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Kyrgyz President Urged to Veto Controversial Law Threatening Civil Liberties

In a significant development, the Kyrgyz parliament has passed a new law that has raised concerns among civil rights advocates both locally and internationally. The law, known as the Law on Non-commercial Organisations, or the law on “foreign representatives,” has sparked criticism for its potential to curb civic activism and restrict fundamental freedoms such as speech, assembly, and association.

A coalition of international human rights organizations, including Civil Rights Defenders, has penned a letter urging President Japarov to veto the draft law. The letter emphasizes the detrimental impact the legislation could have on Kyrgyzstan’s vibrant civil society and its commitment to democratic principles.

According to the signatories of the letter, the proposed amendments not only contravene Kyrgyzstan’s international human rights obligations but also risk undermining the progress made in advancing democratic governance and human rights within the country. Concerns have been raised regarding the law’s potential to stifle the operation of civil society organizations, limiting their ability to advocate for human rights and provide essential social services.

Furthermore, the draft law has drawn criticism from national and international human rights experts, including three UN Special Rapporteurs, who highlighted its inconsistencies with international human rights standards. The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) also raised concerns about the lack of legitimate justification for the proposed provisions and their potential to stigmatize legitimate organizations.

Opponents of the law argue that while transparency is essential, imposing invasive restrictions on civil society organizations is not a justified means of achieving it. They highlight existing mechanisms for transparency and accountability already in place for non-commercial organizations in Kyrgyzstan.

The potential ramifications of the law extend beyond Kyrgyzstan’s borders, with international partners expressing concerns about its impact on development assistance programs in the country. The European Union, along with several embassies, warned that the law could jeopardize vital assistance programs benefiting the citizens of Kyrgyzstan.

As President Japarov weighs his decision on whether to sign the law, civil rights advocates stress the importance of upholding Kyrgyzstan’s international human rights commitments and engaging in inclusive consultations with civil society. The outcome of this decision will not only shape the future of civil liberties in Kyrgyzstan but also impact the country’s standing on the global stage.

The fate of the draft law now rests in the hands of President Japarov, with civil society organizations and international partners closely watching the developments unfolding in Kyrgyzstan.

As Rights Defenders, we vehemently oppose any legislation that threatens the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals. Should this law be enacted, it could have far-reaching consequences, including a chilling effect on civil society, hindering their ability to advocate for human rights and provide essential services to the most vulnerable populations. This could lead to a regression in democratic principles and a decline in international confidence in Kyrgyzstan’s commitment to human rights and sustainable development.