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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

 

Kazakstan urged to ditch anti-NGO laws

From Freedom House:

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Michael Goldfarb
212-514-8040 x12

KAZAKHSTAN: DISMISS ANTI-NGO LAWS

NEW YORK, May 9, 2005 -- In a letter sent to the chairman of Kazakhstan's parliament, a group of leaders of human rights and pro-democracy organizations today urged the government to dismiss two draft laws that threaten democracy.

The draft laws, currently before the Kazakh parliament, or Majilis, would place significant restrictions on the activities of foreign and domestic nongovernmental organizations, especially those supporting local human rights activists.

The two laws -- "On the Activities of Branches and Representative Offices of International or Foreign Non-commercial Organizations in the Republic of Kazakhstan" and "On the Introduction of Amendments and Additions into Certain Legislative Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Matters Related to Non-commercial Organizations" -- will severely hinder international assistance to Kazakhstan. Kazakh citizens will therefore be deprived of the valuable services and experience of the international community.

The timing of the draft law submissions is of particular significance as the Bush Administration decides whether to certify that Kazakhstan has made significant improvements in the protection of human rights.

The text of the letter follows:


TO: Chairman of the Majilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan

As members of the international community of donors in Kazakhstan we strongly urge you to dismiss the current draft laws -- "On the Activities of Branches and Representative Offices of International or Foreign Non-commercial Organizations in the Republic of Kazakhstan" and "On the Introduction of Amendments and Additions into Certain Legislative Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Matters Related to Non-commercial Organizations."

We are concerned that the draft laws do not follow recognized international legal standards and best practices. The official commentary to these laws cites numerous foreign laws but takes these out of context and misconstrues them. These laws are intended to place unnecessary burdens and restrictions on the activities of foreign and domestic NGOs. While there are many troublesome provisions in the new laws, the following are of particular concern:

Re-registration of all branches and representative offices for international and foreign NGOs with the Ministry of Justice

Notification of all events by the local executive government bodies

Sanctions on NGOs for failure to notify or for providing late notification to local government authorities prior to events conducted by NGOs

Mandating attendance of local government executives at events

Annual reporting on receipts and expenditures, as well as sources of income

Local government body approval of any financial assistance to Kazakh NGOs

Prohibition of any assistance that expresses the political will of the people

Requirement for Kazakh citizens to be the heads of representative branch offices

We believe that the draft laws in their entirety are so flawed that they cannot be fixed. They not only contradict the 2001 pledge by President Bush and President Nazarbaev for cooperation and democracy but will cut off much-needed assistance to Kazakhstan.

We thank you for your consideration of these requests.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director, Freedom House

Lorne Craner, President, International Republican Institute

Kenneth Wollack, President, National Democratic Institute

Jeanne Bourgault, Vice President for Programs, Internews Network

Richard W. Soudriette, President, IFES

Natalia Bourjaily, Vice President- NIS, International Center for Not-For-Profit Law

Elizabeth Andersen, Executive Director, American Bar Association / Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative

Aryeh Neier, President, Open Society Institute

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