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.
November 3, 2015
A Jehovah’s Witness mother and daughter in Kyrgyzstan have been freed from house arrest, having been held since March 2013, in what a judge described as “a fabricated case”, Forum 18 News Service has learned. But NSC secret police and ordinary police 10th Department officers repeatedly illegally tried to stop the two women’s lawyers participating in the appeal hearing, and then invaded the judges’ deliberation room when they realised that the women might be set free. Under international law some of the police should not have been at liberty, as they were involved in torturing other Jehovah’s Witnesses. The two women’s defence lawyers have publicly called for the ordinary police and NSC secret police officers who openly attacked lawyers’ and judges’ independence to be investigated on criminal charges, and if guilty punished according to the law. Officials have refused to tell Forum 18 if these and other official attempts to obstruct the rule of law will be subject to investigation and criminal charges.
June 25, 2015
The International Commission of Jurists today welcomed the decisions by the Kyrgyz Supreme Court declaring illegal the recent government searches of the homes and offices of lawyers, and seizures of their legal files.
In three related cases, the Court upheld the findings of the Osh regional court that the searches of the homes of lawyers Valerian Vakhitov and Khusanbay Saliyev and lawyers’ offices at the NGO “Bir-Duyno-Kyrgyzstan” by officers of the State National Security Committee were contrary to Kyrgyz law.
The Supreme Court also dismissed the attempts by the Prosecutor’s Office to initiate disciplinary action against judges of the Osh regional court as a result of their decision in these cases.
Kyrgyzstan’s National Security Agency (GKNB) on March 27, 2015, searched the Osh office of Bir Duino, a well-known human rights organization and the homes of two of its lawyers, Human Rights Watch said today. The group is well known for its work on religious extremism and torture cases in southern Kyrgyzstan.
The searches were in connection with a criminal investigation involving Umar Farooq, a freelance journalist from the United States who was in Kyrgyzstan working on several stories. During the search the GKNB confiscated computers, flash drives, and other equipment that contained legal documentation in criminal cases the two lawyers, Valeryan Vakhitov and Husanbai Saliev, had been working on.
A Kyrgyz court on September 15, 2010, sentenced a human rights defender to life in prison for his alleged role in the June violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, following court hearings marred by violence and threats against the defense. Human Rights Watch urged the Kyrgyz government to guarantee a fair and public retrial for the rights defender, Azimjon Askarov, and his co-defendants and to free him pending the retrial.