Following the release of an opinion by the Council of Europe’s European Commission for Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission) on two draft laws on regulating NGOs in Ukraine, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The Venice Commission’s opinion makes clear the risks that new government controls on civil society groups would bring to Ukraine’s democracy,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “The proposed laws would seriously undermine civil society’s independence and effectiveness, and were prepared without the broad consultation that is essential to democracy. If the legislation were passed in its current form, Ukraine would compromise one of the country’s key engines of reform and jeopardize its standing with its international donors and supporters. Ukrainian authorities should seek to remove burdens from civil society organizations rather than impose new ones.”
The Venice Commission has raised serious concerns about a 2017 law that requires certain individuals and NGOs working on corruption issues to publicly report their income, and about two draft laws that would require more detailed financial reporting by many NGOs. The measures would also withdraw non-profit status from NGOs and subject them to heavy fines if the reports were not submitted on time. Similar provisions have been used in countries with weak judicial and regulatory systems to put pressure on independent civic groups, such as in Kazakhstan.
The Venice Commission’s opinion concludes that the proposed laws violate standards established by the Committee of Ministers…