Azimjan Askarov Case: Kyrgyzstan should uphold, not undermine the international human rights framework

Press release

Paris-Geneva, April 29, 2016 - The Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan should order the provisional release of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov, pending the review of his case following the UN Human Rights Committee’s request to release him and quash his life-sentence conviction. The authorities of Kyrgyzstan should abide by their international human rights commitments and the provisions of the Constitution that guarantee compliance of Kyrgyzstan with international human rights bodies’ decisions, says the Observatory (FIDH-OMCT).

On April 27, 2016, human rights defender Azimjan Askarov, who serves a life sentence in Colony No. 47 in Bishkek, filed an appeal to review his conviction after the UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR) concluded that Kyrgyzstan must immediately release him.

On April 25, 2016, the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan declared that the UN decision created grounds, under Article 41 of the Constitution, for Askarov to lodge a new appeal. Article 41.2 provides that Everyone shall have the right to apply in accordance with international treaties to international human rights bodies seeking protection of violated rights and freedoms. In the event that these bodies confirm the violation of human rights and freedoms, the Kyrgyz Republic shall take measures to their restoration and/or compensation of damage.

Worryingly, in the past days, several officials and public figures, including Mr. Tabaldiev, Advisor to the President and former Chairman of the State Committee on National Security, have called for a revision of Article 41 of the Constitution. Mr. Tabaldiev portrayed the UN CCPR’s decision as a threat to national security and foreign interference into national affairs.

"As a member of the UN Human Rights Council since January 2016, Kyrgyzstan should demonstrate its genuine commitment towards the promotion and protection of human rights at home by conforming to UN conclusions, recommendations and decision."

FIDH President Karim Lahidji


The Observatory recalls that founder of the human rights organisation “Vozduh” (Air) Azimjan Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010 after mass disturbances in southern Kyrgyzstan. Prior to his arrest, he documented police brutality and prison conditions. During the June 2010 ethnic clashes, he was documenting violence in the southern city of Bazar Kurgan. Mr. Askarov also worked with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on monitoring human rights in places of detention in southern Kyrgyzstan.

"The legal obligation to release Azimjan Askarov is clear and Kyrgyz law recognises international standards as part of domestic law. It is now for the Supreme Court to choose on which side it wants to come down in the history books. On the side of repression, or as part of system of justice and the rule of law."

Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General


"The world knows that Azimjan Askarov is not a criminal. But a highly respected defender who worked to prevent torture, and won several human rights prizes for his work. It is time to bring his persecution to an end."


On April 21, 2016, the UN CCPR confirmed that Azimjan Askarov was tortured, subject to inhuman conditions while in pre-trial detention and that his trial did not respect minimum international fair trial standards. The Committee urged Kyrgyzstan to immediately release Azimjan Askarov and quash his conviction based on evidence that his lawyer was obstructed from participating in the judicial process, including prevention of witness participation, obstacles posed on A. Askarov’s lawyer from attending the first hearing, and little time allocated for the preparation of A. Askarov’s defense.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders.

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