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OSCE/ODIHR Legal Analysis: Agent’s Law Incompatible with International Human Rights Law

On May 30, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) published its urgent legal analysis on the recently adopted Foreign Agents law, saying that the law “contains serious deficiencies that make it incompatible with international human rights standards and the country’s commitments as an OSCE state, and it should be rescinded.”

The ODIHR noted that defining CSOs and the media as “organizations pursuing the interests of a foreign power” solely on the basis of receiving foreign funding from abroad is contrary to the strict requirements of international human rights law. The analysis also compares the Georgian law with three examples from other countries used by the ruling party to justify the adoption of the law, and notes that when compared with the U.S. FARA or the Australian Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act, the fundamental difference lies in the scope and purpose of the laws.

“While these laws aim to ensure that private companies or non-profits directly taking part in advocacy or lobbying efforts on behalf of a foreign authority are publicly registered, it does not label all civil society or media as foreign representatives simply because they receive funding from abroad,” – the ODIHR notes.

In its urgent opinion ODIHR identifies “lack of compliance with international human rights standards and OSCE human dimension commitments, primarily the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression, but also other rights, including to respect for private life, participate in public affairs, and freedom from discrimination.” It notes that access to funding, including foreign funding, is an essential element of the right to freedom of association and emphasizes that increasing transparency is not in itself a legitimate aim for restricting the right to freedom of association.

The organization urges authorities to revoke the law and align legislation with international standards. It also suggests less intrusive alternatives including regulating lobbying, enforcing robust political party and campaign finance rules, and implementing anti-corruption or anti-terrorism laws to enhance transparency and accountability in the public decision-making processes.

“While there are a number of obligations that can be imposed on civil society organizations and are justifiable from a human rights perspective, they must not specifically target the civil society sector or assume that all civil society organisations receiving foreign funding are representing the interests of foreign powers,” – reads the ODIHR’s statement.

The ODIHR expresses its readiness to assist the authorities in finding legislative or other solutions that address genuine concerns in accordance with international human rights law.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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