Jehovah’s Witnesses have been present in Kyrgyzstan since 1956 and obtained legal registration in 1998. Although they have faced significant abuses of their religious freedom in the past, they have recently enjoyed increased state protection of their rights.
In November 2013 the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Kyrgyzstan’s law on alternative service was unconstitutional and directed the government to amend it. Kyrgyzstan courts applied the decision of the Constitutional Chamber, and since early 2014, Witness men are no longer prosecuted for refusing military service. On June 29, 2015, Kyrgyzstan amended the law on military service to provide conscientious objectors with alternative civilian service that is not under military control.
In September 2014, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses and religious freedom by declaring portions of the 2008 law on religion unconstitutional. However, the State Committee on Religious Affairs has disregarded the Court’s decision and has refused to register the Witnesses’ local religious organizations in the southern regions of the country. This lack of registration causes some authorities to consider the Witnesses’ activity to be illegal. However, once Witnesses meet with officials to clear up misunderstandings, they are usually able to meet together for worship and to speak about their beliefs with their neighbors without interference. The Witnesses hope that the government will fully implement the Constitutional Chamber decision and register their local religious organizations in southern Kyrgyzstan.