Kyrgyzstan: Alarming health condition and mounting harassment by prison authorities of Mr. Azimjan AskarovNew informationKGZ 001 / 0910 / OBS 109.5
Ongoing harassment / Deteriorating health conditionKyrgyzstan
December 21, 2015
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Kyrgyzstan
. New information
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the alarming health condition as well as mounting harassment by prison authorities of Mr. Azimjan Askarov
, ethnic Uzbek human rights defender currently serving a life sentence in prison colony 47 in Bishkek. In a trial that fell short of international standards of fair and impartial judicial proceedings, Mr. Askarov was condemned to life imprisonment on charges that were not fully investigated, while claims of torture and ill-treatment against the latter have never been examined (see background information).
According to the information received, on December 1 and 9, 2015, as Mr. Askarov was meeting with his lawyer Valerian Vakhitov, the prison staff refused to remove his handcuffs for the duration of the meeting, invoking new rules of procedure. In spite of their request, Messrs. Askarov and Vakhitov were denied access to relevant documents justifying these new regulations.
In addition, on December 1, 2015, Mr. Askarov and his lawyer were denied the right to talk privately, in violation of the Penal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic. Article 61 of the Code indeed stipulates that convicts are granted the right to meet with their lawyers in private, without limiting the number nor the duration of such meetings. Furthermore, no clause stipulates the necessity to use handcuffs during convicts' meetings with lawyers or family members.
Mr. Valerian Vakhitov considers the alleged new prison restrictions as a form of ill-treatment and humiliation against Mr Askarov, and a violation of his constitutional rights. Accordingly, the latter has appealed to the Attorney General of the Kirghiz Republic Mr. Dzholdubaevoy, the Head of Prison Administration Mr. Alik Mamyrkulov, and the Director of the Centre for the Prevention of Torture of Kyrgyzstan Mr. Sulaimanov, through a written complaint on December 14, 2015, to determine the compliance of the new prison procedures with the laws and the Constitution of Kyrgyzstan.
Besides, the Observatory stresses that the health condition of Mr. Askarov, who is 65 years old, has greatly deteriorated since his arrest in 2010. The latter suffers from severe headaches that prevent him from sleeping, as well as frequent dizziness. He is also very affected by painful joints, in particular in his knees as well as his lumbar area, which is worsened by the cold weather. After having lost several of his teeth, he was granted a dental prosthesis, but it had to be removed because of the pain and inconvenience it was causing.
During one of the medical examinations he underwent on March 12, 2015, he was diagnosed with severe heart diseases such as angina, coronary artery trunk, left bundle branch block, disorders of the cardiovascular system, as well as liver problems such as Pasternatzky's symptom, hepatitis, and gall bladder disease. As a result of these diseases, Mr. Askarov has reported acute pains. Although he has been prescribed more than a dozen different drugs, his condition has not improved since then. In a letter addressed to the UN Human Rights Committee on December 10, 2015 , Mr. Askarov has evoked his age and ailments, and requested the Committee to fast forward a decision on his case.
On November 2012, an individual complaint had been submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee for torture (Art. 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - ICCPR), lack of safeguards, failure to conduct an effective investigation and failure to provide redress (Art. 7 and 2(3)), arbitrary and unlawful detention (Art. 9, 2 and 26), inhuman conditions of detention (Art. 10), violation of pre-trial rights and of fair trial rights (Art. 14), violation of the right to liberty and security of person (Art. 9) and violation of the right to freedom of expression (Art. 19). A decision of the Committee is expected to be delivered in the coming months.
The Observatory considers that the ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Azimjan Askarov merely aims at sanctioning his human rights activities, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release, all the more so as his health condition continues to deteriorate.
The Observatory more generally reiterates its call for the full respect of the provisions of the ICCPR and of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Background information
As the Director of the human rights organisation “Vozdukh” (Air), Mr. Azimjan Askarov has been documenting police ill-treatment of detainees and monitoring the human rights situation in the province of Jalal-Abad, in particular the mass violence in Bazar Korgon in June 2010.
On June 15, 2010, Mr. Askarov was arrested by agents of Bazar Korgon police department for allegedly having urged ethnic Uzbeks to take the district official Mr. A. Artykov hostage, for having ordered the blockade of the Bishkek-Osh highway and for urged to attack police officers. One of the attacks caused the death of a policeman Mr. Sulaimanov.
On September 15, 2010, following an unfair trial, Mr. Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment after he was found guilty of complicity in Mr. Sulaimanov's murder. The trial was marred with irregularities, including alleged torture and the courtroom intimidation of witnesses by police and of lawyers by the audience.
Mr. Askarov and the other defendants had pleaded not guilty during the trial. His lawyer, Mr. Nurbek Toktakunov, asked for a medical examination, which was denied. According to family members of the suspects and human rights organisations, all of them were subjected to acts of torture and ill-treatment by prison guards in custody and presented visible physical injuries.
On November 10, 2010, the court of appeal upheld the life sentence of Mr. Azimjan Askarov following a trial marred by irregularities. At that time the health of Mr. Askarov had already severely deteriorated.
On January 26, 2011, the defence lawyers requested the Supreme Court to examine and include new evidence in the criminal case, including a testimony made by Ms. Aziza Abdirasulova, Director of the human rights organisation Kylym Shamy, that showed that, in May 2010, Mr. Azimjan Askarov had warned the authorities that acts of violence were being prepared in Bazar Korgon. According to Mr. Azimjan Askarov's lawyer Nurbek Toktakunov, this warning might have triggered the fabrication of this case. In addition, defence lawyer Kairat Zagibaev provided evidence showing that Mr. Askarov was not present at the scene where the incidents took place. The Supreme Court accepted the new evidence. On February 8, 2011, the same Court decided to open an investigation into the conditions of detention in Kyrgyzstan, especially in provisional detention centres, and to suspend sine die the trial against Mr. Askarov. This decision was taken following a petition made by Mr. Nurbek Toktakunov, lawyer of Mr. Askarov, on the appalling conditions of detention of his client and other prisoners in the temporary detention facilities of Bazar Korgon, which have hampered the preparation of the defence.
In October 2011, Mr. Askarov's defence team conducted a private investigation and gathered evidence pointing to the innocence of the latter and reporting use of torture and inhuman treatment against him.
On December 20, 2011, the Supreme Court upheld the sentence to life imprisonment.
After years of pressure, in May 2013, a new investigation was ordered by the Vice Prosecutor General of the Kyrgyzstan Republic, but was closed nine months later for lack of legal basis.
On September 3, 2014, the Supreme Court reversed the Bishkek District Court decision of April 30, 2014 which was in favour of a re-opening Mr. Askarov's case. The hearing was marked by acts of intimidation against Mr. Askarov. It is reported that several unidentified individuals stopped the hearing and brought the convict outside of the courtroom to talk privately. Actions requested
Please write to the authorities of Kyrgyzstan, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Azimjan Askarov as well as of all human rights defenders in the Kyrgyzstan;
ii. Ensure the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Azimjan Askarov since his detention is arbitrary as it only aims at sanctioning his human rights activities;
iii. Meanwhile, ensure that Mr. Azimjan Askarov be provided decent conditions of detention and adequate medical care;
iv. Put an end to any act of harassment against Mr. Askarov and ensure in all circumstances that he is granted with the right to have private meetings with his lawyer as stipulated in the Penal Code;
v. Comply with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, especially:
- Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,
- and Article 12.2 which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;
vi. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by the Kyrgyzstan. Addresses
• Mr. Almazbek Atambaev, President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Chuy Ave, 205, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Tel: +996 312 63 91 17, Fax: + 996312626191
• Mr. Melis Turganbayev, Minister of Internal Affairs, Frunze st. 469, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Tel: 0996 312 66 24 50, Fax: + 996312682044 / + 996312623853, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Ms. Jyldyz Mambetalieva Jeenbaevna, Minister of Justice, 32 M.Gandi Str., 720010 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Tel: +996 (312) 656490 , Fax: +996 (312) 656502, email: email@example.com
• Ms. Indira Joldubayeva, General Prosecutor Office, 39 Erkindik Avenue, 720040 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan ,Tel: +996 (312) 663373, Fax: +996 (312) 661734
• State Committee of National Security, Erkindik blvd 70, Bishkek 720040, Kyrgyzstan, Tel: +996 (312) 66 04 75, Fax +996 (312)66 00 24
• Permanent Mission of Kyrgyzstan to the United Nations in Geneva, Rue Maunoir 26/Rue du Lac 4-6, 1207 Geneva, Switzerland, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: +41 22 707.92.21
• Embassy of Kyrgyzstan in Brussels, 47 rue de l’Abbay/Abdijstraat, 1050 Bruxelles, Kingdom of Belgium, Tel: + 32 2 640 18 68, Fax: + 32 2 640 01 31, Email: email@example.com
Please also write to diplomatic representations of Kyrgyzstan in your respective countries.