Hon. Alcee L. Hastings, Chairman
Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
January 7, 2009
HELSINKI COMMISSION EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER RELIGION LAW IN KYRGYZSTAN
Sends Letter Urging Presidents Bakiev to Uphold OSCE Commitments
(Washington, D.C.) Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), and Ranking Minority Member Congressman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), sent the following letter to Kyrgyzstan's President Kurmanbek Bakiev. The letter urges President Bakiev not to sign a pending religious law that would mark serious regression and not uphold commitments to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
In particular, the legislation passed by Kyrgyzstan’s parliament would severely restrict religious freedom by raising the minimum number of members for registration; ban unregistered communities; restrict the education of children; censor imported religious literature; threaten the liquidation of religious communities; and restrict missionary activity. Please find below and attached a copy (click here):
January 7, 2009
His Excellency Kurmanbek Bakiev
Republic of Kyrgyzstan
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to express our concern about the draft law on religion passed by Kyrgyzstan’s parliament on November 6, 2008. This legislation needs only your signature to become binding in Kyrgyzstan. We strongly urge you not to sign this law, which would mark serious regression in your country’s observance of OSCE norms.
Representatives of minority faiths and many leading international human rights organizations have analyzed the draft and have concluded it is seriously flawed. As you must know, the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), has done an exhaustive review of the draft law. There are many problems with the legislation but in essence, as currently drafted it would severely restrict freedom of religion, in terms of, inter alia: registration, with a minimum requirement of 200 adult members; the ban on unregistered communities; restrictions on the education of children; the threat of liquidation of religious communities; and restrictions on missionary activity.
In Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan has in many respects been at the forefront of democratic development. We strongly believe that passage of this draft law in its current state without revision would result in Kyrgyzstan no longer being in compliance with OSCE norms and damage your country’s reputation. The United States Government has called on you to return the legislation to parliament for revision, to ensure that Kyrgyzstan upholds its OSCE commitments on religious freedom, as well as Kyrgyzstan's own Constitution. We fully agree and hope that you will take serious account of the concern evoked by this law in many other capitals.
Alcee L. Hastings, M.C.
Benjamin L. Cardin, U.S.S.
Christopher H. Smith, M.C.
Ranking Minority Member
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Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion or Belief