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Kyrgyzstan: Bill Threatens to Curb Civil Society

Reject ‘Foreign Representatives’ Draft Law; Guarantee Freedom of Association

The parliament (Supreme Council) of the Kyrgyz Republic. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. © Mariusz Prusaczyk via Getty Images

(Bishkek, January 25, 2024) – The Kyrgyz parliament should reject the highly repressive “foreign representatives” draft law, which would unduly interfere with the activities of nongovernmental organizations receiving funding from abroad  organizations including Human Rights Watch said in a statement today. The bill passed parliamentary committee review on January 23, 2024, and has passed a first reading. It needs approval at second and third readings and to be signed by the president to become law.

The draft law would allow local nongovernmental organizations to be labelled “foreign representatives” if they receive foreign funding, categorizing any of their advocacy, monitoring, information provision, and direct-action activities as “political activities” in the interests of their foreign funders. The bill also introduces criminal liability for vaguely defined activities “harmful to citizens, society, or the state” punishable with up to three years in prison for individuals or up to five years if committed by a group of individuals.

“Kyrgyzstan has always boasted having a vibrant civil society, which contributed to increased respect for the human rights of ordinary citizens and provided key social services,” said Syinat Sultanalieva, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Adoption of the bill would make Kyrgyzstan an outlier in the international community, severely undermining opportunities for co-operation with its partners around the world.”


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