Violations of religious freedom of Jehovah’s Witnesses condemned by the UN Human Rights Committee

HRWF (14.12.2021) – On 7 December, the 15 members of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (CCPR) unanimously condemned Kyrgyzstan for violating Jehovah’s Witnesses’ fundamental right to practice and manifest their religion. The CCPR ordered Kyrgyzstan to pay the Witnesses “adequate compensation” and “to take all steps necessary to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future.” See link to download the full decision.

For over ten years, Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee on Religious Affairs refused to register three local religious organizations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the southern regions of Osh, Naryn, and Jalal-Abad despite the Witnesses repeated applications.

Jarrod Lopes, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, says: “This is the second time Kyrgyz authorities have been criticized by the same UN body for violating the fundamental rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah’s Witnesses want nothing more than to worship freely in their homeland as their fellow believers do in over 200 other lands. Jehovah’s Witnesses remain concerned about a separate criminal investigation against their national center in Bishkek that has been in progress since 2019, about which they were only informed by authorities a few months ago. It is hoped that the CCPR’s recent decision will inspire the Kyrgyz authorities to drop the baseless criminal investigation against the Witnesses.”

The first time the CCPR condemned Kyrgyzstan for violating the Witnesses’ rights was May 27, 2019, concerning Kyrgyzstan’s refusal to register a local religious organization in the Batken region. See link to download full decision

Kyrgyz authorities have yet to comply with the 2019 decision.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are awaiting a third decision from the CCPR. The complaint was filed January 27, 2017, regarding multiple registration denials in Osh, Batken, Naryn, and Jalal-Abad.


Highlights from the CCPR’s decision

  • Kyrgyzstan “discriminated” against Jehovah’s Witnesses “on the basis of their religious beliefs”
  • Kyrgyzstan had “denied [the Witnesses’] rights to jointly manifest their religious beliefs, including the right to conduct religious meetings and assemblies, to own or use property for religious purposes, [and] to produce and import religious literature”
  • CCPR expects the Kyrgyz authorities to “take all steps necessary to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future”
  • Kyrgyzstan has 180 days to inform the CCPR about its efforts to comply with the decision
  • Rights experts at Forum18 have released their objective analysis of the decision (link)

History of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kyrgyzstan

  • There are currently5,266 Jehovah’s Witnesses [ratio of 1 to 1,259 to population (about 6,524,000)]
  • Present in the country since 1956 (as part of the former USSR)
  • JWs hosted first large-scale Bible-based convention at Spartak Stadium in Bishkek in 1993
  • JWs publications available in the Kyrgyz language since 1994
  • National registration in 1998 (first local community registered in 1991)
  • National administrative office built in 2004

Photo: United Nations Geneva