For Immediate Release
July 8, 2011
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ legal status remains uncertain despite favorable ruling of Supreme Court in Azerbaijan
BAKU, Azerbaijan—On May 24, 2011, the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan rendered a favorable decision in behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses, returning their case to the Baku Court of Appeal for reconsideration. Jehovah’s Witnesses were successful in their appeal of the decision by the State Committee for Work with Religious Associations, which refused to grant the Witnesses’ reregistration, over what amounted to an alleged technicality in their documents.
The lower court’s decision was based on the claim that the Witnesses had not filed the necessary documents for reregistration within the time period prescribed by law. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the lower courts failed to examine whether this technicality actually existed. The decision also held that the lower courts did not take into account the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on “Freedom of Religious Beliefs”, which provides that registration cannot be refused for merely technical reasons. The Supreme Court’s decision is in line with the European Court of Human Rights recent judgment in Jehovah’s Witnesses of Moscow v. Russia, which held that a State’s refusal to grant a religious organization reregistration is “an interference with the religious organization’s right to freedom of association and also with its right to freedom of religion.”
Although pleased with this decision, Jehovah’s Witnesses realize that there still is no guarantee that the State will grant reregistration. The recent suppression of the Witnesses’ religious activities by authorities in regions outside of Baku brings into question Azerbaijan’s commitment to protecting the fundamental right to freedom of religion.
United States: J. R. Brown, Office of Public Information, tel. +1 718 560 5600
Belgium: European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, tel. +32 2 782 0015; mobile +32 475 58 10 36
Britain: European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, tel. +44 208 906 2211
Legal Contact: Office of General Counsel, tel. +1 845 306 0711