500 times the monthly index (`mesyachny
raschetny pokazatel'),or between two and five month's wages, or up to one
year's corrective labour, or up to two months under arrest. The February
draft increases this to two years' corrective labour, up to six months under
arrest or deprivation of freedom for up to one year. The 1992 law already
states that all religious organisations must conduct their activity on the basis
of their own charter - Amendment 11 introduces the provision that this
charter `is subject to registration'.

There are two further differences between the otherwise identical January
and February drafts, both additions. A provision in Amendment 10 of the
February draft repeats word-for-word that of Article 6 Point 5 of the October
draft: `The activity of foreign religious organisations on the territory of the
Republic of Kazakhstan as well as the appointment of leaders of religious
organisations in the Republic by foreign religious centres must take place
with the agreement of the corresponding state organs.' Amendment 11 states
that `Islamic religious groups... must present a document confirming their
affiliation with the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Kazakhstan.'

Any requirement that registration be made compulsory would violate
Kazakhstan's international human rights commitments, as would a ban on
missionary activity and a requirement for state involvement in the selection
of leaders for any religious group.

How likely is the draft to reach parliament in its present form? Vladimir
Leshevsky of the Association of Religious Organisations of Kazakhstan and
Fokina both suggested to Keston that the drafts were a probe to gauge public
and international reaction - according to Leshevsky, `to find out the
maximum they can get away with'. Fokina, Leshevsky and Roman Dudnik
of the Emmanuel Christian Society all thought that objections might result in
the removal of some of the harsher provisions, such as the ban on `religious
sects', but that compulsory registration and licences for missionary work
would remain.

On 9 February Roman Podoprigora, a lawyer at Almaty's Adilet (`Justice')
Law Institute, told Keston that in mid-January an official of the Committee
for Relations with Religious Organisations confirmed to him that the January
draft was in principle acceptable to the Committee but would be `actively
revised'. Since the minor changes in the draft obtained by Keston merely
harshen the provisions of the January draft, however, a radical revision
appears unlikely before it is presented to parliament. Unable to give a
prognosis - `someone in the presidential administration might push it
through quickly and quietly, or the USA and the international community
might stop it' - Podoprigora hinted that the immediacy of the threat from
radical Islam might override other concerns. `The question is: which will the
government fear more - the wrath of the USA or the independent activity of
Islamic fighters?' (END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.