Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyzstan’s retrial of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov a mockery unworthy of closer EU ties, Observatory reports - Publication of an international judicial observation report
OBSERVATORY - PRESS RELEASE (Press Release also available in Russian)
Paris-Geneva, February 15, 2017 – A Kyrgyz court ruled to uphold
human rights defender Azimjan Askarov’s life sentence, after what was a mock
retrial falling short of basic fair-trial requirements and running against
United Nations recommendations to release him, the Observatory for the Protection
of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) reported today (the report is available in English and Russian).
The Chuy Regional Court, which reconsidered Azimjan Askarov’s case in appeal from October 4, 2016 to January
24, 2017, upheld the 2010 verdict which had been issued in a trial marred by a
flawed investigation, bias, lack of substantial evidence and allegations of
torture and the absence of investigation thereof. In its decision published in
April 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee requested the authorities to release
Azimjan Askarov and quash his conviction. Neither of the recommendations were
brought into effect.
Moreover, the Chuy Regional Court itself, by refusing to hear some
defence witnesses, restricting access to the courtroom, failing to investigate
credible allegations of torture and ignoring acts of pressure and intimidation
targeting defence witnesses and lawyers,
failed to guarantee Askarov’s right to a fair trial in accordance with
international human rights standards.
“Kyrgyzstan has also made a complete mockery of its
international human rights obligations,” said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary
General. “If this country
wants to be a European trading partner it has to be clear to it that it has to
behave very differently.”
Tomorrow, President Atambayev is scheduled to
meet with European Union (EU) leaders in Brussels, including EU Foreign Affairs
Chief Federica Mogherini, European Council President Donald Tusk and European
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, to discuss a new Agreement on
Partnership and Cooperation and a Memorandum of Understanding on a 13 million
euros worth project aimed at supporting judicial reform in Kyrgyzstan. Shortly after the court’s decision on January 24, 2017, UN bodies and the EU voiced serious
concerns over the “serious shortcomings” in Kyrgyzstan’s judicial system, recalling that “full compliance with its international human
rights obligations, including the opinions of the UNHRC, is essential to
maintain the international standing of the Kyrgyz Republic”.
“The arbitrary character of Azimjam Askarov’s detention is
unquestionable. EU leaders must take the opportunity of President Atambayev’s visit to remind
him of Kyrgyzstan’s human rights commitments and the need to demonstrate
at the highest level the will to support a genuine judicial reform. Support to
judicial reform is meaningless if the right to a fair trial is not guaranteed
and justice remains vulnerable to political interference,” said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH Honorary President.
Azimjan Askarov is a human rights defender from the South of
Kyrgyzstan where he had been investigating police brutality from 2002 to 2010.
He was arrested on June 15, 2010, in the immediate aftermath of violent
inter-ethnic confrontations opposing Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities. He was
charged with participating in mass unrest, inciting ethnic strife, illegal
weapons possession, complicity in the murder of police officer Myktybek Suleimanov, attempted murder of other
police officers and incitement for taking hostage a mayor. Azimjan Askarov
argued that he was not present on the bridge where the attack on Mr. Suleimanov
occurred. His claim was corroborated by several testimonies.
very beginning of the judicial proceedings in 2010, the case against Azimjan
Askarov, built on testimonies extracted under torture and on statements from
Kyrgyz police officers whose work had been under the scrutiny of Azimjan
Askarov, was marked as politically motivated. As reported by the Observatory in
“Kyrgyzstan at a crossroads: shrink or widen
the scene for human rights defenders”, Mr. Kubatbek Baybolov, former Prosecutor General at the time of Mr.
Askarov’s conviction recounted that Interim President Roza Otunbayeva had
instructed the Judiciary to sentence Azimjan Askarov to life imprisonment. He added that the elements in the
criminal case failed to demonstrate Mr. Askarov's guilt.
The report is available
in English: Kyrgyzstan_OBS_Report_2017.02.15_English
and Russian: Kyrgyzstan_OBS_Report_2017.02.15_Russian
The Press Release is also available in Russian: Kyrgyzstan_2017.02.15_PR_Publication_RUSSIAN
Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was
created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The
objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression
against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by
international civil society.
more information, please contact:
FIDH: Audrey Couprie: +33143552518 (Paris)
OMCT: Delphine Reculeau (Geneva) / Miguel Martín
Zumalacárregui (Brussels): +41 22 809 49 39