Ahead of a parliamentary vote on amendments to law to further restrict freedom of association including the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Kyrgyzstan, Heather McGill, Amnesty International’s Central Asia Researcher, said:
“These amendments pose a very significant threat to civil society in Kyrgyzstan which until now has been one of the most active in the region. They run counter to Kyrgyzstan’s international human rights obligations to protect and facilitate the right to freedom of association and have been condemned by Kyrgyzstani civil society and international experts.”
The proposed amendments include penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for civil society activists who establish, participate in or promote an NGO or an affiliate of a foreign NGO if the authorities found that the organization is committing what is vaguely defined as ‘inciting citizens to refuse to perform civic duties or to commit other unlawful deeds.’
It also introduces the compulsory label ‘foreign representative’ for NGOs that receive foreign funding and a new category of ‘Foreign NGO’ (FNGO) with burdensome reporting requirements.
Under the updated law, the authorities could suspend the activities of a non-governmental organization for six months without a court decision or exclude it from the register if it fails to register as a “foreign representative”. In most cases, this would effectively shut the organization down. The Ministry of Justice would also be empowered to prohibit NGOs from sending funds to certain organizations that, in the authorities’ opinion, “harm” the country’s interests.
As we have seen in other countries in the region, the term ‘foreign representatives’ severely affects the work of NGOs as it imposes increased levels of state control over their work and also stigmatizes their activities, putting them at risk of attacksHeather McGill, Central Asia Researcher, Amnesty International
“As we have seen in other countries in the region, the term ‘foreign representatives’ severely affects the work of NGOs as it imposes increased levels of state control over their work and also stigmatizes their activities, putting them at risk of attacks,” said Heather McGill.
In addition, the modifications discriminate against foreigners, stateless people and people with psychosocial disabilities by prohibiting them from registering NGOs, which deprives them of their civil rights.
The amendments, introduced in mid-May, are likely to be voted by the parliament in the coming days.