The space for civil society remains narrow in Central Asia as the authorities of the region restrict freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression in ways that contradict their international human rights obligations and commitments.
The harsh response of the Kazakhstani authorities to the mass protests surrounding the presidential elections held in June 2019 cast a shadow over the beginning of new President Tokayev’s period in office. The authorities have yet to properly investigate the documented violations of the rights of peaceful protesters during these and other protests held this year.
Since taking office in late 2017, Kyrgyzstan’s President Jeenbekov has adopted a more constructive approach to civil society compared with his predecessor. However, as in other countries of the region, NGOs still face widespread mistrust and suspicion, especially if they work on minority rights and other sensitive issues.
Uzbekistan’s President Mirziyoyev has set out to enhance the role of civil society but has failed to initiate systematic measures to end the longstanding pattern of repression and engage in open dialogue with civil society actors.
In Tajikistan, civil society also remains under pressure, as recently highlighted by several UN human rights bodies. The Turkmenistani authorities strictly control civil society space and intimidate, harass and silence those who criticize and challenge the regime.
These issues are described in more detail in a statement by International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR, Belgium); Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR, Kazakhstan); the Legal Prosperity Foundation (LPF, Kyrgyzstan); Nota Bene (Tajikistan); Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR, based in exile in Austria); and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA, based in exile in France) to the 2019 OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, which is currently taking place in Warsaw.