Kyrgyzstan's "foreign agents" law threatens civil rights groups, say experts

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The office of the UN Human Rights Commissoner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein says civil rights groups risk being stigmatised by the draft bill. Photo: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

A bid by the Kyrgyzstan authorities to make non-government organisations register as "foreign agents" has been strongly criticised by rights experts.

Under a draft law headed for the Kyrgyz parliament, all foreign-funded civil society groups engaged in what are called "political activities" are expected to have to comply with the new classification.

The UN's human rights office says the legislation risks having a negative effect on the work of numerous organisations in the republic.

Here's Daniel Johnson's report from Geneva.

The draft law requires non-commercial organisations involved in "political activities" and receiving funding from abroad to register as "foreign agents".

The UN human rights office says the “vague” definition of political activities risks affecting many non-government organisations in Kyrgyzstan.

One consequence of the proposed legislation is that civil groups will be required to declare their foreign agent status on all published material.

Here's UN spokesperson Rupert Colville:

"The label can lead to stigmatisation, mistrust and hostility towards activists, human rights defenders and civil rights organisations as the term foreign agent can be perceived as carrying extremely negative connotations."

The draft law also offers the possibility of three-year jail terms for anyone establishing an illegal organisation, Colville says.

If adopted, the UN human rights office says the new bill would contradict the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Kyrgyzstan is a party, the UN says.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1'01"

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