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Kazakhstan: Human Rights Office concerned at NGO law

BISHKEK (8 October 2015) - The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed Wednesday its concerns about the draft law passed by the Lower House of the Parliament of Kazakhstan on 23 September, which introduces amendments to several legislative acts.

“If adopted, these amendments could have negative and direct consequences on the activities of non-governmental organizations in the country, including their ability to access funding, in violation of Kazakhstan’s international obligations related to the right to freedom of association,” OHCHR spokesperson Cécile Pouilly said. 

On 23 September, the Lower House of the Parliament approved the draft law introducing amendments to the law on non-profit organizations, the law on state social order, and the Code of Administrative Offences. The law is now with the Upper House for approval.

“If adopted, the law will establish a new single grant operator with a monopoly to distribute all governmental and non-governmental grants to NGOs, thus giving it a wide discretionary power,” Pouilly said.

The draft amendments also introduce a new provision to the Code of Administrative Offences, which provides for administrative liability in the form of a fine or a temporary suspension of activities for NGOs failing to submit accurate information to a database. “This provision would place an additional bureaucratic and unnecessary burden on NGOs,” Pouilly said.

“The scope and the vague wording of these amendments leaves room for broad interpretation, especially in terms of grant making, which may result in an arbitrary and discriminatory application of the law,” she added. 

Pouilly said she was also concerned that proposals and comments by civil society organizations to bring the draft in conformity with international standards were reportedly largely disregarded during the drafting process.

In 2015, following his official country visit to Kazakhstan, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association called upon the State authorities to ensure that “any amendments concerning access to funding do not jeopardize the independence of associations, including by limiting the proposed new grant mechanism to State funds only.”

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For more information and media requests, please contact Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org) or Shushan Khachyan (+996 777 932 986 / skhachyan@ohchr.org ).

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