Azerbaijan strengthens control over religious organizations

By Jamila Babayeva

The State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations will apply new rules for inspecting religious organizations.

Developed under the law "On freedom of religion", the new rules aim to ensure the legality of the organizations' activity and provide them with legal assistance, the State Committee reported.

The number of registered religious organizations in Azerbaijan reached 588 in 2013. Under the law "On freedom of religion" and the regulations of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations, the committee has the right to control the activities of religious organizations, but the appropriate legal mechanism for such control has not been developed so far.

The State Committee noted that the new rules will precisely provide two kinds of controls - inspection and examination.

The inspection will be focused on implementation of the activities of religious communities in accordance with law and regulations with a view to expose use of illegal or harmful religious literature, and incitement to religious hatred or discrimination in the promotion of religious organizations.

After the inspection, the religious organizations will be recommended to bring their activities into compliance with the law. Also, in case of serious offenses, necessary measures in the administrative and procedural order will be carried out.

These measures are aimed at strengthening the state-religion relations, providing a higher level of religious freedom and religious tolerance, and preventing negative effects on religious grounds, the State Committee underlined.

A group of employees of the State Committee are currently going through special training in connection with the new inspection rules.