New guidelines are “authoritative statements of international law”


An expanded legal guide to issues surrounding registration and recognition of religious and belief organisations and communities has been published by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

“Guidelines on the Legal Personality of Religious or Belief Communities” is now available at the OSCE website (address below), and has been described by the International Centre for Law and Religious Studies as “likely to be one of the most authoritative statements of international law governing the recognition and registration of religious organizations for years to come”.

139041The purpose of these Guidelines is to 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 document does not seek to challenge established agreements between states and religious or belief communities but, rather, to delineate the legal framework that would ensure that communities wishing to do so have a fair opportunity to be granted legal personality, and that the criteria established are applied in a non-discriminatory manner.

This document elaborates on the issues of registration and recognition of religious and belief organizations, and supplements section II.F on “Laws governing registration of religious/belief organizations” of the 2004 Guidelines. The 2004 Guidelines do, however, remain valid in their entirety.

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) provides support, assistance and expertise to participating States and civil society to promote democracy, rule of law, human rights and tolerance and non-discrimination. ODIHR observes elections, reviews legislation and advises governments on how to develop and sustain democratic institutions. The Office conducts training programmes for government and law-enforcement officials and non-governmental organizations on how to uphold, promote and monitor human rights.The OSCE is funded by contributions from its 57 participating States.


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