Kyrgyz NGO Law Would Contribute to Democratic Decline
Freedom House is pleased that Kyrgyzstan’s presidential administration and parliament withdrew a flawed draft law on non-governmental organizations, but is concerned that the government may soon introduce an amended version.
The language in the draft was overly vague and gave the authorities broad powers to control domestic and international non-governmental organizations. Freedom House is concerned that such a law would further diminish the space for civil society in the lead up to presidential elections in July and continue a downward trend that saw the passage of restrictive laws on public assemblies and religious organizations last year.
"Freedom House is deeply concerned about the declining state of freedom in Kyrgyzstan, which was experiencing significant and disturbing threats to its democratic processes even before these proposed changes," said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. "These provisions in the draft NGO law would only accelerate the country’s perilous downward spiral."
These developments are particularly troubling in light of parliament’s decision to call snap presidential elections in July. If approved, the law would prohibit domestic groups from participating in political activities, including monitoring elections to help guard against fraud. It also would prevent them from recommending policy reforms to state bodies, making it more difficult for the government to respond effectively to challenges such as the country's severe energy shortage and the global economic crisis.
In addition to political restrictions, non-governmental organizations would face an increased bureaucratic burden under the proposed law. It would require them to submit detailed programmatic and financial information to the authorities as part of the official registration process. Such a system would be susceptible to abuse, with officials able to withhold registration from groups whose activities they deem inconvenient. The draft law also calls for giving the authorities power to bar international nongovernmental organizations from giving financial or material resources to their local counterparts, thereby hamstringing international efforts to support local initiatives.
Freedom House has assigned Kyrgyzstan a downward trend arrow for the last three years, reflecting a steady decline in basic freedoms such as religion, expression, assembly and association. The country is ranked Partly Free in the 2009 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and in the 2008 version of Freedom of the Press.
Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in Kyrgyzstan since 1990.
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