UN: Kyrgyzstan’s new law on “foreign representatives” could undermine the work of NGOs

ООН: новый закон Кыргызстана об «иностранных представителях» может подорвать работу НПО

Night Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan. UN: Kyrgyzstan’s new law on “foreign representatives” could undermine the work of NGOs Human rights

The new “foreign representatives” law, which will come into force in Kyrgyzstan in just over a week, will pose a serious threat to the work of civil society organizations in the country and, more broadly, will violate the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly , as well as the right to take part in public affairs, said Jeremy Lawrence, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, at a briefing for journalists in Geneva.

Earlier this week, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov signed a law on “foreign representatives”, under which authorities can exercise oversight of non-profit organizations. It implies that NGOs engaged in so-called “political activities” and receiving foreign funding must register as “foreign representatives.”

Failure to do so may result in suspension of their operations for up to six months and possible forced liquidation.

Most NGOs operating in Kyrgyzstan receive grants, including from international organizations and foreign donors, Lawrence noted.

“We are concerned that many of the affected NGOs may feel forced to close to avoid being stigmatized as “foreign representatives,” subject to arbitrary government scrutiny, and the need to pay for annual inspections,” the spokesman said.

Those who choose to register as “foreign representatives” may ultimately face the need to self-censor. This, in turn, will lead to a serious suppression of legitimate public activity, human rights monitoring, and discussion of issues of public interest.

“We call on the authorities to cancel the new law and ensure full compliance with international law and human rights standards in all future legislation,” Lawrence said.

“We also call on the authorities to engage in meaningful consultation on this matter with all relevant stakeholders, including civil society organizations and human rights defenders,” he concluded.


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