April 21, 2016
A United Nations Committee has called for Kyrgyzstan to release a human rights defender, Azimjon Askarov, and to quash his conviction, Human Rights Watch said today. In a ruling published on April 21, 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee found that Askarov, who is serving a life sentence, was arbitrarily detained, held in inhumane conditions, tortured, and otherwise mistreated without redress and was not given a fair trial.
“Kyrgyzstan shouldn’t wait another day to release Azimjon Askarov, who has been languishing in prison for six years,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The committee’s decision offers Kyrgyzstan the opportunity to finally right this grave wrong.”
Askarov, 64, is a human rights defender from southern Kyrgyzstan. For years he worked as the director of Air, a local human rights organization, and focused on documenting prison conditions and police treatment of detainees. Askarov also documented violence and looting in the town of Bazar-Korgon during an eruption of violence in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010.
Police arrested Askarov that month for “organizing mass disturbances” and “inciting interethnic hatred” leading to the killing of a policeman in Bazar-Korgon. In September 2010, the Bazar-Korgon District Court found Askarov guilty and sentenced him to life in prison. His conviction was upheld on appeal, despite his credible allegations of ill-treatment and torture, as well as attacks on his lawyer and hostility and violence in the courtroom that undermined his right to a fair trial.