For Immediate Release
October 19, 2011
Azerbaijan refuses reregistration for Jehovah’s Witnesses
BAKU, Azerbaijan—On September 12, 2011, the Baku Court of Appeal refused for a second time to protect the rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This decision ignores the position of the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan’s ruling that the Appeal Court had erred in their earlier decision by not taking into account the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on “Freedom of Religious Beliefs” (which provides that registration cannot be refused for mere technical reasons). Jehovah’s Witnesses intend to bring this case again before the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan.
In refusing Jehovah’s Witnesses reregistration, the authorities have ignored recent, pointed criticism of Azerbaijan’s position on religious freedom from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) that published a report on March 31, 2011. In its report, the ECRI “strongly recommends that the Azerbaijani authorities swiftly complete the procedure for the registration of religious communities currently under way, taking into account the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.” The report also admonished the Azerbaijani authorities to “clarify the legal situation of communities still awaiting a final response from the State Committee for Relations with Religious [Associations] or the courts, particularly by clearly specifying that those already registered under the previous legislation must be able to continue to function normally during the transition period.”
Drawn-out legal proceedings and contradictory judicial decisions have left Jehovah’s Witnesses in Azerbaijan in a state of uncertainty. To date, more than 540 religious associations in Azerbaijan have received reregistration under the Azerbaijani Law on “Freedom of Religious Beliefs.” Despite being recognized by the European Court of Human Rights as a known religion “with a long-standing existence internationally,” Jehovah’s Witnesses are not among that number.
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
Britain: European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, tel. +44 208 906 2211
Legal Contact: Office of General Counsel, tel. +1 845 306 0711