On July 10, 2017, the Administration of the President of Ukraine submitted to the Verkhovna Rada draft Laws of Ukraine No. 6674 “On Amendments to the Tax Code of Ukraine for providing public information on financing of the activities of civil society organizations and the use of international technical assistance” (http://w1.c1.rada.gov.ua/pls/zweb2/webproc4_1?pf3511=62214) and No. 6675 “On amending certain legislative acts concerning public information openness for the society the financing of the activities of civil society organizations and the use of international technical assistance” (http://w1.c1.rada.gov.ua/pls/zweb2/webproc4_1?pf3511=62215). Draft laws can be voted in the first reading or immediately in general.
We note with indignation that these draft laws are an unconcealed attempt to strengthen the state’s influence on an active and independent public sector in the state through the creation of additional reporting for all civil society organizations that “receive financial and other resources and services provided on a gratuitous and irrevocable basis with the use of tax exemptions or tax-free regime”. In fact, the mentioned bills make the subject of increased state regulation of those who do not receive funds from the budget, provides an injection into the Ukrainian economy at the expense of taxes, is independent of the state, and remains one of the few levers of checks and balances in society.
The creation of levers of influence on the public is proposed to implement through the establishment of additional obligations for regular reporting. In addition, draft laws offer quite radical measures in case of violations. Thus, bills stipulate that “for non – compliance the requirements for the submission and disclosure of reporting by such civil society organizations, establish liability in the form of exclusion of a public association by a controlling body from the Register of non-profit institutions and organizations and being classified as a category of income taxpayers”, which actually blocks the activities of non-profit organizations that only operate grants without profit.
Thus, the state frankly takes the course of unreasonable encumbrances on the activities of civil society organizations and creates conditions for selective pressure, if necessary. This is inadmissible in a civilized society, where voluntary associations of citizens, on the contrary, are viewed by the state as independent allies. The creation of levers of formal influence and pressure on the public is widely used in countries with authoritarian regimes.
Similar norms exist in Kazakhstan and, according to local human rights activists, have led to a significant narrowing of the space for the implementation by civil society organizations of their social functions. In Kyrgyzstan, only an active civil society position prevented the introduction of additional accountability of civil society organizations to public authorities regarding financial activities. In Russian Federation at one time, the legislative consolidation and further practical application of the norm on the need to obtain the status of an organization that serves as a “foreign agent” led to a number of prosecutorial inspections of independent civil society organizations, the refusal of organizations from foreign funding, numerous attempts by authorities to impose this status and, as a result, almost total paralysis of the activities of independent civil society organizations in the country.
For Turkmenistan, Belarus, Azerbaijan, state registration of foreign financial assistance is often characterized by an overly complicated procedure. In particular, in Turkmenistan, there should be about ten stages of government approval, including an assessment by the government of the need for foreign aid in a particular sector. All these destructive rules of democracy in these countries were introduced under the deceptive slogans of promoting transparency of the activities of civil society organizations, fighting corruption and ensuring national security.
We remind that during the Revolution of Dignity, an attempt was made to introduce Russian practice of fighting “foreign agents” in the notorious “laws of January 16th” in 2014.
We argue that the executive branch of power in Ukraine has sufficiently anticipated in the legislation to combat genuine sabotage activities, and the fight against corruption should relate to the activities of state institutions.
We emphasize that the provisions of these bills violate the principles of freedom of association and contain explicit signs of an instrument for arbitrary and selective application.
We do not understand why in such a difficult time the President of Ukraine focuses his attention on the struggle against civil society organizations, instead of solving urgent issues for the country.
We propose to the Parliament of Ukraine to consider NGOs as partners in building a modern European state, to refuse to consider the submitted draft laws and to demonstrate respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms.
The statement is supported by the following NGOs:
Denys Kobzin, Kharkiv Institute for Social Research,
Maria Yasenovska, Kharkiv Regional Foundation “Public Alternative”,
Vadim Pyvovarov, Association of Ukrainian Monitors of Human Rights in Law-enforcement Activities,
Volodymyr Shevchenko, Ternopyl Human Rights Group,
Victoria Babiy, Youth Human Rights Group – Kharkiv,
Olena Litvishko, Agency for the civil society development,
Human rights protection coalition “No to police state!”,
Civil initiative Business Movement Ukraine,
Olexandra Dvoretska, Charity Foundation “Vostok-SOS”,
Human rights centre “Postup”,
Oleg Martynenko, Centre for researches of law-enforcement activities,
Olexandra Matviychuk, Centre for Civil Liberties,
Mykola Kozyrev, Civil Committee for human rights protection,
Olena Sinchenko, Centre for Ukrainian policy “Exampey”,
Ihor Kozub, Voluntary union of Maidan participants and military actions,
Dmytro Sinchenko, Association of political sciences,
Yuriy Dmitriev, Public Control of Kyrovohrad Region,
Mykhailo Savva, Expert group “Owl”,
Viktor Tarasov, Chernihiv public committee for human rights protection,
Valeriy Novikov, Luhansk regional human rights centre “Alternative”,
Volodymyr Kipen, Donetsk Institute for social researches and political analysis,
Olga Zaychenko, Civil platform “New country”,
Natalya Isaeva, Charity organization “Legalife – Ukraine”,
Charity organization Convictus Ukraine,
Centre for civil education “Almenda”,
Euhenia Lutsenko, Centre for social and gender research,
[You can find updates here – http://www.npd.in.ua/?p=793]
To support and join the statement concerning counteraction of adoption of draft laws 6674 & 6675, send an e-mail on: Aim.firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact persons: Denys Kobzin (+380969545245), Maria Yasenovska (+380504023456) and Andrew Chernousov (+380971043802).