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HRW: New amendments to the NGO law have "a potential of serious negative effects"

Washington is concerned over the new amendments to the NGO law in Azerbaijan and is evaluating how this will impact US-led programs in the country on a daily basis.

The law, which further restricts NGO financing, was cleared by the parliament later last year and has been approved by President IlhamAliyev, early last week.

The US diplomats "repeatedly urged President Aliyev over the past two months to return the amendments to parliament, and work with experts to ensure that the laws governing NGO activities and their funding comport with their international obligations and commitments," TURAN's Washington correspondent was told by the official sources.

The State Department hasn't yet issued any public statement on the matter, in the meantime diplomats and analysts off the record express their worry over the move, while rights groups see the law as part of a campaign to silence independent voices.

"We are profoundly concerned about the recent amendments, which has a potential of serious negative effects on the work of NGOs in the country,"GiorgiGogia, Senior Researcher at HRW's Europe and Central Asia Division, told TURAN's Washington DC correspondent.

"We see those amendments as part of the government's concerted effort to restrict work of civil society organizations, critical of the authorities," he added.

The amendments introduce new restrictions on the work of domestic and foreign NGOs and establish punitive fines, including suspension and dissolution of the groups for failure to observe those restrictions.

More importantly, Mr. Gogia added, the new laws "appear to be intended to push civil society groups and activists to the margins of the law, leaving little space for exercising fundamental right to freedom of association."

Washington, DC



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