Amnesty International warns of wave of regressive laws targeting civil society in Americas News
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Amnesty International warns of wave of regressive laws targeting civil society in Americas

Amnesty International on Friday raised alarm regarding a wave of legal initiatives across the Americas that threaten to curtail the activities of civil society organizations. These measures, currently under consideration in Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela, pose severe risks to the promotion and defense of human rights in the region.

Peru’s congress is rapidly advancing legislation that Amnesty says restricts civic space. The country’s Congress has progressed bills granting the government broad powers to control NGOs, particularly those receiving foreign funding. Additionally, a constitutional amendment moved forward on June 5 that aims to eliminate Peru’s National Board of Justice. The power to transfer and remove judicial authorities would be transferred to legislators, leading human rights organizations to raise concerns about judicial independence and election integrity. All these bills are still in the process of gaining full approval.

Similarly, Venezuela‘s bill on “Control, Regularization, Operations and Financing of Non-Governmental and Related Organization” aims to mandate detailed reporting requirements for NGOs, putting them at risk of criminal prosecution for non-compliance and severely hampering their operations. This bill had gained approval earlier this year in the National Assembly’s preliminary debates. Meanwhile, Paraguay‘s senate is reviewing a bill that imposes stringent controls on nonprofit organizations, potentially limiting their access to resources and subjecting them to severe penalties.

Amnesty International points out that similar legal initiatives have been observed in the last few years in Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico. In Guatemala, legislation like laws 5377 and 5257 impose excessive control on NGOs, putting them at risk of arbitrary shutdowns and criminal sanctions. El Salvador’s “Ley de Agentes Extranjeros” legal initiative heavily restricts foreign-funded NGOs.

Amnesty International stated:

While the bills take different approaches, they all share alarming features. Their rationale is often a supposed need to boost transparency, despite the multiple controls countries already have in place to hold civil society organizations accountable. In practice, these bills often use vague and imprecise language to conduct disproportionate, arbitrary, and unjust controls of the operational and financial information of civil society organizations.