Treatment of Jehovah's Witnesses and state protection available to them (1997-1999) [KKT31768.E]

A representative of the Watch Tower and Bible Tract Society in Brooklyn, New York, stated in a telephone interview with the Research Directorate that there have been recent reports of harassment of Jehovah's Witnesses in Kazakhstan and that the organization was investigating those reports (19 Apr. 1999). Corroborating information is found in a report published by the Press and Information Service of the Belgian organization Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) which describes raids by officials of the Kazakh procuracy on six Jehovah's Witness communities that took place in March 1999 (18 Mar. 1999). The representative of the Watch Tower and Bible Tract Society added that there were unconfirmed reports of civilian harassment of Jehovah's Witnesses, and that part of the investigation would be to determine the Kazakh state response and protection available (19 Apr. 1999).

In the Kazakhstan section of the 1999 report on "Religious Discrimination and Related Violations of Helsinki Commitments", the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights states that although

"Kazakhstan has a history of religious tolerance ... Both the constitution and the law on the freedom of religion contain restrictions on the practice of religions, which are not 'traditional' in Kazakhstan (22 Mar. 1999).

A 17 February 1999 HRWF report describes draft amendments to the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations which would create a generally more restrictive climate for religious practice. According to the Vecherniy Bishkek' , Central Asia in general, and "especially" Kazakhstan, were witnessing "a pilgrimage of Jehovah's Witnesses ... arousing quite natural jealousy and concern on the part of the local clergy which represent the region's two most popular religions: Islam and Christianity" (13 Mar. 1998).

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance reported in 1995 that a Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector had been imprisoned (15 Dec. 1995). However, according to HRWF, since 1997 an agreement has been in place with the Kazakh government with the result that Jehovah's Witnesses are no longer liable to sanctions for conscientious objection (18 Mar. 1999).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Human Rights Without Frontiers, Brussels. (HRWF). 18 March 1999. Felix Corley. "Kazakh Procuracy Harasses Jehovah's Witness Communities." (

_____. 17 February 1999. Keston News Service. "Kazakhstan Seeks to Increase Legislative Controls on Religion." (

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights. 22 March 1999. "Kazakhstan: Religious Discrimination and Related Violations of Helsinki Commitments." [Internet] [Accessed 15 Apr. 1999]

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance. 15 December 1995. (E/CN.4/1996/95). Implementation of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Report submitted by Mr. Abdelfattah Amor, Special Rapporteur, in Accordance with Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1995/23.

Vecherniy Bishkek' [Bishkek, in Russian]. 13 March 1998. Tolkunbek Turdubayev. "Central Asia Invaded by Foreign Religious Sects." (BBC Summary 24 Mar. 1998/NEXIS)

Watch Tower and Bible Tract Society, Brooklyn, NY. 19 April 1999. Telephone interview with a representative.