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Human rights protections continued to decline in Kyrgyzstan in 2023 – HRW

Human rights protections and civil liberties in Kyrgyzstan continued to decline in 2023, with systematic stifling of critical voices by the authorities. The World Report 2024 of Human Rights Watch says.

As noted, civil society and media freedom came under severe threat, with criminal cases against leading media outlets and draft laws that would allow the expansion of state control over the work of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and censorship of information. A law was adopted banning «propaganda of non-traditional relations and same-sex partnerships.»

A blanket ban on protests, initially introduced in March 2022, was extended through December 2023. Activists, journalists, human rights defenders, and politicians detained in October 2022 remained in pretrial detention, and an effective and independent investigation into the death in custody of human rights defender Azimzhan Askarov in 2020 had yet to be completed.

Despite measures implemented to combat domestic violence, impunity for such crimes persists.

In total, the report includes information on nine issues.

In particular, HRW points to a draft mass media law, which was registered in the Kyrgyz parliament for consideration and would significantly restrict the ability of civil society organizations and media to operate independently. According to the human rights activists, the draft law establishes vague and broadly worded prohibitions for media, and failure to respect them can lead to forced suspension and termination of media outlets and closure of websites.

HRW stresses that throughout 2023, Kyrgyz security services targeted bloggers for their social media posts, often using vague provisions of the Criminal Code such as incitement to ethnic or national hatred and calls for disobedience to authorities and riots.

In May, the Kyrgyz parliament proposed the «Foreign Representatives» draft law, which would require NGOs receiving foreign funding and engaging in political activities to register with the Justice Ministry as «foreign representatives.»

Cases of violence against women and girls remain underreported, and survivors face multiple barriers to accessing services and justice, the report says. These include insufficient shelter space and other essential services, dismissive responses by authorities, stigma, and attitudes that perpetuate harmful stereotypes and practices, including by police, judicial officials, and government and religious leaders.

Starting in January 2023, Kyrgyz authorities increased monthly social benefit payments to adults and children with disabilities by anywhere from 50 to 100 percent depending on the degree of disability. From June 2022 the services of personal assistants have also been extended to adults with first-degree disabilities from childhood.

In August, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection presented a draft resolution that seeks to align sociomedical examinations used for disability assessments with standards in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, marking the state’s further transition from a medical model of disability support to a social one. However, despite this progress, there are still few accessible rehabilitation centers available for girls and women with disabilities and few shelters available for survivors of family abuse and domestic violence.

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