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19 April 2016

Kyrgyzstan – Proposed amendments to the law on NGOs following the second reading

On 14 April 2016, the Kyrgyz Parliament adopted amendments to the draft NGO law, at the second reading, which remove reference to "foreign agents", although concerns remain that some of the measures will impose reporting requirements that will have a restrictive effect on civil society.

The draft law, introduced in autumn 2013, was inspired by similar legislation adopted by the Russian Federation in 2012. Under the Kyrgyz draft law, NGOs receiving funding from foreign and international sources, and engaging in “political activities”, were to be labelled as “foreign agents” up until this amendment. The implementation of a similar law in the Russian Federation has led to numerous inspections, court cases, the frequent confiscation of equipment and the registration of more than sixty organisations as “foreign agents”, among them, prominent Russian human rights organisations. It has severely restricted and paralysed the work of many non-governmental organisations, in particular those dealing with the protection and promotion of human rights.

The new version of the draft law, prepared by the Committee on Human Rights, Constitutional Legislation and State Organisation, differs significantly from the law adopted during the first reading. The amended version has entirely eradicated the notion of  'a foreign agent' and Article 2 was amended, introducing a new definition of 'a foreign non-governmental organisation'.

Though less repressive and discriminatory in nature, the new document has introduced some burdensome reporting obligations for non-governmental organisations; in particular Article 17, which was amended with an obligation on non-governmental organisations to submit annual reports concerning their economic and financial activities, their source of funding and information about the management and staff of non-commercial organisations, by publishing them either on their website or on the website of the Ministry of Justice in Kyrgyzstan.

These requirements are more strict than those applying to establish a business or political party. If adopted, these provisions risk to restrict freedom of association in Kyrgyzstan. There will be a third and final reading before the draft is signed into law.

Front Line Defenders welcomes the decision of the Parliament of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan to eradicate most of the discriminatory and repressive provisions from the draft law of the non-governmental organisations. Front Line Defenders, however, urges all members of the Kyrgyz Parliament to further amend those excessive reporting measures that would interfere with the work of Kyrgyz civil society.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Kyrgyzstan to:

1. Further amend the draft law on Introducing Changes to Certain Pieces of Legislation of Kyrgyz Republic (Laws on Non-commercial organisations, Law on State registration of legal entities and Criminal Code of Kyrgyzstan) in order to ensure that it does not restrict freedom of association;

2. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.