Urging the US and EU to stop Kyrgyzstan govt from rushing through constitution amendments that undermine human rights and freedom
The legal community and civil society have also made a public request to Parliament to publish the text of the draft constitution
Human rights organisations, legal community, and civil society groups in Kyrgyzstan are urging Biden Administration, the EU, and international community to call on the Kyrgyz government to postpone the consideration of the new draft constitution until after Parliamentary elections can be held, and to ensure the proper consultative process is undertaken. For the last remaining democracy in a region teeming with autocracies, and once dubbed Central Asia’s “island of democracy,” this is an extremely concerning development.
Just last week, the Kyrgyz Parliament clandestinely adopted the draft constitution despite violations of basic legal requirements for consultation and debate, including having dead and imprisoned MPs ‘sign’ the draft law. This week, Jogorku Kenesh approved the law on referendum for constitutional amendments to be held on April 11.
Activists fear that the government is rushing through the new draft constitution which undermines human right values, freedoms and removes certain checks in place to prevent abuses of power.
Kyrgyzstan has been in crisis since parliamentary elections last October. The disputed results of which lead to protests and the resignation of then-President Sooronbay Jeenbekov.On January 11th, Sadyr Japarov won the election as new president by a landslide; the country also overwhelmingly voted in favour of a referendum to amend the constitution and return current parliamentary system to presidential.
Since October, Kyrgyzstan has also seen increasing restrictions on freedoms, including religious freedoms and steady attacks on independent media, journalists, activists and political figures. The government has also imposed prohibition of peaceful gatherings. A possible re-introduction of the “foreign agent” law is also expected. This worrying trend was illustrated through a reduced ranking of “not free” from Freedom House in their annual report released last week.
“Once a flourishing democracy, Kyrgyzstan is on the brink of sliding into authoritarianism,” says Dr. Erica Marat, Associate Professor and Chair of the Regional and Analytical Studies Department at National Defense University in Washington D.C. “The country’s new leadership rose to power thanks to deep divisions in the society, populism, and corruption.”
New provisions in the draft constitution include transferring power from the Parliament to the president. The new constitution would increase and strengthen the power of president, giving the right to initiate new laws and referendums, remove members of parliament or dismiss half of the Central Election Committee, appoint the cabinet members, judges and prosecutor general. The new constitution would also impose obligatory financial reporting on the non-governmental organizations and civil society, limiting and controlling their activities. In addition, the draft includes provisions to limit or prohibit freedoms of expression, assembly, and association, and excludes a provision guaranteeing freedom of ethnic identity, creating dangerous potential for ethnic profiling or discrimination.
“The current draft constitution does not reflect the high human rights standards Kyrgyzstan says it aspires to,” said Syinat Sultanalieva, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch in a statement. “Kyrgyzstan should take the time it needs to prepare a constitution that protects the rights of everyone in a way that complies with international human rights standards.”
Human Rights Watch also said “how the country organizes its political system is a political choice to be made by the citizens. However, it is vital for decision-making by relevant institutions to be transparent and legitimate, and for the introduction of new structures, such as a people’s council, not to offer opportunities for abuse of power.”
The legal community and civil society in Kyrgyzstan have made a public request to the deputies of the Parliament to publish the text of the draft constitution. “The refusal of Jogorku Kenesh to publish the text of the draft constitution opens up an opportunity for amendments to it during the consideration process, which is directly prohibited by law,” they stated in the open request published online.