07ASTANA723, KAZAKHSTAN: DRAFT AMENDMENTS TO RELIGION LAW SPARK CONCERN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07ASTANA723 2007-03-20 02:43 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXYZ0004
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTA #0723 0790243
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 200243Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 8848

UNCLAS ASTANA 000723 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR SCA/CEN (M. O'MARA), DRL/PHD, DRL/IRF 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL KDEM KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: DRAFT AMENDMENTS TO RELIGION LAW SPARK CONCERN 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  The Religious Issues Committee (RIC) of the 
Ministry of Justice recently acknowledged that it is drafting 
amendments to "modernize" and "update" Kazakhstan's law on religion. 
 According to a draft of the amendments circulating among the human 
rights community, the new amendments would increase the role of the 
RIC in registering and monitoring religious groups and severely 
restrict the activities of any religious group with less than 50 
members.  An RIC official confirmed that some of these ideas were 
under consideration, but stated that the amendments were still in 
the draft stage, and that outside groups and religious confessions 
would ultimately have the opportunity to comment on the proposed 
legislation before it is submitted to the legislature. 
Nevertheless, human rights activists are very concerned about the 
threat to religious freedom posed by these amendments, and are 
mobilizing to oppose them. End summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
AMENDMENTS WOULD TIGHTEN CONTROL OVER RELIGIOUS GROUPS 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
2. (SBU) On February 1, Ninel Fokina, chairwoman of the Almaty 
Helsinki Committee, distributed copies of draft religion law 
amendments to PolOff, the OSCE human dimension officer, and several 
diplomats from OSCE member states.  Fokina acknowledged that the 
document was a draft, but in her view it was substantially complete 
based on her past experience with the legislative drafting process. 
 
3. (SBU) According to the draft, Kazakhstan's religion law would be 
amended in a number of areas.  The provision that has drawn the most 
attention thus far is the sharp restriction on the activities of any 
group with less than 50 members.  Such groups would be subject to a 
mandatory, though simplified, registration process.  Among other 
things, they would be prohibited from publishing, producing, 
exporting, or importing religious literature or materials designed 
for religious purposes; setting up facilities for the production of 
religious literature and other religious products; building and 
maintaining facilities for religious services, meetings, and 
worship; and soliciting or receiving financial donations.  Although 
the draft text is not entirely clear, this provision appears to 
apply to both local, independent religious groups and local branches 
of nationally registered groups. 
 
4. (SBU) In addition, the proposed text appears to increase the 
power of the RIC, empowering it to register religious associations 
and all of their branch and representative offices; keep a database 
on religious associations; oversee implementation of religious 
freedom legislation; coordinate operation of foreign religious 
organizations in Kazakhstan, including the appointment of their 
leaders; and coordinate the construction of buildings for worship. 
As part of the registration process, religious groups would be 
required to provide the RIC with basic information on their faith 
and their worship practices, including the history of the faith and 
of the particular religious organization.  The registration 
materials will then be subjected to an "expert analysis," on which 
the RIC will base its registration decision.

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