Treatment of members of Jehovah's Witnesses and the state protection available (January 2000 - February 2001) [BYS36515.E]

The Website of the section on Belarus of the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2000 does not contain a reference to the Jehovah's Witnesses, but does contain the following:

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, the government restricts this right in practice. President Alexander Lukashenko has pursued a deliberate policy of favoring the Russian Orthodox Church as the country's main religion and the Government has increased harassment of some nontraditional or minority religions. Some of these, including many Protestant denominations, the Belarusian Orthodox Autocephalous Church (BOAC), and some eastern religions, repeatedly have been denied registration by the Government. Without registration, many of these groups find it difficult, if not impossible, to rent or purchase property to conduct religious services. Despite continued harassment, minority faiths sometimes have been able to function if they maintain a low profile (Sept. 2000).

Please consult the Report for additional information on the situation of minority religions in Belarus, including societal attitudes towards minority religions, government policies on freedom of religion and government restrictions on religious freedom.

A 31 May 2000 Belapan News Agency article states:

The Constitutional Court of Belarus ruled on 26th May that the Constitution and the mandatory conscription law guarantee conscientious objectors the right to choose a civilian alternative to military service and recommended that an efficient mechanism be established to ensure this right. The Constitutional Court recommended the enactment of a civilian duty law or changes to the mandatory conscription law....The BHC (Belarusian Helsinki Committee) appealed to the Constitutional Court after receiving a complaint from the father of Valyantsin Hulay, a resident of the town of Rechytsa, Homel Region. Mr. Hulay's son, a member of the local Jehovah's Witnesses community who said that his religion does not allow him to take arms, was convicted of draft dodging. The Rechytski District Court in the Homel Region sentenced the youth to 18 months of corrective labour. The Homel Regional Court reviewed the sentence and gave Mr. Hulay a 1-year suspended sentence.

No additional information on the situation of members of Jehovah's Witnesses in Belarus, nor on the state protection available to them, could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

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. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. Washington, DC. September 2000. United States Department of State. [Accessed 13 Feb. 2001]

Belapan News Agency (Minsk, in Belarus). 31 May 2000. "Constitutional Court Rules in Favour of Alternative to Military Service." (BBC Summary 2 June 2000/NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

Correspondence sent to one source


IRB databases

Internet sites including:

Amnesty International

2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom

Belarusian Helsinki Committee

Christian Solidarity International

The Human Rights Centre "Viasna" - Minsk

Hokkaido University Slavic Research Centre

International Christian Concern

International Coalition for Religious Freedom

Keston Institute

Religious Tolerance

Russia Religion News - Stetson University

Watchtower - Official Website of the Jehovah's Witnesses

World News Connection