UZBEKISTAN: No religious freedom for Jehovah’s Witnesses, Protestants & Muslims denied registration

Human Rights Dialogue EU – Uzbekistan: Submission of Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF (07.06.2024) – Registering as a legal entity is part of the right to freedom of religion or belief and for years Uzbekistan has been arbitrarily blocking state registration applications of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Protestant communities and Muslim groups. Without official registration, no collective or individual religious activity is allowed. Fines and prison terms are imposed on offenders. There are currently about 50 Muslims in prison in Uzbekistan. See the documented cases HERE.

The case of Jehovah’s Witnesses

The Uzbekistan government continues to consider any religious activity by Jehovah’s Witnesses outside their only registered building in Chirchiq to be illegal.

They have repeatedly tried to register a Local Religious Organization (LRO) in several additional cities, including in Tashkent, but in vain.

The main obstacle to registration is the impossibility of assembling a complete package of documents required for submission to the justice authorities. The list of required documents includes material of unspecified provenance and form, allowing local authorities to both create unrealistic requirements and groundlessly refuse to issue such documents.

Many reasons were successively used to refuse the registration in the capital city:

  • Documents were allegedly missing although they were not on the list of the requested papers
  • A building to be designated as their community’s legal address in the capital city was rejected by the authorities claiming that urban planning construction regulations prevented the building from being the community’s legal address
  • The owner of another leasable non-residential building was put under pressure “from above” to refuse the lease
  • It was officially said that “a religious organization must be created on a plot of land” whereas the application was to register an address in a rented office space
  • Article 17 of theReligion Law requires an “assessment” of registration applications by the local authority, and “does not specify what exactly the content of this decision should be”
  • Local authorities have “discretionary powers” to refuse a request to use a building as their legal address, “the contested decision cannot be considered illegal”
  • A number of neighbours had made complaints against the community

The case of Muslims and Protestants

Some Muslim communities have tried to reopen their mosques but were denied de facto that possibility on multiple reasons similar to the ones concerning Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Muslim groups have also faced such administrative obstacles, bad will and politically motivated reasons, which explains that they are now not seeking registration any more.In addition, the unfounded accusation of being an “illegal extremist Wahhabi [Islamic] group” has also been used.

Protestant churches across Uzbekistan have also repeatedly over many years experienced similar obstruction when applying for registration. Refusals have come either from local administrations, or from the Religious Affairs Committee in Tashkent.

One reason put forward to block a registration application from a Protestant church in Samarkand Region was that church leaders do not have an educational qualification recognised by the regime’s Religious Affairs Committee. “The only qualification the Committee will recognise is one from the officially registered Protestant Seminary in Tashkent.”

The Protestant Seminary in Tashkent follows the educational requirements laid down by the Religious Affairs Committee. But even if there are no other problems, the Protestant church will have to wait five years for a church leader to get a qualification and so for the church to be eligible to apply for registration.


Human Rights Without Frontiers expects from the European Union that in the framework of its dialogue with Uzbekistan it requests the government in Tashkent to

  • provide realistic opportunities to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Protestants and Muslims to register Local Religious Organizations (LRO) throughout the country
  • abide by its commitments to uphold the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of Uzbekistan and the ICCPR for all citizens whatever their religion.

Further reading about FORB in Uzbekistan on HRWF website