ODIHR welcomes rejection of controversial draft NGO law in Kyrgyzstan

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BISHKEK (TCA) — Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), on May 14 welcomed last Thursday’s rejection on third reading by the Jogorku Kenesh, Kyrgyzstan’s parliament, of draft legislation that would have imposed unnecessarily cumbersome reporting requirements for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Kyrgyzstan.

“This draft legislation would have represented a limitation of the civic space both Kyrgyz and international NGOs need to carry out their vital work. Its rejection is in compliance with Kyrgyzstan’s OSCE Commitments and international obligations, as well as the country’s own constitution,” ODIHR quoted Director Link as saying. “I welcome this positive step toward ensuring a welcoming climate for all associations in the country.”

The version rejected already contained improvements to the contents of earlier drafts, particularly in the removal of the obligation for NGOs engaging in “political activities” and receiving financial support from foreign sources to register as “foreign agents”. A 2013 review by ODIHR and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission of an earlier version of the draft expressed strong reservations about these elements.

“The revisions made to the draft ahead of the second reading, which were in line with the recommendations from the ODIHR/Venice Commission review, already demonstrated an openness to co-operation in meeting Kyrgyzstan’s OSCE commitments on freedom of association,” the ODIHR Director said. “The rejection on third reading of a draft that still contained problematic elements demonstrates the parliament’s commitment to ensuring the law is in line with the relevant international obligations and standards.”

The Kyrgyz public and international organizations had repeatedly asked the parliament and president of Kyrgyzstan to reject the controversial law, as it would affect practically all Kyrgyz NGOs because they are all dependent on foreign grants.    

Speaking during the consideration of the law on May 12, Janar Akayev, a parliament member from the pro-presidential Social Democratic Party, said that adoption of the bill would cause a serious damage to the image of Kyrgyzstan.

Sergey Kwan

TCA