The United Nations Human Rights Committee will review Kyrgyzstan’s human rights record at its upcoming session in Geneva, which starts on 10 October 2022. The Committee will assess Kyrgyzstan’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and adopt conclusions and recommendations based on the third periodic reportabout the implementation of the covenant submitted by Kyrgyzstan’s government, as well as other information, including NGO reports.
International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), Legal Prosperity Foundation (LPF) and CIVICUS have prepared a joint report for the review. The joint report focuses on the protection of the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as civic space in Kyrgyzstan. It draws on regular updates on Kyrgyzstan prepared by IPHR and LPF as part of their cooperation with CIVICUS Monitor, a unique CIVICUS initiative to track civic space worldwide.
Key concerns documented in the joint NGO report include:
- Increasing attempts by the authorities to control the media environment and suppress discussion on issues of public interest. This trend has been reinforced since President Sadyr Japarov’s rise to power following mass post-election protests in October 2020 and the adoption of a controversial new constitution, which significantly expanded the president’s powers while weakening checks and balances.
- Increasing intimidation and harassment of journalists, bloggers, civil society activists, lawyers and others who criticise the authorities and speak out on corruption and other issues that are sensitive to those in power. It is of particular concern that a growing number of critics of the authorities have been subjected to surveillance, searches of their homes, detention, interrogation and criminal prosecution in apparent retaliation for their journalistic and civic activities.
- Exploitation of the fight against disinformation to crack down on dissent. A new law on the protection against ‘’false’’ information allows authorities to arbitrarily block access to online resources, and outspoken bloggers have been summoned, warned and – in some cases — prosecuted under vaguely worded criminal law provisions for allegedly distributing ‘’false’’ information on social media.
- The use of defamation lawsuits to put pressure on media and journalists. Government officials and other influential people have sued media outlets and journalists, who have exposed corruption and reported critically about them, and demanded excessive compensation for alleged damages.
- The introduction of a new unjustified and discriminatory financial reporting scheme for NGOs and attempts to re-initiate ‘’foreign agents’’ NGO legislation. Some decision-makers and their supporters have called for resuming consideration of a repressive and stigmatising ‘’foreign agents’’ draft law, which parliament previously rejected in 2016.
- Hostile rhetoric used by those advocating for tighter control over NGOs. NGOs have, for example, been accused of threatening national security and undermining so-called traditional values, which has fuelled mistrust and suspicion against such organisations. There have also been attacks on NGOs by unidentified perpetrators acting with impunity.
- A series of court-imposed blanket bans on peaceful protests in the centre of the capital, issued in violation of national and international guarantees of the right to assembly. These include recent bans on peaceful protests against Russia’s war in Ukraine outside the Russian embassy and in other central areas of Bishkek.
- Detentions of peaceful protesters by police based on problematic court-imposed bans on protests. In several cases, police have also failed to take adequate measures in response to third-party attacks on participants in peaceful assemblies, such as women’s rights marches.
- Unjustified restrictions on the work of media, access to information, and the rights of detainees during the Covid-19 pandemic. These violations were documented during the emergency regimes, which were introduced in response to the outbreak of the pandemic.
- Failure to properly and impartially investigate the use of violence by law enforcement authorities and other actors in connection with the post-election protests in October 2020. There has also been no accountability for attacks on journalists who were covering these events.
More information on these issues can be found in the full IPHR-LPF-CIVICUS report: download it here.