Kyrgyzstan: Civil society organisations call on president to veto the law on "foreign representatives"

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A.Savin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Kyrgyz Parliament adopted the draft law "On Non-Profit Non-Governmental Organisations" in its third parliamentary reading, paving the way for its implementation, which would drastically restrict freedom of association in Kyrgyzstan. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (International Federation for Human Rights-FIDH and World Organisation Against Torture-OMCT), Bir Duino and the Coalition for Equality condemn this dangerous new step towards the curtailing of civic space and urge the President of Kyrgyzstan not to sign the draft law in order to prevent its implementation.

Paris-Geneva, March 18, 2024. On March 14, 2024, the Jogorku Kenesh (Parliament of Kyrgyzstan) adopted the Russia-inspired "foreign representatives" draft law "On non-profit nongovernmental organisations" in two minutes and without holding any debate or discussion during the third and final reading of the law. The draft law was added to the Parliament agenda urgently after the text was approved by the Constitutional Legislation Committee earlier on the same day. Under the Kyrgyz Constitution, the President must sign the draft law within one month, after which it enters into force. The President also has the right to veto or return the bill to the Jogorku Kenesh with his objections.

The Observatory, Bir Duino and the Coalition for Equality recall that the law, if ultimately signed by the President, will significantly restrict freedom of association in Kyrgyzstan and stigmatise non-profit and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that receive foreign funding.

In particular, the draft law requires that foreign-funded NGOs which engage in "political activities" register with the Kyrgyz Ministry of Justice as "foreign representatives", a term that has a clear negative connotation and insinuates that foreign-funded NGOs engage in "treasonous" activities serving "foreign interests". Likewise, the definition of “political activity” in the draft is very broad and could be easily misused to silence the legitimate work of civil society organisations. The draft law further foresees that all materials prepared by such NGOs must be universally marked with the indication that the material was "produced, distributed and (or) sent by a noncommercial organisation performing the functions of a foreign representative".

Additionally, the draft law expands the government’s supervision over NGOs receiving foreign funding, and introduces significant administrative burdens for such organisations, subjecting them to heavy reporting requirements, financial control, and unscheduled inspections. In addition, the Ministry of Justice may also initiate a determination whether the activities or expenditures of an organisation receiving foreign funding correspond to their statute. If organisations fail to comply with the registration requirements or do not consistently mark their materials with the indication above, their activities may be suspended and the Ministry of Justice may request their liquidation.

Later on March 14, 2024, the European Union Delegation as well as the Canadian, French, German, United Kingdom and United States Embassies to Kyrgyzstan expressed concern over the passage of this "foreign representatives bill" by the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan, noting its potential to harm the ultimate beneficiaries of services of NGOs, including the most vulnerable communities with reduced access to food, education and healthcare.

The Observatory, Bir Duino and the Coalition for Equality recall that this is not the first attempt by the Kyrgyz authorities to tighten control over NGOs. For instance, between 2013 and 2016, the Jogorku Kenesh attempted to introduce a "foreign representative" clause into the legislation. Each time, public criticism of the bill deterred the authorities from taking such repressive measures. However, amendments to the law adopted in 2021 imposed onerous reporting obligations on NGOs, requiring them to disclose their sources of income and areas of expenditure, effectively limiting freedom of association.

The signatory organisations express their utmost concern that this draft law clearly mirrors the notorious Russian "foreign agent" law and over the deleterious effect its implementation will have on civil society, foreign cooperation, and the increasingly shrinking civic space in the region.

The Observatory, Bir Duino and the Coalition for Equality strongly urge the President of Kyrgyzstan to refrain from signing the draft law, in order to prevent its actual implementation. The signatory organisations further call on the authorities in Kyrgyzstan to guarantee the right to freedom of association, as enshrined in several international human rights standards, including Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which includes the obligation to refrain from adopting legislation or practices that interfere with the right to effectively seek, receive and use domestic, foreign or international financial resources.


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the International Federation for Human rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan was created to promote civil, political, cultural and economic rights and other social useful objectives, using monitoring and analysis tools for human rights evaluation in Kyrgyzstan. To achieve the goal of creating an effective monitoring system, targeted at human rights evaluation, BDK seeks to increase civil participation among youth and marginalised groups of population using the existing frameworks laid out by the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic.

The Coalition for Equality in the Kyrgyz Republic is an informal association of civil society organisations, legal entities and individuals established on a voluntary basis to promote cooperation and collaboration in the field of human rights, against all forms of discrimination and for equal rights in Kyrgyzstan. The Coalition unites the efforts of civil society to promote the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

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