08ASTANA1107, KAZAKHSTAN – CHANGES MADE TO RELIGION LAW

WikiLeaks Link

To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.
Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol).Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #08ASTANA1107.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA1107 2008-06-12 11:44 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Astana

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTA #1107/01 1641144
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 121144Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2596
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0524
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1914

C O N F I D E N T I A L ASTANA 001107 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/12/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KIRF KDEM KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN - CHANGES MADE TO RELIGION LAW 
AMENDMENTS, GOK PROMISES TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT ODIHR 
RECOMMENDATIONS 
 
REF: (A) ASTANA 767 (B) STATE 52046 (C) ASTANA 411 
 
Classified By: Pol-Econ Chief Steven Fagin, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
------- 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
1. (C) The Mazhilis passed on first reading a revised text of 
amendments to Kazakhstan's religion law.  Some of the most 
problematic provisions were removed from this latest version, 
though at the same time, new provisions were added which 
raise concerns.  The amendments must go through a second 
Mazhilis reading before being sent to the Senate for its 
consideration.  ODIHR finalized its analysis of the original 
version, forwarded it to the government, and offered to send 
experts to Kazakhstan to discuss ODIHR's conclusions. 
Presidential Administration head Kelimbetov, Senate Chairman 
Tokayev, and Mazhilis Speaker separately reassured the 
Ambassador that Kazakhstan will take into account ODIHR's 
recommendations in the final version of the legislation.  End 
Summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
PROBLEMATIC PROVISIONS REMOVED, BUT OTHERS ADDED 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
2. (SBU) On June 11, the Mazhilis (i.e., the lower house of 
Kazakhstan's parliament) heard and passed on first reading a 
revised text of amendments to Kazakhstan's religion law.  If 
passed without changes at a second Mazhilis reading, the 
legislation will move to the Senate for consideration.  The 
revised text on the whole appears to represent an improvement 
over the original legislation introduced into the Mazhilis in 
May (see ref A).   In response to criticism from NGOs and 
concerns raised by the international community, including by 
us, the Mazhilis removed from the new version provisions that 
would have banned foreign and anonymous religious donations, 
required the use of cash registers to account for donations, 
and placed quotas on foreign missionaries.  In addition, 
other problematic provisions have been softened:  minors 
would need only oral, rather than written, parental 
permission to attend religious events, and religious 
organizations requesting national status would need to be 
registered in only five, rather than seven, of Kazakhstan's 
14 oblasts (regions). 
 
3. (SBU) While the above-noted problematic provisions were 
removed, new provisions were added which raise concerns.  For 
example, in the revised text, the minimum number of members 
that a religious organization needs to register with local 
authorities has been raised from ten to fifty.  (Note:  This 
provision is of particular importance, as groups with too few 
members to register would be prohibited from leasing space 
for religious meetings and from publishing religious 
materials.  End Note.)   The revised draft also (1) gives 
additional powers to the Minister of Justice's Religious 
Issues Committee (the body responsible for registering 
religious groups), making the Committee the coordinator for 
all activities of foreign religious organizations; (2) 
expands the grounds for suspension of and denial of 
registration to religious organizations; and (3) adds a 
requirement that all religious organizations submit an annual 
report of their activities to the government. 
 
4. (SBU) Mazhilis member Kamal Burkhanov, head of the special 
working group responsible for drafting the religion law 
amendments, stressed to us that the significant changes to 
the original draft are a direct result of consultations with 
civil society, religious leaders, the Minister of Foreign 
Affairs, and the Procurator General's office.  Some NGO 
leaders, however, remain highly skeptical of the parliament's 
intentions.  Almaty Helsinki Committee head Ninel Fokina and 
International Bureau for Human Rights head Yevgeny Zhovtis 
told us on June 5 that the most contentious provisions in the 
original draft were likely red herrings meant to give 
supporters of the legislation bargaining leverage. Zhovtis 
characterized the process as a carefully orchestrated 
"political game," where the government gives the impression 
of responding to NGO criticism while pushing through its own 
agenda. 
 
5. (SBU) Eugenia Benigni, Human Dimension Officer at the 
OSCE's Almaty office, confirmed to us on June 11 that ODIHR 
finalized its analysis of the original draft of the 
legislation and passed it to Kazakhstan's OSCE mission in 
Vienna on June 10.  According to Benigni, ODIHR offered to 
send experts to Kazakhstan on or about June 24 to discuss 
ODIHR's conclusions. 
 
 
 
-------------------------------- 
REASSURANCES FROM THE GOVERNMENT 
-------------------------------- 
 
6. (C) Per ref B demarche instructions, the Ambassador yet 
again raised USG concerns about the religion law amendments 
in separate June 11 meetings with Presidential Administration 
head Kairat Kelimbetov and Senate Chairman Kasym-Zhomart 
Tokayev, and in a June 12 meeting with Mazhilis Speaker Aslan 
Musin.  All three assured the Ambassador that Kazakhstan 
would take into
 account ODIHR's recommendations in the final 
version of the legislation.   Tokayev stressed that the 
legislation was a response to concerns among the broad public 
about "non-traditional" religious groups.  He explained that 
he nevertheless had his own concerns about the Mazhilis' 
draft and indicated that the Senate would likely make 
amendments to the text.  He expected the legislation to reach 
the Senate by mid-June, but said there was a strong 
possibility the Senate would not take any action on it until 
after the summer recess. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
7. (C) There appears to be little doubt that Kazakhstan will 
adopt a package of religion law amendments later this year, 
aimed principally at asserting greater government control 
over "non-traditional" religious groups.   Senate Chairman 
Tokayev is correct in noting that there are, in fact, serious 
concerns among the general public about "non-traditional" 
religious groups and their alleged pernicious influence on 
Kazakhstani society.  However, the government itself may have 
played a large role in feeding these fears:  recent negative 
media coverage about evangelical Protestants, Jehovah's 
Witnesses, Hare Krishnas, and others appears to have been 
orchestrated in part by the authorities (see ref C).  The 
fact that the Mazhilis removed from the latest draft of the 
amendments a number of provisions about which international 
community raised specific concerns is, in any event, a 
positive sign.  Our goal now should be to work with 
like-minded missions in Astana and Vienna to get the 
Kazakhstanis to heed ODIHR's recommendations.  End Comment. 
ORDWAY

Wikileaks

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: