Restrictions on religious freedoms in connection with COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency
Coronavirus disease has become a major challenge today, which consequences has no equivalence whatsoever by its scale when compared with any other emergencies of the last century. In total, more than 150 million people have been infected with COVID-19 globally, from which more than three million had died.
- 1. Derogations from international standards on human rights
- 2. COVID-19 in Kyrgyzstan
- 3. Consequences of emergency measures on freedom of religion
- 4. Collisions in the legislation on restrictions
- 5. Restrictive practices
Reaching the scale of a pandemic, COVID-19 has forced the States to introduce a state of emergency by taking strict restrictive measures to curb the rapid spread of virus and protect the people’s lives and health. The States were to introduce these measures in a quite difficult situation when they had to take responsible choices and unpopular decisions to balance between ensuring human rights and freedoms and addressing the challenges in connection with the pandemic. The Kyrgyz Republic is no exception.
Our country has ratified eight of the nine core international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (hereinafter ICCPR). Being a member to human rights treaties, the Kyrgyz Republic has committed to:
- Observe human rights - to refrain from interfering with the enjoyment of human rights;
- Respect human rights – to take appropriate measures for the full realization of human rights;
- Protect human rights - to prevent other persons from interfering in the enjoyment of human rights and be liable for protecting everyone from encroachment on their human rights.
1. Derogations from international standards on human rights
According to Art. 26 of the Vienna Convention on the law of treaties every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith. The effective implementation of a commitment arising from international human rights treaties suggests the State to impeccable perform its functions in observing and protecting human rights within its territory and jurisdiction always and everywhere.
However, this rule has an exception. According to Article 4, paragraph 1 of ICCPR, States parties confronting the threat of widespread contagion may resort to exceptional emergency powers and invoke their right of derogation from the Covenant provided that it is required to protect “the life of the nation”.
Paragraph 39 provides the definition of the term “a threat to the life of the nation” in the Siracusa Principles on the Limitation and Derogation Provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (hereinafter called the Siracusa Principles), which shall be one that “affects the whole of the population and either the whole or part of the territory of the State, and threatens the physical integrity of the population, the political independence or the territorial integrity of the State or the existence or basic functioning of institutions indispensable to ensure and project the rights recognized in the Covenant”.
International human rights bodies have recognized the coronavirus disease as a threat to the life of the nation and accordingly as a justification for the lawful derogation by States parties from their obligations under the Covenant.
The UN Committee on Human Rights in its Statement on derogations from the Covenant in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic has indicated the major requirements and conditions, which States parties must comply with when taking emergency measures derogating from their obligations under the Covenant. These requirements are as follows:
- A State party must officially and immediately notify the Secretary-General on information about the derogating measures taken with clear explanation of the reasons for taking them, extension of the duration of a state of emergency and termination of the derogation.
- Derogating measures may deviate from the obligations set out by the Covenant only to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the public health situation.
- Derogations must, as far as possible, be limited in duration, geographical coverage and material scope, and any measures taken, including sanctions imposed in connection with them, must be proportional in nature.
- States parties should not derogate from Covenant rights or rely on a derogation made when they are able to attain their public health or other public policy objectives by invoking the possibility to restrict certain rights, such as freedom of movement, freedom of expression or the right to peaceful assembly, in conformity with the provisions for such restrictions set out in the Covenant, or by invoking the possibility of introducing reasonable limitations on certain rights, such as right to personal liberty and right to privacy, in accordance with their provisions;
- States parties may not resort to emergency powers or implement derogating measures in a manner that is discriminatory, or that violates other obligations that they have undertaken under international law, including under other international human rights treaties from which no derogation is allowed.
The non-derogable rights are listed in article 4 paragraph 2 of the ICCPR:
- The right to life (article 6 ICCPR);
- Prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (article 7 ICCPR);
- Prohibition of slavery and servitude (article 8 ICCPR);
- Prohibition on imprisonment solely for inability to fulfill contractual obligations (article 11 ICCPR);
- Prohibition of retroactivity in criminal law (article 15 ICCPR);
- Every person’s right to recognition as a person before the law (article 16 ICCPR);
- freedom of thought, conscience and religion (article 18 ICCPR).
Along with these rights the following was recognized as non-derogable rights:
- The right to an effective remedy (as a sine qua non to exercise other non-derogable human rights) ;
- Fundamental principles of fair trial;
- Fundamental safeguards against arbitrary detention;
- The principle of non-refoulement regarding refugees.
Other international human rights treaties do not contain specific derogation provisions. The obligations of States to observe, protect and respect economic, social and cultural rights (the right to food, health, housing, social protection, water and sanitation, education and an adequate standard of living) and to eliminate any discrimination, regardless of their resources shall continue during emergencies too.
 The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, article 26.
 UNHRC, General comment No. 29 (2001) – article 4 ICCPR, para. 14-15.
 UNHRC, General comment No. 29 (2001) – para. 16; General Comment No. 32 (2007), para. 6. This includes the right to a hearing by independent and impartial tribunal (UN HRC, general comment No. 32 (2007), para. 19); the presumption of innocence (general comment No. 32 (2007), para. 6); the right to have access to a lawyer; the right of everyone who is deprived of his/her liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that the court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his/her detention and order his/her release if the detention is not lawful - habeas corpus (UN HRC, general comment No. 29, para. 16; general comment No. 35 - article 9 (Liberty and security of the person), para. 67).
 UN HRC, general comment No. 35 - article 9 (Liberty and Security of the Person), paras. 66-67, which indicates the right to apply to court so that the court can make an immediate decision on the lawfulness of his/her detention.
 See UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/51/75, 12 February 1997, para 3. See also: UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Advisory Opinion on the Extraterritorial Application of Non-Refoulement Obligations under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, 26 January 2007, paras. 12 and 20; ECHR Decision on the case “Chahal v. the United Kingdom” [Grand Chamber], Application No. 22414/93, Decision as of 15 November 1996, § 80 (English) including “Saadi v. Italy [Grand Chamber], Application No. 37201/06, 28 February 2008, § 137 (English).
2. COVID-19 in Kyrgyzstan
The first cases of COVID-19 in Kyrgyzstan were registered on March 18, 2020. The subsequent increase in the number of infected and died from coronavirus disease urged the adoption of decisive and harsh restrictive measures.
The Kyrgyz laws provides for various response options to such situations:
1. Proclamation of a state of emergency
A state of emergency may be declared in the event of emergencies which cannot be addressed without applying the emergency measures. These are the crisis situations such as:
- Biological (epidemics, epizootics and epiphytotics);
- Social (armed rebellion, interethnic conflicts, mass riots associated with violence and threat to human life, armed seizure and blocking of roads of republican importance and strategic facilities, including their damage);
- Natural and man-made hazards (natural disasters, destruction, if they pose an immediate threat to the constitutional order, vital interests of the individual, society, normal operation of state bodies and local self-government bodies).
A state of emergency may be proclaimed in accordance with the Constitutional Law “On a state of emergency throughout the country” of 24 October 1998 No.135 by a Resolution of the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic or in certain places and by the Presidential Decree subject to subsequent approval or rejection by the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic.
2. Proclamation of emergency situation
An emergency situation may be introduced when a situation in certain territories of the country has deteriorated due to dangerous natural or man-made hazards, accidents, catastrophes, natural or other disaster, or other impact of modern weapons of destruction that may or have resulted in human casualties, damage to health people or the environment, significant material losses and disruption of the living conditions of people.
The Prime-minister of the Kyrgyz Republic by order may declare an emergency situation in accordance with the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On Civil Defense” of 24 May 2018 No.54.
3. Implementation of temporary restrictive (quarantine) and sanitary and anti-epidemic (preventive) measures
Temporary restrictive and sanitary and anti-epidemic measures shall be implemented in accordance with the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On Public Health” of 24 July 2009 No. 248, as per representations submitted by the heads of sanitary and epidemiological surveillance centers of the Ministry of Health and Social Development of the Kyrgyz Republic. The Government of the Kyrgyz Republic shall establish the procedures for the introduction and implementation of restrictive measures (quarantine).
The difference between the three named regimes arises from the level of restrictive impact. The strictest measure is a state of emergency, while the mildest one is the restrictive measures.
Such diversity enabled the Kyrgyz authorities to choose the optimal response scenario at different stages of the pandemic in the country.
In order to ensure the public safety and take prompt measures to preventing mass diseases among the population the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, therefore, by its Resolution as of 22 March 2020 No. 93-r had implemented an emergency situation regime on the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic from the 22nd March 2020 and approved an Operational Action Plan in the event of an emergency situation having biological and social nature on the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic.
Furthermore, as the pandemic had worsened, a state of emergency was proclaimed in below administrative-territorial units in order to maintain the protection of the life and health of citizens, their safety and public order, as well as with a view to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic to other territories of the country:
- The Decree of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic of 24 March 2020, DP No. 55 “On the implementation of a state of emergency on the territory of the city of Bishkek of the Kyrgyz Republic”;
- The Decree of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic of 24 March 2020, DP No. 56 “On the implementation of a state of emergency in the city of Osh, No’okat and Kara-Suu rayons of Osh Oblast of the Kyrgyz Republic”;
- The Decree of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic of 24 March 2020 DP No. 57 “On the implementation of a state of emergency in the city of Jalal-Abad and Suzak rayon of Jalal-Abad Oblast of the Kyrgyz Republic”;
- The Decree of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic of 14 April 2020 DP No.72 “On the implementation of a state of emergency in the city of Naryn and At-Bashinsky rayon of Naryn Oblast of the Kyrgyz Republic”.
In line with these Decrees the commandant's HQs were formed with commandants assigned in all administrative territories where the state of emergency was declared. At the same time, pursuant to the requirements of article 7 part 1 clause 3 of the Constitutional Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On the State of Emergency”, the Decrees had established extraordinary measures and temporary restrictions on the rights and freedoms of citizens, including the following:
- Curfew hours;
- Special entry and exit procedures for citizens;
- Prohibition of individual citizens to leave their house (apartments) or the place where they are under monitoring or treatment for a specified period;
- Prohibition on organizing entertainments, sports and other mass events, including strikes, meetings, rallies, street marches, demonstrations and pickets;
- Introduction of quarantine and other mandatory sanitary and anti-epidemic measures;
- Restriction on vehicles movement;
- ID verification in places of mass gathering of citizens;
- Regulation of private events (such as weddings, birthdays and other entertainments).
In accordance with the requirements of article 5 of the Constitutional Law “On a State of Emergency” all the Decrees issued by the President in connection with a state of emergency were approved by the Resolutions of the Jogorku Kenesh, Kyrgyz Parliament No.3651-VI of 24 March 2020, No.3652-VI of 24 March 2020, No. 3653 - VI of 24 March 2020 and No. 3667-VI of 15 April 2020. Simultaneously, the list and limits of emergency measures taken and temporary restrictions on rights and freedoms provided for by the Decrees on a state of emergency have yet to be changed.
Guided by the above-mentioned Presidential Decrees, the commandant's HQs had issued their own Orders specifying restrictive measures during the state of emergency period within their AOR.
For example, the commandant's HQ of the capital city of Bishkek as of 30 March 2020 No. 15 “On additional measures to support the state of emergency” had issued an Order in line with the articles 17 and 22 of the Constitutional Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On a State of Emergency”, which imposed a ban on the movement of people and personal transport in conditions of extreme necessity. In accordance with the Order, people could leave their premises only to:
- Buying food products in stores and medicines and healthcare products in pharmacies within a radius of 1.5 km from the place of residence according to ID registration data;
- Pet waling within a radius of no more than 100 meters from the place of residence and not more than 30 minutes;
- Visiting hospitals in cases of emergency;
- Leaving the residential premises in cases of unforeseen emergencies and other cases that threaten human life and health.
The commandant's HQ by its same Order had banned:
- visiting relatives, acquaintances, neighbors, colleagues, etc.;
- gathering in groups of more than three people, except for people from the same family;
- The movement of unaccompanied minors in the city;
The operations of all organizations and enterprises was temporarily suspended except for agencies and enterprises that must ensure the vital activity of the city, including:
- Healthcare organizations;
- Urban infrastructure and communal services;
- Manufacturing industry and agriculture;
- Retails, catering and construction services.
3. Consequences of emergency measures on freedom of religion
The emergency measures taken and rules of social distancing introduced were among the first and most steps that significantly affected the freedom of religion and belief, and especially impacted on those aspects that relate to the freedom to profess the religion in community with other followers.
In view of the fact that worships usually involve the participation of a large group of people, and any public events were considered quite dangerous in terms of the spread of the virus, the emergency measures and social distancing considerably limited people's access to places of worship, negatively impacted the opportunities to celebrate religious holidays and participate in religious rituals, including funerals.
As noted above, according to article 4, paragraph 2 of the ICCPR the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion are among those that enlisted in the group of rights for which no derogation may be made, including during a state of emergency period. As the Human Rights Committee noted in its general comment No. 29 in paragraph 7, “Conceptually, the qualification of a Covenant provision as a non-derogable one does not mean that no limitations or restrictions would ever be justified. The reference in article 4, paragraph 2, to article 18, a provision that includes a specific clause on restrictions in its paragraph 3, demonstrates that the permissibility of restrictions is independent of the issue of derogability”.
For complete clarity, two dimensions of the right to freedom of religion or belief one should clearly distinguish the following:
- Forum internum is the freedom to have or accept a religion or belief of one's choice, which also includes the right to change one's religion or belief;
- Forum externum is the freedom to profess a religion or belief, which includes a wide range of activities, including freedom of worship and freedom to teach and preach, practice and profess a religion or belief system.
The internal dimension of the right to freedom of religion or belief enjoys the absolute protection and is not subject to the restrictive clauses enshrined in article 18 of the ICCPR. Restrictions can be set in the part of the external component. Moreover, any restriction must strictly comply with the established requirements.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has first formulated the criteria for legitimate imposition of state restrictions on human rights and freedoms. According to article 29 of the Declaration, “in the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society”.
Similar criteria are set out in articles 12, 18, 19, 21 and 22 of the ICCPR.
With regard to freedom of religion or belief, the Human Rights Committee noted that “Even in times of most serious public emergencies, States that interfere with the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief must justify their actions by referring to the requirements specified in article 18, paragraph 3”.
The essence of these requirements is that the freedom to profess religion or belief is subject only to restrictions established by law and necessary to protect public safety, order, health and morality, as well as the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
Therefore, the legitimacy of a specific fact of the State introduced restriction of freedom to profess a religion or belief can be assessed using a simple test from three questions:
- Was there any restriction imposed by law?
The Siracusa Principles show that any restriction on human rights shall not be imposed otherwise than in accordance with a law that is not contrary to the ICCPR and in effect at the time the restriction imposed. Norms restricting the enjoyment of human rights must be clearly stated and accessible to everyone. The law should provide for sufficient safeguards and effective remedies against unlawful or unlawful imposition or application of restrictions on human rights.
- If the restrictions pursued a legitimate goal and was it proportionate to that goal?
The situation under evaluation must involve one or more of the exhaustive list of state interests set out in article 18, paragraph 2 of the ICCPR, namely, the protection of:
- Was the restriction necessary in a democratic society?
Any restriction on the right to freedom of religion or belief must be truly necessary, even if the restriction is in line with a clear and precise law and is aimed at achieving the legitimate goals. In other words, what is the point of imposing a restriction if it lacks the necessity.
The Siracusa principles interpret the term “in a democratic society” as the sense of introducing additional conditions to apply restrictions. Any state that imposes restrictions should demonstrate that those restrictions do not impede the democratic functioning of the society. Nevertheless, there is no unique model of a democratic society, a society that recognizes and respects the human rights proclaimed in the UN Charter and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights may be considered as meeting this definition.
The test for “... non-discrimination” has to be an important component to assess the legality of the restrictions imposed by the State on freedom to profess one’s religion or belief. Restrictions must not be aimed at discrimination and be applied in a discriminatory manner.
Unfortunately, the world practice knows the cases of discrimination in connection with antiquated restrictions on freedom of religion or belief.
The media have already reported how Iran Government released 85,000 prisoners to prevent the spread of the virus, but detained some members of the Sufi religious community and placed them in overcrowded cells. In India, the pandemic was used by government officials from Hindu ethnic majority to fight the Muslim minorities, whose members had been accused of contributing to the increase in the number of cases. Authorities allowed Orthodox Christians in Georgia to hold worship services during Easter, but reacted with hostility when Muslims were intended to gather during Ramadan.
 The Siracusa Principles , paras 15-18.
4. Collisions in the legislation on restrictions
The Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic in its article 23 sets the goals of limiting human rights and freedoms: “Human and civil rights and freedoms may be limited by the Constitution and laws in order to protect national security, public order, public health and morality, and protect the rights and freedoms of others. Such restrictions may also be imposed considering the specifics of military or other public service duties. The imposed restrictions must be proportionate to the stated objectives”.
In accordance with article 4 paragraph 7 of the Law “On Freedom of Religion and Religious Organizations”, the Constitution and laws of the Kyrgyz Republic provides for the limitation of human right to freedom of religion to only ensure the freedoms and rights of others, public safety and order, territorial integrity, and protection of the constitutional order. In parallel, the essence of constitutional freedoms and rights may not be affected.
article 18 paragraph 3
Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic
article 23 paragraph 2
The Law of KR “On freedom of religion and religious organizations”
The freedom to manifest religion or belief is subject to restrictions established by law and necessary for protection only for:
1) public safety;
3) health and morality;
4) fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
Human and civil rights and freedoms may be limited by the Constitution and laws in order to protect:
1) national security;
2) public order;
3) protection of public health and morality;
4) protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The Constitution and laws of the Kyrgyz Republic provides for the limitation of the human right to freedom of religion only to ensure:
1) freedoms and rights of other persons;
2) public safety and
4) territorial integrity;
5) protection of the constitutional order.
The Human Rights Committee in paragraph 8 of its general comment No. 22 noted that “that paragraph 3 of article 18 is to be strictly interpreted: restrictions are not allowed on grounds not specified there, even if they would be allowed as restrictions to other rights protected in the Covenant, such as national security”. That is, the interests of national security may not serve as a legitimate aim to limit the right to freedom of religion.
Based on above comparative table we can conclude that the national legislation does not in full conformity with international standards in terms of legitimate goals of restricting the right to freedom of conscience, religion or belief. It is necessary to bring the legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic in that part in line with ratified international treaty (ICCPR) and committed international obligations in the field of maintaining and protecting human rights and freedoms, and in particular the right to freedom of conscience, religion or belief.
5. Restrictive practices
The Constitutional Law “On a State of Emergency” accepts certain restrictions of the rights and freedoms of citizens solely to ensure the safety of citizens and protect the constitutional order.
Along with extraordinary measures that may indirectly entail restrictions of freedom to profess religion or belief (introduction of curfew, special entry and exit regime for citizens, quarantine measures, prohibition of individual citizens to go beyond certain areas, their apartments (houses) for a specified period, and restrictions on vehicles movement), the constitutional law empowers the state bodies and administrations to apply emergency measures that may constitute a direct obstruction to exercise the freedom of religion in community with others in the event of a state of emergency depending on specific circumstance.
In accordance with article 22 paragraph 6 part 1 of the Constitutional Law, state authorities and administrations may prohibit ... meetings, rallies, street marches, demonstrations and pickets, including ... other mass events. The lack of a precise definition of “mass event” in the law contributes to a broader interpretation, and accordingly, any religious prayers and meetings, and other events in places of worship may be banned.
Part 18 establishes the right to suspend the activities of ... public organizations, mass movements, independent associations of citizens which impede the normalization of situation. This list includes religious organizations (religious societies, centers, religious educational institutions, mosques, churches, synagogues, houses of worship, monasteries and others).
In 2020, the authorities had proclaimed a state of emergency twice in the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, in Bishkek. The first state of emergency was declared by the Decree of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic of 24 March 2020, DP No. 55 “On a state of emergency in the territory of the city of Bishkek of the Kyrgyz Republic” in order to “ensure the protection of the life and health of citizens, their safety and public order, as well as to curb the spread of coronavirus disease to other parts of the country”. The second one was proclaimed in accordance with the Decree of the President as 9 October 2020, DP No. 189 “On a state of emergency in the territory of the city of Bishkek of the Kyrgyz Republic”, but this time its goal was to ensure “rapid stabilization of the socio-political situation and maintain public order in Bishkek” due to public protests by supporters of political parties who opposed the electoral results to the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic, which than escalated to mass riots.
During the state of emergency introduced in March 2020, as per the order issued by Bishkek Commandant's HQ, the functioning of all organizations and enterprises was temporarily suspended except for organizations and enterprises that must ensure the vital activity of the city. All organizations and enterprises from industries excluded from the List of Permitted Activities had to suspend their normal operation for the entire duration of a state of emergency and could continue their functioning remotely, including online.
Religious organizations were not included in this List, and accordingly they had to comply with the Commandant's HQ Order and suspend their work. According to the previously described test, such limitations were legitimate, since:
- firstly, the restriction was introduced in accordance with the law - article 22 paragraph 18 part 1 of the Constitutional Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On a state of emergency”, which does not contradict the ICCPR and was in effect at the time of restriction imposed;
- secondly, the restriction pursued a legitimate goal provided for by article 18 paragraph 2 of the ICCPR, namely, health protection;
- thirdly, the restriction was “necessary in a democratic society”. In other words, the restriction was actually needed to be imposed and it was due to the necessity of social isolation. Within religious organizations, where one can observe a crowd of people who came to perform religious rituals could pose a real a risk of spreading COVID-19;
- fourthly, the restriction passed the test for “...non-discrimination”. In this case, the restrictions were not imposed for purposes of discrimination or applied in a discriminatory manner.
As noted, religious organizations had obeyed the Commandant's HQ Order that was aimed at maintaining the state of emergency and suspending their activities. Most had supported to raise awareness of their members on virus and provided social assistance to people from vulnerable groups. At certain times, the religious institutions had shared their premises with medical workers and volunteers to organize day hospitals.
This way, churches and temples of the Russian Orthodox Church of Kyrgyzstan suspended their activities on 24 March 2020 from the date when a state of emergency was proclaimed in certain territories of the country. According to the Assistant to the Community Relations Secretary of the Bishkek diocese, Archpriest Alexei Syromyatnikov, worships in churches and temples were on hold and closed to parishioners. In places where the state of emergency was not introduced, worships were delivered by priests who live in parishes, however the churches themselves were closed to parishioners. Mosques in Kyrgyzstan had been closed since 17 March 2020. Before the stabilization of epidemiological situation, the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan (hereinafter - SAMK) had to work remotely.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also made adjustments to the celebration of Eid and Easter, which corresponded to a period of a state of emergency in 2020. The festival worships were served online for the first time in the history.
Therefore, the emergency measures pursued the establishment of physical distancing and imposing restrictions had only affected the part of public worships in religious organizations, but not the ban on worships as such.
During a state of emergency proclaimed in Bishkek in October 2020, the activities of religious organizations were not suspended; accordingly, there were no restrictions on the right to freedom to profess religion or belief. Nevertheless, if authorities had introduced such restrictions, it would fail to pass the test for its legality, since would it be in line with the law and would have pursued a legitimate goal – “maintaining public order”, in circumstances that prompted to declare a state of emergency, such limitations in a democratic society could not be necessary and they could not be justified by the severity of the situation. In other words, there would be no reasonable explanation for why churches and mosques have to close their doors if, in any way, it may not impact the effectiveness and success of measures aimed at “rapid stabilization of socio-political situation and maintenance of public order in Bishkek”.
The state of emergency in Bishkek officially ended on 10 May at 00.00. However, the emergency situation regime which had been introduced throughout the country on March 22, remains in force up to date.
Despite the emergency situation regime imposes less stringent measures that may entail restricting the right to freedom of religion or belief, it nevertheless requires paying equally important attention in terms of ensuring legal protection.
Using the example of one initiative, we will try to analyze typical violations that are potentially allowed in terms of limiting the right to freedom to profess religion or belief, and also outline the mechanisms of protection that must be used to protect the rights and legitimate interests of victims of violations.
On 22 April 2021, the Chief Medical Officer of the Center for State Sanitary and Epidemiological Surveillance of the city of Bishkek had issued a sanitary order to Kaziat (supreme clergy) of Bishkek city, according to which the “Center for State Sanitary and Epidemiological Surveillance of Bishkek based on the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On Public Health” and information provided by the Ministry of Health and Social Development of the Kyrgyz Republic (outgoing main No. 01-1-4-47) on the rising incidence of Coronavirus and its rapid spread among the urban population due to non-compliance with sanitary and epidemiological requirements at various organizations, facilities, public places, including at religious institutions, and by Bishkek resident,s in which the Center suggested: on a temporary basis, to ban dawats and mass events such as Friday Namaz (prayers), Eid Namaz and iftar. The duration is until the epidemiological situation improves.
In case of failure to comply with these recommendations, you will be subject to administrative measures in accordance with the Code of the Kyrgyz Republic “On Violations” No. 58 of 13 April 2017