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Kyrgyzstan's ongoing struggle for fundamental workers' rights

6 September, 2023Trade unions in Kyrgyzstan have been fighting for fundamental workers’ rights for years, and recently freedom of expression in the country was also undermined. Despite some changes following a complaint filed at the ILO, a lot of work remains.

The Mining and Metallurgical Trade Union of Kyrgyzstan filed a case (3386) with the International Labour Organization (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association in 2020, exposing the systematic violations of trade union rights in the country, particularly the violation on freedom of association and the harassment of trade union leaders. 

Following the complaint, the Jogorku Kenesh (Parliament) of the Kyrgyz Republic passed a resolution in June 2022. The resolution established a commission to examine the implementation of the Kyrgyz Republic's "On Trade Unions" law. 

In June this year, the Jogorku Kenesh adopted another resolution with a series of instructions. These directives included amending the "On Trade Unions" law, pursuing digitalization and personnel reforms within trade unions, and reshaping trade union structures. The Federation of Trade Unions of Kyrgyzstan was tasked with proposing changes to charters and reviewing agreements on the lease of union property.

Following these new developments, IndustriALL submitted an update on Case 3386 on Kyrgyzstan, in August with new information testifying to the continued pressure from authorities on trade unions in restricting freedom of association and the right to self-determination. 

As fundamental workers’ rights continue to be challenged, this August, Kyrgyz authorities launched a lawsuit to close down independent online news outlet Kloop Media Public Foundation. The lawsuit alleges that Kloop Media failed to register as a mass media outlet and conducted media activities not listed in its charter. It also references a pretrial investigation into the foundation's activities initiated in November 2021, accusing them of violating Kyrgyzstan's criminal code.

This move, restricting freedom of expression in Kyrgyzstan has sparked global outrage. Human Rights Watch has condemned the action as part of a series of attacks on freedom of media and expression, incompatible with international human rights obligations, calling for the immediate withdrawal of the lawsuit. 

“These actions raise concerns about the interference in the internal activities of trade unions. These measures potentially restrict trade unions' rights to develop their charters, organize internal structures, and independently pursue their action plan.

“The recent developments show the urgency of our collective action to ensure that Kyrgyzstan upholds its commitments to freedom of association, expression, and the fundamental rights of its citizens."

said IndsutriALL general secretary Atle Høie.