Press release

Ukraine: Venice Commission Warns about Impact of ‘NGO Legislation’

New Ukrainian laws regulating NGOs threaten the independence and effectiveness of civil society groups. 

Washington

Following the release of an opinion by the Council of Europe’s European Commission for Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission) on two draft laws on regulating NGOs in Ukraine, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“The Venice Commission’s opinion makes clear the risks that new government controls on civil society groups would bring to Ukraine’s democracy,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “The proposed laws would seriously undermine civil society’s independence and effectiveness, and were prepared without the broad consultation that is essential to democracy. If the legislation were passed in its current form, Ukraine would compromise one of the country’s key engines of reform and jeopardize its standing with its international donors and supporters. Ukrainian authorities should seek to remove burdens from civil society organizations rather than impose new ones.”

Background:

The Venice Commission has raised serious concerns about a 2017 law that requires certain individuals and NGOs working on corruption issues to publicly report their income, and about two draft laws that would require more detailed financial reporting by many NGOs. The measures would also withdraw non-profit status from NGOs and subject them to heavy fines if the reports were not submitted on time. Similar provisions have been used in countries with weak judicial and regulatory systems to put pressure on independent civic groups, such as in Kazakhstan.

The Venice Commission's opinion concludes that the proposed laws violate standards established by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the organization’s main decision-making body, on appropriate regulation and oversight of NGOs in countries bound by the European Convention on Human Rights and other human rights and anti-corruption agreements.

Ukraine is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2018, Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2017, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2017, and receives a democracy score of 4.61, on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2017.