Kyrgyzstan: Withdraw bill targeting LGBT persons and human rights defenders

27.11.2014

The Parliament of Kyrgyzstan should unequivocally reject a bill which targets and criminalises freedom of expression, association and assembly in relation to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons, the International Service for Human Rights said today.

(Geneva) - The Parliament of Kyrgyzstan should unequivocally reject a bill which criminalises acts and expression aimed at forming 'a positive attitude towards non-traditional sexual orientation', the International Service for Human Rights said today.

If passed, the draft law would impose both monetary penalties and terms of imprisonment of between 6 to 12 months on persons involved in disseminating information on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons in the media or the internet, and also criminalise organising or participating in peaceful assemblies which aim to promote or protect LGBT rights.

'This bill is manifestly incompatible with international human rights law and should be either withdrawn or unequivocally rejected,' said ISHR's Pooja Patel.

'The bill violates the right to freedom of expression by criminalising free speech and the dissemination of information about LGBT rights, it offends the right to freedom of association and assembly by criminalising peaceful meetings aimed at protecting LGBT rights, and it is plainly incompatible with the prohibition against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity,' Ms Patel said.

'As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both the government and parliament of Kyrgyzstan have an obligation under international law to withdraw this bill.'

In addition to being incompatible with the ICCPR, to which Kyrgyzstan became a party in 1994, Ms Patel also noted that the bill has the purpose, or would have the effect, of targeting and criminalising the work of human rights defenders in a manner that is inconsistent with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

'The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the adoption of which Kyrgyzstan supported in 1998, explicitly enshrines the right to freely publish and disseminate information on human rights and to discuss and advocate for the acceptance of human rights ideas and principles,' Ms Patel said. 

The Yogjakarta Principles on International Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity similarly codify the obligations of States to respect the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association in relation to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, and to respect, protect and enable the work of human rights defenders working on these issues (see, particularly, Principles 19, 20 and 27).

In addition to being gravely concerned about the criminalising and chilling effect of the bill, ISHR is also deeply concerned that it may licence or contribute to an increase in homophobic violence or discrimination in the country. A recent Human Rights Watch report documents a rising tide of violence, arbitrary detention and extortion of LGBT persons in Kyrgyzstan, including by police and security forces.

'The evidence from Russia and other jurisdictions is clear - laws such as that proposed in Kyrgyzstan are strongly associated with violence and discrimination against LGBT persons, despite the protestations of the supporters of such laws that this is not the intent,' Ms Patel said.

ISHR understands that the bill has been voted on once and passed by a wide margin, and is required to be voted on twice more by parliament before being forwarded to the President, Almazbek Atambayev, for signature.

'ISHR joins with UN human rights experts, international NGOs, and civil society organisations in Kyrgyzstan in calling for this bill to be struck out without delay,' Ms Patel said.

Contact: Pooja Patel, Program and Advocacy Manager (LGBT Rights), International Service for Human Rights, on p.patel@ishr.ch