Flag of Uzbekistan (CC/Flickr/Giorgio Minguzzi)

State harassment against Baptists in Uzbekistan has continued despite the UN’s recent criticism of the country’s religious rights records.

UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom or Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shaheed, said: “Law changes and a strong political will are needed if Uzbeks are to freely practise their faith” when he presented his report on the country at the 37th session of the Human Rights Council, which ended today (26 March).

Baptists in the south-western Navoi region report that the police “watch us, follow us, and threaten us with court cases and fines to stop us attending church,” regional news agency Forum 18 was told on 15 March by the Council of Churches.

Baptists also said that the authorities compel the relatives of ethnic Uzbek Christians to try to stop family members from meeting their co-believers, according to the news agency.

In one case, an eight-year-old child was taken from school without his parents’ permission, to face hostile questioning by officials.

Forum 18 also report that, following a raid on Baptists in the capital, Tashkent, a woman was put on trial and fined without her knowledge, and a memory chip with family photos ordered to be destroyed. She was then illegally denied the possibility to appeal.

Ahmed Shaheed’s report to the UNHRC followed his visit to Uzbekistan in 2017, at the end of which he said: “Freedom of religion or belief as a human right inherent to every human being is not recognised in law and in practice,” and that this “poses a fundamental challenge for religious freedom in Uzbekistan”.