Date: October 30, 2020
WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today welcomed Uzbekistan’s continued efforts to advance religious freedom, including recent steps to reform its law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations.” Following the release of the joint expert opinion on the draft law by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission earlier this month, USCIRF urged the government of Uzbekistan to further revise the draft law to bring it into full conformity with international human rights standards.
“While this latest draft law would make important improvements to existing legislation, it does not rectify all issues that experts have identified in that law, nor does it guarantee freedom of religion or belief for everyone,” said USCIRF Commissioner Nadine Maenza. “In recent years, Uzbekistan has demonstrated a commitment to improving conditions for the exercise of this fundamental human right, and we call on the government to follow through on that commitment by further revising this and other relevant legislation. This would also mark a critical step toward Uzbekistan’s removal from the Special Watch List.”
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the State Department maintain Uzbekistan on its Special Watch List, and work with the government of Uzbekistan to revise its law to remove registration requirements, permit the possession and distribution of religious literature, and allow the sharing of religious beliefs. In January, USCIRF released a country update assessing religious freedom conditions in Uzbekistan.
“As the government of Uzbekistan undertakes this crucial next step, it should carefully consider the recommendations of the international community, including those that pertain to bans on unregistered religious activities, the private teaching of religion, and missionary activities; burdensome registration requirements; and restrictions on places of worship and religious literature,” added USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel. “Uzbekistan should take this momentous opportunity to inscribe into law substantive and meaningful religious freedom protections.”