The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) offers guidelines on the issues of registration and recognition of religious or belief communities. Published on February 4, 2015, these guidelines were created to help ensure that those involved in drafting and applying legislation in the area of the freedom of religion or belief, including civil society representatives, have at their disposal a benchmark document containing minimum international standards in the area of recognition of religious or belief communities.
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights is one of the world’s principal regional human rights bodies. Based in Warsaw, Poland, ODIHR is active throughout Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and North America. The Office promotes democratic elections, respect for human rights, tolerance and non-discrimination, and the rule of law. Established in 1991, ODIHR employs nearly 150 staff from 30 countries. The Office’s activities are funded through a core budget, which is approved annually by participating States, as well as through voluntary contributions. ODIHR’s work in the area of freedom of religion or belief focuses on assisting participating States, religious or belief communities, and civil society in protecting and promoting the right to freedom of religion or belief. ODIHR also works on preventing and responding to intolerance and discrimination based on religious grounds.
A new publication on the issues of registration and recognition of religious or belief communities was launched by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) at an event hosted by the European Parliament in Brussels on 4 February 2015.
The Guidelines on the Legal Personality of Religious or Belief Communities, developed jointly with the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, is a benchmark document containing minimum international standards in the area of recognition of religious or belief communities, while also referring to good practice from individual states.
“The Guidelines have been created to help ensure that everyone can fully enjoy their freedom of religion or belief,” said Snježana Bokulić, Head of the ODIHR Human Rights Department. “The publication should assist OSCE participating States in implementing their obligation to provide voluntary access to legal personality for religious or belief communities, in compliance with OSCE commitments and international standards.”
Participants at the event, hosted by the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance, focused on the value of the Guidelines in assisting those involved—including civil society—in drafting and applying legislation in this area.
“The Guidelines detail that, in international law, the exercise of a person’s freedom of religion or belief may not be conditional on state permission,” said John Kinahan, Assistant Editor at Forum 18, a Norwegian human rights organization that promotes religious freedom. “As registration systems are often used to control and punish people exercising their human rights, these Guidelines help outline a wide range of good practice for governments genuinely wishing to protect communities’ exercise of this right.”