For Immediate Release
February 2, 2010
Jehovah’s Witnesses appeal to the Supreme Court of Tajikistan
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan—Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Republic of Tajikistan have filed a supervisory appeal with the Presidium of the Supreme Court from a lower court decision that had denied their complaint on the decision of the Ministry of Culture, which terminated the activity of their national religious association. The supervisory review was filed on December 30, 2009.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have been active in Tajikistan for more than 50 years. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, they were granted legal registration in 1994. On October 11, 2007, their activity was unexpectedly terminated by Tajikistan’s Ministry of Culture under the republic’s then-existing law On Religion and Religious Organizations, which has since been repealed. One of the principal reasons given for terminating the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses was their public ministry, a peaceful religious activity that is internationally recognized and respected by most countries. On September 29, 2008, a trial judge in Dushanbe dismissed an application by Jehovah’s Witnesses asking that the decision of the Ministry of Culture be overturned. Their subsequent appeal was dismissed by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court on February 12, 2009.
In March 2009, Tajikistan enacted a new law governing religious associations. The new law authorizes registered religious associations “to engage in large scale preaching activities,” in compliance with the Constitution of Tajikistan and international treaties. Explaining the purpose of the new law, Ambassador Nuriddin Shamsov, Head of the Delegation for Tajikistan, told the Permanent Council Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on April 2, 2009, that his government is “taking efforts to ensure religious tolerance and is making efforts to deal respectfully with [a] wide range of groups of religious minorities,” which the ambassador said included Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tajikistan are hopeful their supervisory appeal will be favorably received, especially in view of the provisions of Tajikistan’s new law on religious associations,” states Gregory Olds, a human rights attorney who is following this case closely. “A positive ruling will permit Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Republic of Tajikistan to continue their peaceful worship and the positive contribution they make to Tajik society through their law-abiding way of life and adherence to high moral values.”
U.S. contact: Paul D. Polidoro, telephone (845)-306-0711
Belgium contact: Luca Toffoli, telephone +32-2 782-00-15
Russian speaking contact: Yuriy Toporov, telephone +7 (727)-23-23-662