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Kyrgyzstan|foreign policy|February 12, 2024 / 09:13 AM
President Japarov responds to U.S. Secretary of State Blinken's letter

AKIPRESS.COM - President's press secretary Askar Alagozov has published the reply of President Sadyr Japarov to the letter of U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on his social media page.

It was reported earlier that Secretary Blinken has sent a letter to President Sadyr Japarov, in which he expressed concern about the changes being introduced into the Law on Non-Profit Organizations, which is under consideration of the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan.

On February 9, Foreign Minister Jeenbek Kulubaev handed in the reply of President Sadyr Japarov to Anthony Blinken to U.S. Ambassador Lesslie Viguerie.

The text of President Sadyr Japarov's letter follows below:

"Dear Mr. Blinken,

I acknowledge receipt of your letter addressed to me dated January 17, 2024.

I am grateful for your high assessment of the results of the C5+1 Summit held in New York last September on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly and express my readiness to work together to promote common priorities of cooperation in multilateral and bilateral formats.

At the same time, I have to note with regret that the content of your letter has signs of interference in the internal affairs of our state.

Let me explain why.

You write that our "civil society has long been the strongest in the region and a key part of democracy in Kyrgyzstan."

Yes, it's true.

I not only share your opinion, but I also want to emphasize that the desire for justice and freedom is the genetic code of our people.

As for your concerns regarding the foreign agents bill (in fact, this is the bill on introduction of changes into certain legislative acts of the Kyrgyz Republic - Law of the Kyrgyz Republic on Non-Profit Organizations, Criminal Code), I would like to note the following.

The given bill was initiated by a group of members of the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic and envisions changes in the current Law on Non-Profit Organizations adopted back in October 1999.

The bill was adopted by the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan in the first reading.

The aim of the bill is to clarify and streamline activities of non-governmental/non-profit organizations active in the Kyrgyz Republic.

We have dozens of thousands of non-governmental/non-profit organizations, which successfully operate across Kyrgyzstan and are engaged into resolution of numerous problems, which the state did not want to address before.

At the same time a part of non-governmental/non-profit organizations receive funding from abroad, not only from the United States and the EU.

Naturally, there is a problem directly related to protection of lawful interests of the Kyrgyz state - to what extent the state oversight over activities of mass media and non-governmental organizations financed by foreign states or with foreign participation can and should be.

The Kyrgyz state, in accordance with its status, intends to control where the money comes from to those non-governmental/non-profit organizations, from whom, how and for what purposes they are spent.

The bill initiated by the MPs and passed in the first reading introduce the provisions related to activities of non-profit organizations performing functions of a foreign agent and foresee introduction of the register of non-profit organizations performing such functions.

It should be noted that the concept of the bill initiated by the members of the Kyrgyz Parliament is close to the concept of the current Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), adopted in the USA in 1938.

As we know, FARA provides for the status of foreign agent not only for the media, but also for other legal entities and individuals.

Violations – delay in registration or refusal to register are fraught with not only administrative, but also criminal penalties.

In this regard, there is a question: Why is it allowed for you, but not for us?

Mr. Blinken,

Over the past three years, a lot has changed in Kyrgyzstan and is changing for the better.

An objective international assessment of the efforts of the country's leadership inspires optimism.

So, if we are currently 45th in the world out of 166 countries in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we intend to be among the top 30 countries by 2030.

Changes for the better are also felt firsthand by our compatriots, who now have hope for a better future, they begin to earn more, and they have confidence in the future.

The state, as it strengthens, intensifies interaction with civil society.

Feedback has been established between the authorities and the people through the People's Kurultai.

The Cabinet of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic is trying to solve strategic tasks for the economic and social development of the country and society.

There are many problems that have not been resolved for decades, however, there is political will and desire to bring our state onto a trajectory of accelerated development and growth, a radical reform of the entire system of public administration, and desire to make power accountable to people.

As the President and head of the executive branch, I am aimed at uncompromising fight against corruption, regardless of positions, titles and merits.

This is seen and supported by our people, who give their assessment of our efforts.

Our international partners also see this.

Mr. Blinken,

We welcome and actually support activities of non-governmental/non-profit organizations, the media, including those that have been working with foreign partners for many years, receiving funding from them.

Our main requirements:

- compliance with the norms of the Constitution and laws of the Kyrgyz Republic, including the Tax Code;

- ensuring transparency of the activities of non-governmental/non-profit organizations, the media and their accountability to the tax authorities.

Society and the state must see where, from what foreign sources and for what purposes the funding of this or that non-governmental/non-profit organization is coming from.

Our requirements for them are clear and supported in society, fully consistent with both the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic and our international obligations.

However, representatives of the so-called "free media and NGOs" in Kyrgyzstan reacted with hostility to the bills initiated by government agencies on foreign agents, media, non-governmental organizations.

The bills have caused a storm of indignation from a number of media and NGOs financed by taxpayers in EU member states and the United States, as they fear leaving the shadows and real tax control by the state.

International organizations such as the European Union, UNDP, OSCE, USAID, the embassies of the European Union and the United States and other donors to Kyrgyz NGOs and the media, lawmakers and politicians of foreign countries joined in the criticism of the bill.

In this regard, on my instructions, the head of the legal support department of the Administration of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Marat Ukushov, held a briefing in mid-July 2023 with US Ambassador Lesslie Viguerie, as well as with the Ambassadors of the European Union countries to the Kyrgyz Republic.

At these meetings, representatives of the Administration of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic provided comprehensive explanations on all issues that were of concern to embassy representatives, and presented comparative analyzes of draft laws with international legal documents.

In addition, in the summer of 2023, round tables were held to discuss the bills with the participation of representatives of the media, non-governmental/non-profit organizations, members of parliament, representatives of the Presidential Administration, and the Cabinet of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic.

At these events, representatives of government agencies also provided explanations on all issues related to the bills and their compliance with international legal documents.

In accordance with the norms of the Constitution and laws of the Kyrgyz Republic, the state does not interfere and does not intend to interfere in the statutory activities of non-governmental/non-profit organizations and the media.

Therefore, it is not clear to me how the above-mentioned bill, if adopted by the Parliament, could jeopardize, as you write, “your citizens’ access to vital services such as health care and education through programs implemented by non-governmental organizations with the support of the US government and international partners?”

The criticized bills are based on the following generally accepted principles and norms of international law, which proclaim the permissibility of restricting by law the freedom to receive and impart information and ideas if this is necessary in the interests of national security or public order, for the purpose of preventing crime, to protect health and morals, to protect the reputation or rights of others persons:

European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Article 10);

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 29, paragraph 2);

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (clause 3 of article 19 and article 20);

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 10);

Council of Europe Declaration on the Media and Human Rights (1970); and others.

I want to emphasize that in accordance with the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, the rights and freedoms of man and citizen, including the right to freedom of speech, the right to association, may be limited by the Constitution and laws in order to protect national security, public order, and protect the health and morals of the population, protect rights and freedoms of other persons (Part 2 of Article 23).

That is, in this right we are no different from the United States or any other country in the world.

Mr. Blinken,

At the same time, I would like to note that, as it seems to me, you, as the head of the foreign policy department of the United States of America - our long-time good friend and partner, shared with me your concerns about the above-mentioned bill based on unreliable information from certain non-governmental/non-profit organizations operating in our country.

This, unfortunately, did not allow you to form an objective picture of the real situation with human rights and freedoms in our country, including the right to association.

In fact, the vast majority of non-governmental/non-profit organizations work decently and honestly in our country.

Only a small but very vocal group of these structures funded by foreign states and their individual representatives are a source of unreliable information for their grantors.

Besides, these same non-governmental structures often disseminate false and unreliable information among people, which leads to litigation brought by victims or those slandered.

As a result of cases in court, distributors of false information are often forced to file a motion for reconciliation with the plaintiffs.

And there are many such cases in the courts.

It should be noted that over the past three decades, a “layer” of non-governmental/non-profit organizations that receive funding from abroad has appeared in our country (in Kyrgyz society they are called “grant eaters”), whose leaders have actually turned them into “family enterprises” engaged in “appropriating” money coming from foreign sponsors.

This has been written about many times in the media of our country.

If necessary, we are ready to provide you with relevant information.

It can be noted that such unreliable sources of information speculate on their “difficulties” and “persecutions,” which in turn force foreign sponsors to follow their lead and engage in wastefulness, spending money from taxpayers in the United States and European Union countries.

In this regard, I propose to conduct audit of the use of funds by non-governmental/non-profit organizations funded by the US government organizations - at least for the past 10 years.

I hope that you, dear Mr. Secretary of State, based on my above-mentioned clarifications and guarantees, will be able to dispel the fears of “some American implementing partners” so that they will continue their activities in the Kyrgyz Republic.

Taking this opportunity, I have the honor to invite you, dear Mr. Blinken, to visit our country and see for yourself that human rights and freedoms in Kyrgyzstan are reliably protected by the Constitution and laws of the Kyrgyz Republic.

I am sure that you will always find reliable friends in Kyrgyzstan.

I also want to emphasize that we stand for equal cooperation and are ready to work together with all countries and international partners, including the United States.

My only request is not to interfere in the internal affairs of our country.

With best wishes and sincere respect,

Sadyr Japarov,

President of the Kyrgyz Republic."

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