Kyrgyzstan: Law protecting President’s “honour and dignity” should be abolished

In this analysis, ARTICLE 19 reviews the Law On Guarantees for Activity of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic (the Law) for its compliance with international human rights standards, in particular related to the right to freedom of expression.

Under the Law, the Kyrgyz Prosecutor General (the Prosecutor General) is obligated to protect the honour and dignity of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic in the case of dissemination of information considered to be discrediting to the honour and dignity of the President. Where other measures taken by the Prosecutor General have failed, the Prosecutor General is obliged to protect the President’s honour and dignity by pursuing civil action in court.

The Law recognises the Prosecutor General as a legitimate representative of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, and the Prosecutor can exercise the rights of plaintiff, defendant, or injured party, as defined by the relevant underlying legislation, in the President’s stead and without any special authorisation. The Prosecutor General also has the right to delegate his authority to other persons.

ARTILE 19 finds that the Law fails to meet international standards on the right to freedom of expression. We recall that under international standards, public officials by their nature should tolerate a greater degree of criticism. The unfettered discretion given to the Prosecutor General to protect the President’s reputation is in direct opposition of this principle.

ARTICLE 19 recommends that the Law be abolished in its entirety. We encourage the Kyrgyz government to create an environment that is conducive to free expression, and especially to free and open debate on matters of public interest. We also express our ongoing support to civil society in Kyrgyzstan to advocate for the elimination of the Law.

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