Discriminatory parliamentary hearingsduring the pandemic:
Parliamentary hearings were scheduled to be conducted on 22 May 2020, at 10 a.m. Only 60 NGOs were selectively invited to the hearings. Most of them were CSOs (GONGOs (government-organized non-governmental organizations)), cooperating with politicians and sharing the opinion that only those NGOs should be controlled by the state, which supposedly destroy traditional values and threaten the development of the country.
Active NGO sector leaders, human rights experts, experts on the freedom of association, as well as leaders of regional NGOs that work extensively with local communities were not on the list of those invited to the parliamentary hearings (or were deleted from it).
Attempts were made to consider the discriminatory amendments online without the participation of human rights defenders and public figures who are going to be directly affected by the draft law. Due to the public resistance, the parliament decided to consider the draft law at the parliamentary session, although civic activists asked to postpone the meeting due to the Emergency Situation regime, since the representatives of regional NGOs who were also supposed to participate in the discussion of the amendments could not attend the meeting.
Authors of the discriminatory draft law and the reasons for its introduction
The amendments were initiated by Baktybek Raiymkulov, Republic-Ata-Jurt faction deputy. The politician suggested introducing detailed reports to be submitted by NGOs online regarding all of their financial resources, including property and salaries of their employees. However, NGOs are already reporting to the Tax Service and the Social Fund. According to the parliamentarian, the obligation to report on the income and expenses of NGOs "will strengthen the index of public confidence in non-profit organizations and increase their transparency." He also refers to the international practice of taking similar initiatives, in such countries as Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus.[i]
The preamble substantiating the draft law states that its implementation does not need funding from the state, which is not true. There is no state portal in Kyrgyzstan right now, which, in case of adoption of the amendments, will allow to store all the information that is required from NGOs. So, it is necessary to create a web portal, as well as hire staff to monitor the incoming information. The creation of such a state internet portal requires large investments.
Earlier, leaders of NGOs from different regions of the KR repeatedly appealed to the author of the draft law, deputy Raiymkulov, and the initiators of this anti-constitutional and discriminatory draft law, requesting them to suspend the parliamentary hearings during the pandemic, to ensure the wide and equal participation of leaders from the regions, to include their recommendations on recalling the draft law. They noted that unconstitutional draft laws initiated by some deputies undermine the development of civil society, the rights of citizens, the right to freedom of association in the Kyrgyz Republic, that discrimination and pressure from a certain part of the deputies of the legislative body on the NGO sector in the Kyrgyz Republic make NGOs suffer, while they are constantly engaged in online activities, providing legal and social services.
The HRM “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan” and partners of the solidarity network urge deputies of the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic to withdraw the proposed draft law of the KR, which is aimed against the freedom of association in the Kyrgyz Republic, contradicts the international standards and the Constitution of the KR, aims to create artificial barriers, corruption control mechanisms, and bureaucracy.[ii]
Initiative of the regional NGO leaders and Gulgaky Mamasalieva
The leader of the NGO "Interbilim-Osh" openly told the public and the Speaker of the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic, D. Dzhumabekov, that in conditions of a pandemic, restriction of the right of citizens to freedom of movement, and given the list of those invited to the parliamentary hearings, the hearings should be BOYCOTTED. Bir Duino, the Association of Crisis Centers, the Rehabilitation Center “Chance”, the Women’s Support Center and the Center for Family Restoration “Alternative” supported this initiative and came to the building of the Kyrgyz Parliament for a peaceful protest.
At the peaceful rally:
Baken Dosalieva, Head of the Women’s Support Center informed Azattyk that the draft law was discriminatory and was aimed at repression of NGOs.
“This draft law itself contains violations of the legislation. Non-profit organizations include parties and religious organizations. Religious organizations receive Arab grants. Parties also receive grants. Why shouldn't they report? Let them also submit reports. The draft law, which envisages amendments to the laws on the activities of NCOs and NGOs, was developed in early 2020, and in March the Jogorku Kenesh already passed the document in first reading.
According to the proposed initiative, parliamentarians plan to amend three articles in two existing laws. The goal is to oblige NGOs to report on their sources of funding, as well as provide more information about their activities.
In particular, it is proposed to oblige NCOs and NGOs to submit additional reports on financial activities in the form approved by the government. Otherwise, they will be held accountable.
However, human rights defenders remind us that NGOs provided all the necessary reports before, and therefore the new amendments can actually be regarded as additional pressure on these organizations! This draft law is repression against NGOs,” said Dosalieva.[iii]
Director of the Association of Crisis Centers of the KR, Tolkun Tyulekova said at the rally, that she “came to the peaceful protest because of discrimination against the NGO sector, that the principles of transparency and accountability should work in the system of government. Everyone receives grants: religious public organizations, political parties, as well as authorities at all levels. Why is this draft law only aimed at exercising state control over NGOs? This is overt discrimination.”
Leader of the NCO Public Association Crisis Center “Chance”, member of the Coalition for Equality, Elena Tkacheva stated she was sure that the withdrawal of such discriminatory projects against NGOs and the mass media would restore citizens' confidence in the legislative body. She also said the time has come after the lessons of the pandemic to jointly solve socially significant problems of the society in the Kyrgyz Republic, and such discriminatory initiatives of legislators make women and children suffer more.
Leader of the NCO “Nash Vek” (“Our Century”), Chinara Aitbaeva stated thatduring the pandemic parliamentary hearings that affect the right of citizens to participate equally in the decision-making process cannot be held without the broad participation of CSO representatives and equal participation of NGO leaders from all regions of the country.
Leader of Bir Duino, Tolekan Ismailova noted, “The development of civil society is key to the core values of democracy and pluralism in any country, as well as for promotion of the social inclusion of citizens, especially community activists, in development processes. Development of the civil sector confirms the constitutional rights of citizens, including the right to freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression. Through their activities, citizens contribute to the rational development, improvement of living standards and quality of life, find alternative services to protect the most vulnerable groups during a pandemic, such as women and children suffering from all kinds of violence. Tolekan emphasized that the attacks of some deputies through discriminatory draft laws selectively, only against the NCO sector during the period of the pandemic, looks like fascism.” https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10157447769734639&id=41383354638
Participants of the peaceful rally expressed the following demands:[iv]
Stop the discrimination against the NCO sector and withdraw the draft law.
Joint protection of the right of citizens to FREEDOM of Association in the Kyrgyz Republic.
Joint promotion of horizontal leadership in the Kyrgyz Republic for equal participation of community activists in decision-making at all levels of government in the Kyrgyz Republic.
Joint promotion of gender justice and gender equality in the KR.