Jehovah’s Witnesses * were first registered in Baku in 1999 and were granted reregistration in 2002. In subsequent years, the Witnesses had a measure of religious freedom but were subjected to tight government control, including police raids on religious meetings and censorship of literature. After introducing amendments to the religion law, the government * rejected the Witnesses’ reregistration application in 2010 on technical grounds, thus leaving the Baku religious community without full legal status.
Jehovah’s Witnesses experience increasing harassment and restrictions because of the government’s growing control of religious activities. The police have searched some Witnesses’ homes and confiscated their personal property, including Bibles. Law-enforcement officials have arrested and prosecuted some Witnesses for sharing their religious beliefs with others, resulting in heavy fines and imprisonment. In cities where the Witnesses have not been able to obtain registration, authorities consider their religious services unlawful. They disrupt them, detain attendees, and impose heavy fines.
Since there is no provision for alternative civilian service, young male Witnesses are harassed and prosecuted for their conscientious objection to military service. The ongoing violations of religious freedom, including censorship of religious literature, are incompatible with Azerbaijan’s commitments to the Council of Europe. In response to the numerous violations of religious freedom, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Azerbaijan filed 19 applications with the European Court of Human Rights from 2007 to 2014.
^ par. 2 Religious Community of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Azerbaijani Republic
^ par. 2 State Committee for the Work with Religious Associations