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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

RUSSIA: Who ordered torture of Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience?

Fellow medical facility prisoners tortured prisoner of conscience Rinat Kiramov over four days in April after he refused to give names of fellow Jehovah's Witnesses in his home town. They punched, kicked, waterboarded, threatened with rape, and shocked him with a stun gun. It is unclear how the prisoners had access to a stun gun. Kiramov's lawyer lodged a complaint to the Prosecutor's Office, which passed it to police. Whether police investigators have decided to open a criminal case is unknown. The UN Convention against Torture obliges states to arrest and punish officials who commit, order or allow torture. There is a long-standing pattern of impunity for torturers.

OCCUPIED UKRAINE: Orthodox priest's "espionage" verdict due 2 August

Ukrainian Orthodox priest Kostiantyn Maksimov faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted on Russian "espionage" charges. His trial began on 6 June, with the final presentation of arguments due on 31 July and the verdict on 2 August. Seized by occupation forces in May 2023, Fr Kostiantyn is in Investigation Prison No. 2 in the Crimean capital Simferopol. On 7 June, Russian FSB officers raided Fr Feognost Pushkov's home in occupied Luhansk Region with a court-ordered search. Officials questioned him on 11 June. He was summoned to be added to the military register.

KYRGYZSTAN: Greater financial controls on religious organisations?

Despite Parliament's rejection on 6 June of a Religion Law amendment that would have imposed tighter financial reporting by registered religious organisations, work on a similar amendment continues. Deputy Ulan Primov – who is promoting such tighter controls – has not answered Forum 18's question on why he believes they are needed. "Financial control measures for non-commercial organisations in general were incorporated into the Law in 2022," says Gulshayir Abdirasulova of human rights organisation Kylym Shamy. "Now the authorities want to adopt such measures for religious organisations."

GEORGIA: Government's "real purpose" not to ensure public transparency "but to exert control"

Despite massive protests, the ruling party's Foreign Influence Transparency (Foreign Agent) Law (called by many Georgians including President Salome Zourabichvili the "Russian Law") came into force on 3 June. All civil society organisations (including most religious organisations) receiving more than a fifth of income from abroad must by September enter a range of information on a public register as an "organisation serving the interests of a foreign power". Pastor Zaal Tkeshelashvili of the unregistered Evangelical Church likens the new Law to "the State installing surveillance cameras in every corner to control the religious or private lives of believers".

OCCUPIED UKRAINE: After year in detention, Orthodox priest's "espionage" trial imminent

After a year in Russian detention, the "espionage" criminal trial of Ukrainian Orthodox priest Kostiantyn Maksimov is due to begin on 6 June. If convicted, the 41-year-old faces prison of 10 to 12 years. He is being held in Investigation Prison No. 2 in Simferopol. A Protestant in her fifties also faces criminal trial in occupied Zaporizhzhia Region. Eighteen months after Russian occupiers disappeared two Greek Catholic priests - Ivan Levytsky and Bohdan Heleta – they appear to be in a labour camp in Horlivka.

RUSSIA: Church to be demolished as place where crime "repeatedly committed"?

On 18 June, Slavyansk City Court in Krasnodar Region will resume hearing the city administration suit for independent Orthodox Archbishop Viktor Pivovarov to demolish Holy Intercession Tikhonite Church as an "unauthorised structure". The Investigative Department informed the administration he had been charged with "discrediting" the Armed Forces for criticising Russia's war against Ukraine. It said the church was "a public place, with a large number of visitors, where a crime has been repeatedly committed against the basis of the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation".

KAZAKHSTAN: Regime ignores UN alternative service recommendations

"The law does not directly recognise the right of an individual to refuse to carry out military service on religious or other grounds," Kazakhstan told the UN Human Rights Committee on 2 April in response to questions about progress on an alternative to compulsory military service. The regime did not explain why it does not recognise this right. The regime's Human Rights Commissioner Artur Lastayev did not answer Forum 18's questions. Conscription Offices often pressure young men who refuse to serve in the armed forces on grounds of conscience.

KAZAKHSTAN: Conscientious objector's 6 months in military detention

In autumn 2022, Jehovah's Witness Daniil Smal presented the Conscription Office a certificate from the Jehovah's Witness Centre that he is a "religious minister". This should have exempted him from conscription. He was summoned on 17 May 2023, and forcibly transferred to a military unit. He was freed only in November 2023 when Almaty Military Garrison Court ruled his conscription illegal. The Military Court rejected the military's appeal in April 2024. Smal's conscientious objection "may lead to mass negative consequences and wide public resonance", the military claimed.