Press briefing notesOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Press briefing note on Kyrgyzstan
26 May 2015
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville Location:Geneva Date: 26 May 2015 Subject: Kyrgyzstan "foreign agents" draft law
The Kyrgyz parliament is scheduled to begin its first reading tomorrow of a draft law on “foreign agents” which could negatively affect the work of numerous civil society organisations working on human rights and delivering services in Kyrgyzstan.
The draft law requires non-commercial organisations established in the Kyrgyz Republic, involved in “political activities” and receiving funding from foreign sources, to register as “foreign agents”. It fails to clearly define the term “political activities”, referring only to “activities aimed at influencing the decisions of public authorities in order to change their policy, as well as activities aimed at influencing the public opinion for the above-mentioned purposes”.
This vague wording may put at risk numerous organisations working to deliver services or conduct human rights advocacy.
The draft law requires that materials published by such organisations through the media and the Internet state that they were published or distributed by a non-commercial organisation acting as a “foreign agent”. The term "foreign agent" carries extremely negative connotations and could lead to stigmatization, mistrust and hostility towards activists, human rights defenders and civil society organizations.
The draft law also grants the Ministry of Justice the power to conduct inspections, scheduled and unscheduled, of such organisations; request and check internal documents; send representatives to participate in internal activities; determine whether an organisation complies with the goals of its creation; and, in case an organisation fails to file an application for inclusion in the register of non-commercial organisations acting as a “foreign agent”, to suspend their activities for up to six months without waiting for a court decision. If adopted, these new oversight powers would contradict the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Kyrgyzstan is a party.
The draft law also provides for criminal liability and imprisonment of up to three years for establishing a non-commercial organisation whose work aims to “incite citizens to refuse to fulfill their civic duties or commit other unlawful acts”.
This may lead to the criminalisation of the work of human rights defenders. The terms “inciting” and “propaganda acts” are ill-defined and broad, and may give rise to subjective interpretation.
We call on the Government of Kyrgyzstan to ensure that the freedoms of expression and association are protected in line with international human rights law and standards. We urge a review of this draft law to ensure that it does not restrict the important work of civil society organisations in the country.