Kazakhstan: Dismiss Anti-NGO Laws
The draft laws, currently before the Kazakh parliament, or Majilis, would place significant restrictions on the activities of foreign and domestic nongovernmental organizations, especially those supporting local human rights activists.
The two laws -- "On the Activities of Branches and Representative Offices of International or Foreign Non-commercial Organizations in the Republic of Kazakhstan" and "On the Introduction of Amendments and Additions into Certain Legislative Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Matters Related to Non-commercial Organizations" -- will severely hinder international assistance to Kazakhstan. Kazakh citizens will therefore be deprived of the valuable services and experience of the international community.
The timing of the draft law submissions is of particular significance as the Bush Administration decides whether to certify that Kazakhstan has made significant improvements in the protection of human rights.
The text of the letter follows:
TO: Chairman of the Majilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan
As members of the international community of donors in Kazakhstan we strongly urge you to dismiss the current draft laws -- "On the Activities of Branches and Representative Offices of International or Foreign Non-commercial Organizations in the Republic of Kazakhstan" and "On the Introduction of Amendments and Additions into Certain Legislative Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Matters Related to Non-commercial Organizations."We are concerned that the draft laws do not follow recognized international legal standards and best practices. The official commentary to these laws cites numerous foreign laws but takes these out of context and misconstrues them. These laws are intended to place unnecessary burdens and restrictions on the activities of foreign and domestic NGOs. While there are many troublesome provisions in the new laws, the following are of particular concern:
- Re-registration of all branches and representative offices for international and foreign NGOs with the Ministry of Justice
- Notification of all events by the local executive government bodies
- Sanctions on NGOs for failure to notify or for providing late notification to local government authorities prior to events conducted by NGOs
- Mandating attendance of local government executives at events
- Annual reporting on receipts and expenditures, as well as sources of income
- Local government body approval of any financial assistance to Kazakh NGOs
- Prohibition of any assistance that expresses the political will of the people
- Requirement for Kazakh citizens to be the heads of representative branch offices
We believe that the draft laws in their entirety are so flawed that they cannot be fixed. They not only contradict the 2001 pledge by President Bush and President Nazarbaev for cooperation and democracy but will cut off much-needed assistance to Kazakhstan.
We thank you for your consideration of these requests.
Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director, Freedom House
Lorne Craner, President, International Republican Institute
Kenneth Wollack, President, National Democratic Institute
Jeanne Bourgault, Vice President for Programs, Internews Network
Richard W. Soudriette, President, IFES
Natalia Bourjaily, Vice President- NIS, International Center for Not-For-Profit Law
Elizabeth Andersen, Executive Director, American Bar Association / Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative
Aryeh Neier, President, Open Society Institute
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.