Uzbek efforts to draft new religion law slow, shrouded in secrecy

Uzbek efforts to draft new religion law slow, shrouded in secrecy

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan — The drafting of a new religion law by Uzbek officials has yet to happen and the process appears to be shrouded in secrecy.

The proposed draft was announced May 20 but has yet to be presented to the country’s parliament or posted as required on the government website. Officials who have been asked about the draft have refused to discuss it.

Uzbekistan requires state permission for religious entities to exist. Current law requires a group to get 100 signatures to register and then to give advanced notice of meetings, topics of discussion and participants.

When the Religious Affairs Committee last changed the registration procedures in May 2018, it added two new restrictive requirements for seeking legal status.

The number of raids, fines and jailings to punish the exercise of freedom of religion or belief has fallen in recent years, but the system of state control has not changed.

In 2017, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief said Uzbekistan needed a new law compatible with Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Uzbekistan is No. 18 on Open Doors’ World Watch List 2020 for places most difficult to be a Christian. (Forum 18)