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The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief

KAZAKHSTAN: "People don't have the right to distribute religious materials in any form whatsoever"

Courts fined at least 18 people in 2021 for distributing religious literature, texts, videos, audio and items in places and ways the regime declares illegal under its compulsory religious censorship. Most fines were of three weeks' average wages. "People don't have the right to distribute religious materials in any form whatsoever, whether text, video or audio," insists Kayrulla Kushkaliyev of Atyrau's Religious Affairs Department – which brought six prosecutions. The UN Human Rights Committee found an import ban on ten Jehovah's Witness publications violated Polat Bekzhan's rights.

UZBEKISTAN: Fines, magazine destruction, short-term jailing, beard shaving, threats

A Tashkent court fined a Baptist for offering Christian magazines to neighbours in her home and ordered the magazines destroyed. A Muslim was jailed for 10 days after police found a lecture from a state Islamic institution on his phone. And a police officer threatened another Muslim with jail or a psychiatric ward for a video criticising the "no serious changes" on human rights, and the public's silence "because of fear of the authorities" about human rights violations.

TURKMENISTAN: 8 conscientious objectors jailed in 2021, UN special procedures ignored

On 16 March the regime jailed another conscientious objector to military service for two years, the eighth such 2021 jailing. Like six of the other 2021 jailings, 21-year-old Jehovah's Witness Rasul Rozbayev is being punished for the second time on the same charges. The jailings ignore a December 2020 appeal by four UN special procedures. A March 2020 regime report to the UN insisted that defending the country "is the sacred duty of every citizen".

TURKMENISTAN: Police detain, threaten, swear at Muslims

Police detained about ten Muslim men in Farap in January who they believed were following their faith too closely, such as by praying every day. Officers "used swear words and behaved crudely towards those they detained." Police forcibly shaved one man, made him drink alcohol, and fined him with no explanation. About ten more were held for praying in a home. Officials warned school children not to take part in (unspecified) "illegal" religious groups and residents received a similar warning.

UZBEKISTAN: "A disguised old Criminal Code with no real changes"

Members of religious communities and human rights defenders criticise the draft new Criminal Code due to come into force on 1 January 2022. This would continue to punish those who exercise freedom of religion or belief without state permission. A "disguised old Criminal Code with no real changes", Protestants complain. Muslims describe it as "our government's old tricks". Solmaz Akhmedova of the Human Rights Alliance noted that "they just made some decorative changes, and used less religious terminology."

TAJIKISTAN: "I do not know what the Mandela Rules are"

Prison authorities have repeatedly denied seriously ill Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience Shamil Khakimov the specialised medical treatment he needs. The 70-year-old has a bad leg "which smells like rotten meat" and has had coronavirus symptoms. The UN Mandela Rules for prisoners' treatment say medical decisions must be made by doctors, and the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee against Torture have both called for Tajikistan to implement the Rules. Yet the prison governor told Forum 18: "I do not know what the Mandela Rules are." A Supreme Court official similarly denied knowledge of the Mandela Rules.

TAJIKISTAN: Independent imam jailed again

Independent imam Sirojiddin Abdurahmonov, who was also jailed in 2010, was jailed in February for five and a half years along with an unknown number of others. Conscientious objector Rustamjon Norov's appeal against a three and a half year jail sentence is due on 11 March, and a judge has refused to explain why he allowed a Russian Orthodox nun with no connection to the case to testify for the prosecution.

UZBEKISTAN: 7 prisoners of conscience jailed for between 11 and 4 years

Seven Muslim men who met in Tashkent to discuss Islam were in January 2021 transferred to various prisons to begin jail terms of between 11 and four years. Nine men were given restricted freedom sentences. "It is no use for us to make another appeal as nothing will change," a relative told Forum 18. In this and other cases there are credible claims of torture and the use of agent provocateurs to bring false charges.

TURKMENISTAN: Now 15 jailed conscientious objectors

A court in Lebap Region jailed 20-year-old Jehovah's Witness conscientious objector Nazar Alliyev for one year for refusing compulsory military service. He is the seventh to be jailed in 2021 so far and joins 14 other jailed conscientious objectors (9 of them serving second sentences). "We deeply regret the criminalization of conscientious objection," four UN human rights Special Procedures wrote to the Turkmen government in December 2020, adding that Turkmenistan "must provide meaningful alternative service". The regime has not responded to the UN.

UZBEKISTAN: Torture, prayer bans, but "No problems in Uzbekistan's prisons"?

Prisoners suffer bans on praying the namaz and reading the Koran, torture for praying the namaz or fasting during Ramadan, denials of medical care, failure to carry out medical treatment families have paid for, and inadequate and insanitary conditions. "Why did the authorities punish him simply for praying the namaz? What day and age do we live in?" one tortured prisoner's relatives asked. "There are no problems in Uzbekistan's prisons today", claimed Aziza Kenzhayeva of the Interior Ministry's Chief Directorate for the Enforcement of Punishments.

KAZAKHSTAN: 134 administrative prosecutions in 2020

In 134 known administrative prosecutions in 2020, 114 individuals (one twice), three charities and one company were punished for worship meetings, offering religious literature and items (including online), sharing or teaching faith, posting religious material online, or praying in mosques. At least 14 fines were imposed in January 2021. Deputy Chair Anuar Khatiyev of the regime's Religious Affairs Committee refused to discuss why individuals should face prosecution and punishment for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.

TURKMENISTAN: Five conscientious objectors jailed in two days

Five conscientious objectors to compulsory military service who had already served sentences were jailed again in trials on 18 and 19 January. Courts gave all five two-year terms, four of them in strict-regime labour camp, bringing to six the number jailed so far in 2021. All had offered to perform an alternative civilian service, but Turkmenistan does not offer this. Nine of the 14 known jailed conscientious objectors – all of them Jehovah's Witnesses – are serving second sentences.