Reacting to the Kyrgyzstani parliament’s adoption in its first reading of amendments to a law that would dangerously restrict freedom of association and the work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the country, Maisy Weicherding, Amnesty International’s Central Asia Researcher, said:
“We are disappointed that these unnecessarily restrictive amendments to existing NGO legislation were passed at the bill’s first reading. We strongly urge parliament to weigh up the socio-economic benefits to Kyrgyzstan of a thriving civil society and reconsider the impact these amendments will have on NGOs’ ability to offer vital support to all people in accessing their rights.
“We are equally deeply concerned that the proposed amendments impose the compulsory labels ‘foreign representative’ and ‘Foreign NGO’ (FNGO) for NGOs that receive foreign funding, along with burdensome reporting requirements.
A thriving civil society able to operate freely and without fear is an invaluable and irreplaceable asset to any countryMaisy Weicherding, Amnesty International’s Central Asia Researcher
“As we have seen elsewhere, these terms have been exploited to severely constrain NGOs and impose increased levels of state control over their work. They have also been used to stigmatize their activities, putting them at risk of attacks and preventing them from giving essential support to some of the most vulnerable individuals in society. A thriving civil society able to operate freely and without fear is an invaluable and irreplaceable asset to any country, especially in the face of economic and climate crises. Parliament should categorically reject the amendments in its second reading.”
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 find that the organization is committing what is vaguely defined as ‘inciting citizens to refuse to perform civic duties or to commit other unlawful deeds.’
Under the updated law, the authorities could suspend the activities of an NGO 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.
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.