Recommendations to the OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Freedom of Religion or Belief (Vienna, 17-18 July 2003)
I. For OSCE ODIHR:
1. To urge states not to introduce special new legislation, which will limit freedom of conscience or activities of religious organizations, using as an excuse national security aspects (threats of terrorism, etc.), concerns about racict propaganda, incitement of religious hatred, etc.
Explanation: Existing legislation normally already contains the necessary restrictions, the only issue being its proper and efficient implementation. But if new limitations, covering issues of propaganda, education, finances and organizational matters, are indeed necessary, then they should be applied both to religious and other types of organizations and associations. It is difficult to imagine a restriction specific to a religious organization, that would not also be applicable for a secular one. The introduction of specific restricitions for religious organizations, however, only leads to further violations of human rights.
2. To urge states not to misuse of the notion of "state security." There is a serious danger in an overbroad interpretation of this term. In particular, we consider unacceptable using this notion to restrict freedom of conscience, while attempting to hide behind the cloak of defense of national "cultural identity".
Explanation: If we speak about crimes or violations of legal norms commited by members of certain religious groups, then the existing legislature provides sufficient punishment for these crimes. There is no need to treat these crimes under the "national security" banner and to introduce special legislative amendments.
However, if we speak about ideological reasons, even if supported by the majority of population, then new restrictions are completly unacceptable from the point of view of international human rights standards. An example of an ideological justification is a popular argument of the need to preserve "cultural identity."
II. For national governments:
It seems advisable to refrain from introducing any legally sanctioned hierarchy of religious organizations in those OSCE member-states, where such hierarchy does not or has not existest for several decades and is absent now. Such a hierarchy would only serve to strengthen discriminatory practices.
Explanation: Legal hierarchy of religious organizations has existed for a long time in several of the OSCE member states. These state have for the most part been able to develop specific tools to fight discrimination. In post-communist countries, however, this tradition of legal hierarchy was interrupted while anti-discrimination mechanisms have not evolved sufficiently during the last fifteen years. We fear that recreating such hierarchy in any form can lead to increased levels of discrimination against religious minorities.