LAW ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND LEGAL STATUS OF RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES IN KOSOVO
Assembly of Kosovo,
Pursuant to Regulation No. 2001/9 on the Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self-Government in Kosovo, in particular provisions of Articles No. 3.1, 3.2 and 5.7, and standards on human rights and liberties covered by international and regional declarations and conventions under the competence of the Council of Europe;
Proceeding from the fact that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right, among other internationally recognized fundamental principals and standards on the freedom of expression, conscience and religion,
Affirming the right of all, without discrimination on any ground and in full equality before the law, to freedom of expression, conscience and religion, regardless of religious conviction or conscience;
Proceeding from the common life, the cultural heritage and the religious life in Kosovo
Aware of our heritage and the traditional values of tolerance, common life and the multi-religious character of Kosovo,
Endeavoring to define unique legal provisions, which will provide equal rights and obligations to religious communities, without any discrimination,
Recognizing the importance for further progress of mutual understanding, tolerance and awareness, and respect of the freedom of expression, conscience and religion;
For the purposes of this Law the terms used have the following meaning:
“Religious community” means a community of natural persons, of believers who express the same religious feelings or beliefs and have been recorded in the Registry of religious communities;
“Union of natural persons“ means a non-formal group of individuals, associations or non-governmental organizations, members of which express the same religious feelings, beliefs and their will to establish a religious community, but which at the time of entry into force of this Law has not been registered as religious community.
This Law shall assure: the freedom of religion and conscience for all, including understanding, tolerance and mutual respect associated with all issues related to the freedom of religion and conscience; establishment and termination of religious communities; conditions for performing religious activities, ceremonies and religious rituals; establishment and the work of educational religious institutions and dormitories; edition of religious publications and other issues related to the legal status of religious communities, without any discrimination.
1. The right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief shall include, inter alia, the following freedoms:
a. To worship or assemble in connection with a religion or belief, and to establish and maintain places for these purposes;
b. To establish and govern charitable or humanitarian institutions
c. To make, acquire and use to an adequate extent, the necessary articles and materials related to the rites or customs of a religion or belief;
d. To write, issue and disseminate relevant publications in these areas;
e. To teach a religion or belief in places suitable for these purposes;
f. To solicit and receive financial contributions and other voluntary contributions from individuals and institutions;
g. To train, appoint, elect or designate by succession appropriate leaders called for by the requirements and standards of any religion or belief;
h. To respect days of rest and to celebrate holidays and ceremonies in accordance with the precepts of one's religion or belief;
i. To establish and maintain communications with individuals and communities in matters of religion and belief at the national and international levels”
2. The freedom to express one’s religious beliefs shall only be subject to limitations provided by the law and which are necessary for a democratic society to ensure public order and safety, to protect public health and moral, human rights and fundamental freedoms of other people.
3. No person shall be obliged to provide information on his or her religion or membership to a religious community or union of natural persons or union of religious communities, with the following exceptions:
a) Article 30, paragraph 3 and
b) in case one is accused at a judicial criminal procedure and a confirmation is needed whether the motivation of the criminal offence is based on religious intolerance; when one is accused of serious criminal act, which violates values of democratic societies, under Paragraph 2 of this Article; or by an injured party.
1. Any person is free to become a member of a religious community, to remain a member of the same community or to leave it;
2. No one shall hinder any person to participate in religious ceremonies or other forms related to manifestation of religious feelings.
3. No person shall be forced to participate in religious ceremonies or in other related forms of manifestation of religious feelings.
All persons, regardless of their belief or conviction or affiliation to any religious community, or participation in any religious ceremony, are equal before the law and are entitled to the same rights in their civil, political, economic, social and cultural life. All legal and natural persons are entitled to equal protection before the law.
1. Any form of discrimination, based on faith or conviction, is prohibited.
2. Assault and offense of religious officials, destruction of religious facilities or other property of a religious community; activities or acts aiming the instigation of religious hatred against any religious community or their members; are punished under the Criminal Code of Kosovo.
3. Engagement of religious institutions or religious ceremonies, religious publication, religious teaching, and expression of other forms of religious feelings for activities reserved for political parties, is prohibited.
4. Obstruction of religious gatherings and other activities under Paragraph 3 of this Article is also prohibited, unless their organization and manifestation is contrary to this Law.
1. A religious community accomplishes the right of freedom by publicly performing religious ceremonies and other religious manifestations of the concerned religion, registered in the Registry of Religious Communities in Kosovo.
2. Religious communities shall have the status of a legal person.
3. Religious communities are separated from public authorities.
Religious communities shall autonomously and freely determine: internal organization, management bodies, their hierarchy and competences; bodies and persons that will represent the religious community and its organizational forms; the content and manner of expression of religion, in compliance with the established code on the rights and duties of its members, which should be in compliance with the nature of the mission and other provisions of the relevant religious community, determine maintenance of relationship with their centre and other religious communities; association with other religious communities and other issues of their activities.
1. The leader of a religious community shall be appointed by the representative within religious community structure
2. The religious community leader should be a citizen of Kosovo.
1. A religious community, during the expression of its faith and other activities, shall not spread intolerance and prejudices towards other religious communities and their believers or other citizens.
2. The religious community when expressing its faith and performing its other activities should not disrupt other religious communities, or citizens without religious convictions, in public manifestation of religion or other conviction.
3. The religious community shall not act during the performance of religious ceremonies and their practice contrary to the legal order, public moral or to the detriment of the life and health or rights and other rights and freedoms of its believers and other citizens.
1. Religious communities which act as legal persons in Kosovo on the date of entry of this Law into force (hereinafter: Existing religious communities) shall apply for registration by presenting an application request.
2. Community of natural persons; which exists on the day this Law enters into force, but which does not have the statute of religious community or which will be established after the entrance into force of the present Law (hereinafter: New Religious Community), may be registered in the Registry by submitting their requests for registration.
3. The request for registration shall be submitted to by the religious community, which has been carrying out its activities for at least five years.
1. The registration shall be maintained by the Ministry of Public Services (hereinafter: the Ministry).
2. Apart from new religious communities, under conditions and in the manner this Law provides for the registration of existing religious communities, other organizational forms may be registered in the Registry which the religious community requires (schools, institutions, and dormitories etc).
3. Religious communities, communities of natural persons with their organizational forms and union of religious communities are non-profitable legal persons.
1. The Law does not neither hinder nor limit the establishment and operation of associations, which are established by natural persons because of their convictions and freedom of expression of religion.
2. Associations under paragraph 1 of the present Article do not have the position of a religious community and can not benefit rights that religious community have according to the present Law.
1. A religious community, in its public activity, besides the designation in Albanian, English and Serbian, may also use other designations in other languages and alphabets.
2. Designation of religious communities should contain the word “Kosovo”.
A religious community, which in accordance with the rights of the religious
community is part of the religious community with its seat outside the
4. Designation of new religious communities shall not be the same as the name and stamp of a religious community, which has already been recorded in the Registry.
1. The Government of Kosovo may consult religious communities regarding issues of common interest to Kosovo.
2. Concerning implementation of acts that regulate relations of Kosovo and religious communities, and other important issues pertaining to the status and activities of religious communities, the Government of Kosovo shall establish the Committee for Relations with Religious Communities.
3. The Commission under paragraph 2 of the present Article shall consist of members of religious communities and the Government
The number of members shall be set forth by a Decision of the Government
II. SPECIAL PROVISIONS
1. Religious communities shall freely perform religious ceremonies and other activities in buildings designated for this purpose or in their own premises, or the ones rented or contracted, which pursuant to special provisions meet requirements for gatherings of a number of people, as well as in outdoor religious premises or in cemeteries.
2. Religious ceremonies may also be performed in other open spaces outside religious premises, in other open religious premises, subject to the applicable conditions and rules for public religious ceremonies.
1.Baptizing (including water baptizing) of minors may be performed upon the request of their parents and guardians. If a minor is older than fifteen (15) years, his consent is required.
2. Circumcision of male children may be performed upon the request of their parents and guardians. If a male children is older than fifteen (15) years, his consent is required.
3. For religious ceremonies under Paragraph 1 and 2 of the present Article, necessary hygienic and medical conditions are required to be provided.
Wedding, according to religious ceremonies, may take place only after the marriage has been solemnized before the municipal competent body, pursuant to the Law on Marriage, whereas baptizing may be performed only upon registration in the Registry of Births.
Religious schools, faculties and dormitories
Religious communities, pursuant to the Law, are free to establish religious schools and faculties of any level, as well as religious institutes.
Religious communities together with religious schools and faculties, pursuant to the law, may establish dormitories and similar institutions for accommodation and food services for attendees of such schools or faculties.
Editions and publications of religious communities
Religious communities, religious schools, faculties and religious institutes at all levels, are entitled to religious publishing activities in the press, and religious distribution in an electronic form. Concerning the publishing of religious materials and distribution of information mutatis mutandis shall apply relevant provisions of the Law on Printing Activities and the Law on Public Information.
Sanctity of areas of religious communities
Buildings and premises dedicated for the performance of religious ceremonies are considered sacred as regards intervention of governmental authorities, unless illegal activities are carried out in such premises or use them to give shelter to persons wanted by police.
Religious care in health care and social care institutions
Believers held for treatment in health care or social care institutions shall be guaranteed the right to practice their religion, including the right to communication with their spiritual leaders.
Religious care for persons deprived of freedom, members of Kosovo Protection Corps and Police
The manner for underpinning the right for exercising the religion by believers in Kosovo Protection Corpses, Police and people held in correctional institutions and prison is under the reserved competence of the SRSG.
Resources of religious communities.
1. The religious community may establish funds from:
a. Incomes of its property;
b. Educational, artistic and other teaching activities, which are generally beneficial to them, as well as by selling religious publications and souvenirs;
c. The performance of religious services;
d. Heritage and gifts; and
e. Voluntary contributions (given as money, services or work) of natural or legal persons.
2. Religious communities may receive funds from the Kosovo Consolidated Budget, the amount of which shall be based on, but not limited only to the following criteria: the type and importance of activities in religious premises (cultural, historical, artistic etc.), the activities in educational, social, health and cultural field, the general number of their members, humanitarian activities and the overall contribution of the religious community to the society as a whole.
3. The government, namely the Commission on the Relationship of Religious Communities shall supervise expenditures of financial resources allocated from the Budget.
1. Issues related to duties, taxes and customs which is related to the religious communities, shall be governed by the applicable law.
Social care rights of religious employees and attendees of religious schools and faculties
1. Ministers and other clerks of religious communities enjoy the right to pension, health insurance and other rights based on the applicable law on social care pension.
2. For implementation of their religious business and other works, religious communities may enter into legal relations and conclude business contracts with the religious personnel and other employees. The religious personnel and other employees, which the religious community has concluded business with, realize their rights pursuant to the work relations and the work performed, similar to other employed persons.
3. Regular attendees of religious schools and religious faculties are entitled to their health security rights, child benefits, pension and disability insurance, social assistance rights and public traffic rights, under the same manner and terms realized by attendees of public schools and faculties.
Access of religious communities to means of public information
The religious community shall practice public information activities in compliance with the applicable law.
III REGISTRATION OF RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES
Registration in the Register
Existing religious communities shall submit to the Ministry data concerning:
a. designation of the religious community;
b. the seat of the religious community;
c. authorized persons who will represent the community; and
d. The stamp and emblem used by the religious community, by handing in the symbol.
1. New religious communities shall be recorded in the Registry upon submission of their registration request, which shall contain data under Article 29 of this Law.
2. In addition to registration request, the following should be submitted:
a. statement of the representative of the religious community indicating that the religious community has at least 500 believers;
b. An act indicating the content and manner of their religious manifestation, performance of their religious activities, and their organizational and functional structure;
3. Upon the registration of a religious community, the competent body is entitled to verify the number of religious community believers. The data which the competent body and the religious community regarding religious pertaining of individuals are confidential.
4. If the newly established religious community, pursuant to the rights of the religious community seated abroad is part of that community, the registration request must be accompanied by the consent of the central competent authority of the religious community abroad.
1. The Ministry shall decide on the request of the religious community for registration in the religious community Registry, within sixty (60) working days after the submission of request.
The Ministry, by a ruling on the registration of the religious community in the Registry shall confirm:
a. The designation and the seat of the religious community;
b. Date of registration and the file number under which the religious community has been registered ;
c. The confirmation that the religious community on the day of its registration shall obtain the legal capacity in conformity with law; and
d. The authorized person’s service in order to represent the religious community.
3.. The request for registration in the Registry shall be refused if the Ministry deems that the content and form of practicing religious ceremonies and other manifestations are in contravention with the legal order and public moral, or are detrimental to the life and health or to the rights and freedoms of worshiper and other citizens, or conditions set out under Article 14 of this Law have not been met.
4. Against the ruling on the registration or refusal of registration in the register an administrative dispute may be initiated pursuant to the Law on administrative procedure.
Removal from the Registry
1. Removal of religious communities from the Registry shall take place in the following cases:
a. When the competent body of a religious community makes a decision on its termination;
b. When the judicial authority proves by a final decision that the activity of the religious community evokes or incites religious, national, or racial hatred, or any other form of intolerance between Kosovo citizens.
c. When the activity of the religious community is in contravention with public order, public moral, or is detrimental to the health people or human rights and freedoms of other believers or citizens.
2. A court proceedings for the verification of proofs under Article 31, Paragraph 1, item b and c, shall be initiated by the competent Ministry before the District Court.
3.For appeal against the District Court ruling, the Supreme Court of Kosovo render a decision
1. If the religious community ceases to exist, the liquidation procedure shall be applied for its cessation.
2. After the religious community debts have been cleared, in accordance with religious community acts, a decision will be made concerning its remaining assets. When by acts of the religious community nothing has been determined, assets of the religious community shall be become property of Kosovo.
The competent Ministry shall supervise implementation of this Law.
1. The Ministry shall determine, by an administrative instruction, forms and the manner of record-keeping for religious communities.
2. The Registry shall be accessible to public.
3. Religious communities are obliged to enter in the registry any amended data referred to in Article 31 of the present Law.
of this law, which regulate the rights and obligations of religious
communities, shall be implemented mutatis
mutandis towards the organizational units of the religious community and
Issues for Registration procedures or removal from the Registry, which are not regulated by the present Law, provisions of the Law on General Administrative Procedure shall be applied.
IV TRANSITIONAL AND FINAL PROVISIONS
1. Existing religious communities are obliged, under Article 29 of this Law, to submit the data to the Ministry with a six (6) months period from the day the administrative instruction enters into force, pursuant to Article 35, Paragraph 1 of this Law.
2. If existing religious communities act contrary to paragraph 1 of the present Article, they will not be able to acquire the rights they are entitled to pursuant to the provisions of this Law, unless there is an objective reason for not being able to meet the deadline.
Within six (6) months period, when the present Law enters into force, the competent Ministry shall issue necessary bylaws for the implementation of this Law.
The day this Law enters into force, all legal provisions regulating the field of this Law shall cease to be effective.
This Law enters into force when approved by the Assembly, signed by the President of the Assembly and upon its promulgation by the SRSG.