Kyrgyzstan
25.07.19
Urgent Interventions

Court review of the conviction of Mr. Azimjan Askarov

URGENTAPPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

Newinformation

KGZ 001 /0910 / OBS 109.7 Retrial / Arbitrarydetention/

Judicialharassment

Kyrgyzstan

July 25, 2019

The Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requestsyour urgent intervention in the following situation in Kyrgyzstan.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Kyrgyz human rights center “Bir Duino” aboutthe upcoming court review of the conviction of Mr. Azimjan Askarov, the Director of the human rights organisation “Vozdukh”(Air), who currently serves a life sentence.

According to the information received, on July30, 2019 at 10 a.m., the Chuy Regional Court of Kyrgyzstan will review theconviction of Mr. Azimjan Askarov following the introduction of changes to thecriminal code that came into effect on January 1. Initially scheduled on July 16, 2019, the hearing was postponed due to delays in theselection of judges.

The revisionfollows a request submitted by Mr. Askarov on February 13, 2019. Under theKyrgyz legal system, if an offence is suppressed or mitigated, such amendmentshould be enforced in favour of individuals currently serving sentences. By thesame letter, Mr. Askarov asked the Court that the trial be held in hispresence.

The Observatoryrecalls that Mr. Askarov was found guilty of violating, inter alia, Article 30–340 of the Criminal Code of the KyrgyzRepublic (“complicity in murder of law-enforcement officer”) which carries lifeimprisonment as the maximum sentence. The respective provision was removed fromthe new Criminal Code of Kyrgyzstan, and, according to Mr. Askarov’s lawyer,Mr. Valerian Vakhitov, the defender has already servedthe term in respect of the other charges brought against him.

Mr. Askarov hasalready served nine years in prison following an unfair trial marred by aflawed investigation, bias, lack of substantial evidence and allegations oftorture and the absence of investigation thereof. In 2016, the United NationsHuman Rights Committee (UNHRC) ruled that Azimjan Askarov was arbitrarilydetained and was not given a fair trial and thus requested his release (seebackground information).

Furthermore,according to his lawyers, who visited Mr. Askarov in prison on April 10, 2019,Mr. Askarov’s health has severely deteriorated while he is held in appallingconditions[1]. According to theUnited Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, knownalso as “the Nelson Mandela Rules”, persons with health conditions, “for whomstaying in prison would mean an exacerbation of their condition, shall not bedetained in prisons”.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern regarding the healthcondition of Mr. Askarov and urges the authorities of Kyrgyzstan to immediatelyrelease Mr. Askarov from prison as his detention is arbitrary but also hiscondition requires release on medical grounds. In the meantime, the authoritiesshould take necessary steps to provide him with medical treatment.

Background information:

As the Director of the human rights organisation“Vozdukh” (Air), Mr. Azimjan Askarov has been documenting police ill-treatmentof detainees and monitoring the human rights situation in the province ofJalal-Abad, in particular the mass violence in Bazar Korgon in June 2010.

On June 15, 2010, Mr. Askarov was arbitrarily arrestedby agents of Bazar Korgon police department for allegedly having urged ethnicUzbeks to take the district official Mr. A. Artykov hostage, for havingordered the blockade of the Bishkek-Osh highway and for having urged to attackpolice officers. One of the attacks caused the death of a policeman,Mr. Sulaimanov.

On September 15, 2010, after what was a mock trialMr. Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment after he was found guiltyof complicity in Mr. Sulaimanov’s murder. The trial was marred withirregularities, including alleged torture and the courtroom intimidation ofwitnesses by police and of lawyers by the audience. Mr. Askarov and theother defendants had pleaded not guilty during the trial. Mr. Askarov’s lawyer,Mr. Nurbek Toktakunov, asked for a medical examination, which was denied.According to family members of the suspects and human rights organisations, allof them were subjected to acts of torture and ill-treatment by prison guards incustody and presented visible physical injuries.

On November 10, 2010, the Court of Appeal upheld thelife sentence of Mr. Azimjan Askarov following a trial marred byirregularities. At that time, the health of Mr. Askarov had alreadyseverely deteriorated.

On January 26, 2011, the defence lawyers requested theSupreme Court to examine and include new evidence in the criminal case,including a testimony made by Ms. Aziza Abdirasulova, Director of the humanrights organisation Kylym Shamy, that showed that, in May 2010,Mr. Azimjan Askarov had warned the authorities that acts of violence werebeing prepared in Bazar Korgon. According to Mr. Azimjan Askarov’s lawyerNurbek Toktakunov, this warning might have triggered the fabrication of thiscase. In addition, defence lawyer Kairat Zagibaev provided evidence showingthat Mr. Askarov was not present at the scene where the incidents tookplace. The Supreme Court accepted the new evidence. On February 8, 2011, thesame Court decided to open an investigation into the conditions of detention inKyrgyzstan, especially in provisional detention centres, and to suspend sinedie the trial against Mr. Askarov. This decision was taken following apetition made by Mr. Nurbek Toktakunov, lawyer of Mr. Askarov, on theappalling conditions of detention of his client and other prisoners in thetemporary detention facilities of Bazar Korgon, which have hampered thepreparation of the defence.

In October 2011, Mr. Askarov’s defence teamconducted a private investigation and gathered evidence pointing to theinnocence of the latter and reporting use of torture and inhuman treatmentagainst him.

On December 20, 2011, the Supreme Court upheld thesentence to life imprisonment. After years of pressure, in May 2013, a newinvestigation was ordered by the Vice Prosecutor General of the KyrgyzstanRepublic, but was closed nine months later for lack of legal basis.

On September 3, 2014, the Supreme Court reversed theBishkek District Court decision of April 30, 2014 which was in favour of are-opening Mr. Askarov’s case. The hearing was marked by acts ofintimidation against Mr. Askarov. It is reported that several unidentifiedindividuals stopped the hearing and brought the convict outside of thecourtroom to talk privately.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) ruled in March 2016that Azimjan Askarov was arbitrarily detained, held in inhumane conditions,tortured and otherwise ill-treated without redress, and was not given a fairtrial. The ruling noted that Kyrgyzstan “violated the author’s rights underarticle 14 (3) (e) of the Covenant [International Covenant on Civil andPolitical Rights].” The UNHRC urgedKyrgyzstan to immediately release Mr. Azimjan Askarov[2].

The EuropeanUnion (EU) has called on Kyrgyzstan to “fully implement” the Committee’s rulingin an April 2016 statement[3].

On January 24,2017, the Chuy Regional Court of Kyrgyzstan confirmed the life sentence againstMr. Azimjan Askarov following a retrial marked by bias and proceduralirregularities, including court refusal to hear some defence witnesses,inaction towards threats and violent behavior of deceased police officer'swife, restrictions to access to the courtroom, failure to investigate credibleallegations of torture and ignoring acts of pressure and intimidation targetingdefence witnesses and lawyers.

More recently, inJanuary 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution[4] on the European Union-Kyrgyzstancomprehensive agreement calling for Azimjan Askarov’s immediate release andfull rehabilitation, and for Kyrgyzstan to quash his conviction and provide himwith reparation.

On March 18,2019, Mr. Askarov was transferred from temporary detention facility SIZO-1 inBishkek, where he was held in solitary confinement in a small cell measuringapproximately 1.15m x 3.5m with a bed made from concrete, an open toilet and nonatural light, to Prison Colony No. 19, located about an hour outside Bishkek,in the Chuy region.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities ofKyrgyzstan, urging them to:

i. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. AzimjanAskarov as his detention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at punishinghim for his human rights activities and in addition, it severely contributes tothe deterioration of his medical condition;

ii. Provide Mr. Azimjan Askarov with adequatecompensation in accordance with the decision of the UNHRC;

iii. Undertake aprompt, impartial and thorough investigation into the claims of torture,otherwise, ill-treatment of Mr. Azimjan Askarov with a view to publishing theresults and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance withinternational standards;

iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including atthe judicial level, against Mr. Azimjan Askarov and all human rights defendersin Kyrgyzstan;

v. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration onHuman Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nationson December 9, 1998, especially Articles 1 and 12.2; and

vi. More generally, ensure respect for human rightsand fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rightsstandards and international instruments ratified by Kyrgyzstan.

Addresses:

· Mr. Sooronbay Jeenbekov, President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Chuy Ave,205, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Tel: +996 31263 91 17, Fax: + 996312626191

· Mr. Kashkar Junushaliev, Minister of Internal Affairs, Frunze st. 469,Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Tel: +(996 312) 26 60 54, Fax: + 996312682044 / +996312623853, email: secretariat@mvd.kg

· Mr. Marat Dzamankulov, Minister of Justice, 32 M. Gandi Str., 720010Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Tel: +996 (312) 656490, Fax: +996 (312) 656502, email: jm.26@mail.ru

· Ms. Otkurbek Dzhamshitov, General Prosecutor Office, 39 Erkindik Avenue,720040 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan,Tel: +996 (312) 663373, Fax: +996 (312) 661734

· Permanent Mission of Kyrgyzstan to the United Nations in Geneva, AvenueBlanc 51 (3rd Floor) 1202 Geneva, Tel: +41 22 707 92 20, Email:kyrgyzmission@bluewin.ch, Fax: +41 22 707.92.21

· Embassy of Kyrgyzstan in Brussels, Abdijstraat 47 1050 Brussels,Belgium, Tel: + 32 2 640 18 68 / + 32 2 640 38 83, Fax: + 32 2 640 01 31,Email: aitmatov@infonie.be

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Kyrgyzstan in yourrespective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva,July 25, 2019

Kindly inform us of any action undertakenquoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) wascreated in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). Theobjective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations ofrepression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu,the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented byinternational civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call theemergency line:

· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

· Tel and fax FIDH + 33(0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

[1] According to his lawyers, “Askarov has lost weight, he iscoughing all the time. He has a dry cough, and at times, he is unable to catchhis breath. Ar. Askarov complained that his legs aere very cold, and nothing helps –not socks, shoes, or heating. He has stopped drinking fluids to lessen thenumber of times he must use the toilet.”

[2] See : https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=19853&LangID=E

[3] See : https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_my/2869/Statement%20by%20the%20Spokesperson%20on%20Azimjon%20Askarov

[4] See : https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjVi-f_5sjjAhVBLBoKHfs8BnoQFjAAegQIAhAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.europarl.europa.eu%2Fdoceo%2Fdocument%2FTA-8-2019-0004_EN.docx&usg=AOvVaw0O_xzTHAzClBMm7aFmr4BP

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