July 1st, 2009

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety condemns the changes and amendments to Law on Non-governmental Organizations (Public unions and Funds) adopted during a meeting in Milli Mejlis yesterday.    
Although some proposed changes to Law that would have limited the work of NGOs were removed, several articles that are anti-democratic, and contradictory to local and international legislations have been approved.

    * Amendments to Law – Article 7.5  (In the event that the NGO’s founders are foreigners or foreign legal entities, the deputy directors of branches and representations must be citizens of Azerbaijan) and article 9.1.1 (Foreigners with permanent residency in Azerbaijan and people without citizenship cannot found non-governmental organizations in the Republic of Azerbaijan) are contradictory to article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
    * Amendments to Law -Article 10.4 (After a public union receives state registration, it must within 30 days ensure creation of registry of its members) and article 31.2-1. (For failure by legal entities to provide necessary information for the state registry or the presentation of incorrect information the non-governmental organization shall be warned) are contradictory to article 5 (right to freedom and protection) of the European Convention.
    * Amendment to Law -Article 12.1-1 (During the creation of a foundation, its authorized capital cannot be less than 10,000 AZN) is absurd. This fund which is big for non-commercial organizations will create obstacles for creating funds.
    * Amendment to Law -Article12.3 (In the Azerbaijan Republic, the opening of branches and representations of non-governmental organizations of foreign countries or non-governmental organizations that are permanently funded by foreign governments or foreign legal or physical entities is only allowed when there is a relevant international contract between these countries) creates complications.  Parties signing contracts are defined clearly and the subjects are not revealed;, these will permit to abuse this article.    
    * Amendment to Law – Article 13.3 (It is not permitted for non-governmental organizations to in their charter usurp the powers of state and local self-regulation agencies, to interfere in these powers, or to envisage state oversight and control functions) will create obstacles for work. This change prohibits investigations and monitoring by NGOs.  

IRFS states that adopted changes and amendments to Law on Non-governmental Organizations (Public unions and Funds) will create serious problems in the work of public unions and funds.  

IRFS calls for Azerbaijan’s government to immediately call off the changes and amendments to Law on Non-governmental Organizations (Public unions and Funds), to liberalize further the existing legislation and establish a “window” system for the registration of NGOs.