02/13/2009, 00.00
KAZAKHSTAN

Restrictive new law on religious freedom is unconstitutional

Kazakhstan's Constitutional Council has rejected the new law because it violates the right to choose one's religion freely, and could cause discrimination. Now President Nazarbaiev can either comply with the decision, or ask the Council for a new one.

Astana (AsiaNews/F18) - Kazakhstan's Constitutional Council announced on February 11 that the restrictive new law on religious freedom is unconstitutional. The agency Forum 18 explains that now, President Nursultan Nazarbaiev has a month to decide whether to support the new law.

Igor Rogov, president of the Council, explains that the new law violates article 39, paragraph 3 of the Constitution, which stipulates that the rights and freedoms recognized by the Constitution "shall not be restricted in any way." Article 14 also excludes discrimination for reasons that include religion. Article 19 says that everyone has "the right to determine and indicate or not to indicate his national, party and religious affiliation." The norms are violated by the new law, Rogov continues, which requires conditions "previously unknown in Kazakhstan" for the recognition of religious groups.

Now Nazarbaiev can ask the Council to change its decision, but two thirds of its members would have to vote for the change.

The new law has been harshly criticized by religious groups and by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which had asked Nazarbiev not to ratify it. The president then handed the matter over to the Constitutional Council.

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