3 June 2009
AZERBAIJAN: REPRESSIVE NEW RELIGION LAW AND NEW PUNISHMENTS ENTER INTO FORCE
Azerbaijan's repressive new Religion Law, and amendments to both the Criminal Code and the Administrative Code came into force on 31 May, Forum 18 has learned. New "offences" - such as more severe censorship - and new punishments are introduced for religious activities and organisations the government does not like. All registered religious organisations must reregister by 1 January 2010, the third time reregistration has been demanded in less than twenty years. It is implied that unregistered organisations are illegal, and stated that "all religious organisations" can act only after gaining state registration. Parliamentary Deputy Fazil Gazanfarolgu Mustafaev told Forum 18 that "the new Religion Law will limit people's rights to freedom of conscience - that is clear." He thinks the Law should have been drafted in accordance with international human rights standards, and that this would have been more likely if expert advice from organisations like the OSCE and Council of Europe had been sought.