Kyrgyzstan: Arrest and judicial harassment of three anti-war protesters and their lawyer

25/03/2022
Urgent Appeal
Bir Dunio

KGZ 002 / 0322 / OBS 023
Judicial harassment /
Arbitrary arrest /
Release
Kyrgyzstan
March 25, 2022

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Kyrgyzstan.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary arrest, subsequent release and ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Aziza Abdirasulova, founder of Kylym Shamy [1], member organisation of FIDH in Kyrgyzstan; Ms. Dinara Oshurakhunova, an election and electoral campaigns monitor, member of the international parliamentary monitoring network in Bishkek, and head of the “Civic initiatives” NGO; and Mr. Ondurush Toktonasyrov a human rights defender who is engaged in the defence of the citizens’ right to freedom of assembly, in relation to their participation in a peaceful protest against the ongoing war in Ukraine; as well as Mr. Nurbek Toktakunov, the lawyer of the three human rights defenders.

On March 17, 2022, officers of the Pervomaisky District Police Department in Bishkek arbitrarily arrested Aziza Abdirasulova, Dinara Oshurakhunova and Ondurush Toktonasyrov, when they were peacefully protesting against the war in Ukraine in front of the Russian Embassy in Bishkek. The three human rights defenders were carrying Ukrainian flags, and Dinara Oshurakhunova was holding a banner on which it was written: "Sogushtu toktot!" ("Stop the war").

After around one hour of peaceful action, 17 police officers of the Pervomaisky District Police Department arrived at the embassy and claimed that it was prohibited to rally in the area. On March 11, 2022, the Pervomaisky District Police Department had banned NGOs and citizens from rallying in several locations in Bishkek from March 11 to April 11, 2022, including in the areas adjacent to the Russian Embassy, as well as buildings of the Kyrgyz Parliament (Jogorku Kenesh) and government. According to the decision, all rallies should be held on Maksim Gorky Square in Bishkek. The police ban was confirmed in a ruling by the Pervomaisky District Court of Bishkek on March 14, 2022.

Police officials took Aziza Abdirasulova, Dinara Oshurakhunova and Ondurush Toktonasyrov to the Pervomaisky District Police Department in Bishkek, where the three defenders were held for about two hours. By this time, lawyer Agzam Duyshenaliev arrived at the police department to find out that police officials drafted no protocols of detention nor did they present any charges against the detainees. Therefore, Mr. Duyshenaliev attempted to leave the police department with the three defenders, but one of the officials present in the room closed the door preventing them from leaving. Until around 5 p.m., police officials filled out detention protocols under made up charges of "disobedience to law enforcement" (Article 128 of the Code of the Kyrgyz Republic on Offenses) and "petty hooliganism” (Article 126 of the same Code), and reported that the detainees used foul language and urinated in the street.

On the same day, police officials took the defenders to the Pervomaisky District Court of Bishkek, which, after considering their case in a closed trial, rescheduled the hearing of Dinara Oshirakhunova to March 18, 2022 and those of Aziza Abdirasulova and Ondurush Toktonasyrov to March 22, 2022, and released them pending trial.

On March 18, 2022, the Pervomaisky District Court of Bishkek considered the case of Dinara Oshurakhunova under the charge of "petty hooliganism". The court announced its decision to terminate the case for lack of corpus delicti, noting that the court ruling could be appealed within ten days. On March 22, 2022, Dinara Oshurakhunova appeared again before the court and was sentenced to a fine of 3,000 soms (approximately 27 Euros) under the charge of "disobedience to law enforcement".

On March 22, 2022, the Pervomaisky District Court of Bishkek also sentenced Ondurush Toktonasyrov to a fine of 3,000 soms (approximately 27 Euros) under the charge of "disobedience to law enforcement". The judge justified his decision by the fact that the human rights defenders were holding an action in the wrong place. Earlier the same day, the court dismissed the case against him under the charge of "petty hooliganism" for lack of corpus delicti.

On the same day, the Pervomaisky District Court of Bishkek considered the case of Aziza Abdirasulova under the charge of “petty hooliganism" and acquitted her for lack of corpus delicti. On March 24, 2022, Ms. Abdirasulova appeared again before the Pervomaisky District Court of Bishkek and was sentenced to a fine of 3,000 soms (approximately 27 Euros) under the charge of "disobedience to law enforcement".

Aziza Abdirasulova, Dinara Oshurakhunova and Ondurush Toktonasyrov are planning to appeal their sentences.

On March 24, 2022, Nurbek Toktakunov was in turn sentenced to five days in prison by the Pervomaisky District Court of Bishkek for “petty hooliganism”. The police accused him of allegedly insulting all judges in the country after denouncing the decision made by the court to ban rallies in front of the embassy as illegal and unconstitutional. Mr. Toktakunov appealed this decision and remains free during the proceedings.

The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of Aziza Abdirasulova, Dinara Oshurakhunova, Ondurush Toktonasyrov and Nurbek Toktakunov, which seems to be only aimed at silencing and punishing them for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The restriction on the right to freedom of assembly, namely the Bishkek police decision to ban civil society protests in key hotspots for assemblies in the capital from March 11 to April 11, 2022, is a vicious violation of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, specifically Article 39, which guarantees the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, as well as Kyrgyzstan’s international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The Observatory urges the Kyrgyz authorities to put an immediate end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against the four human rights defenders, and to remove restrictions on the legitimate exercise of Bishkek citizens’ rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. The Observatory further urges the Kyrgyz authorities to repeal the law on non-governmental organisations adopted in July 2021, which undermines freedom of association in the country and is contrary to the State’s domestic and international obligations.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Kyrgyzstan asking them to:

i. guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and the psychological well-being of Aziza Abdirasulova, Dinara Oshurakhunova, Ondurush Toktonasyrov and Nurbek Toktakunov, all the members of Kylym Shamy, and all other human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan;

ii. put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Aziza Abdirasulova, Dinara Oshurakhunova, Ondurush Toktonasyrov and Nurbek Toktakunov, and all human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan;

iii. guarantee, in all circumstances, the rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly as enshrined in Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, respectively;

iv. ensure that human rights defenders and human rights organisations are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

v. repeal the law on non-governmental organisations adopted in July 2021 as it undermines the right to freedom of association in the country and is contrary to Kyrgyzstan’s domestic and international obligations.

Addresses:

· Mr. Ulan Niyazbekov, Minister of Internal Affairs, Kyrgyzstan, Email: secretariat@mvd.kg;
· Mr. Ayaz Bayetov, Minister of Justice, Kyrgyzstan, Email: ep@minjust.gov.kg;
· Permanent Mission of Kyrgyzstan to the United Nations in Geneva, Email: kyrgyzmission@bluewin.ch;
· Embassy of Kyrgyzstan in Brussels, Abdijstraat 47 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Email: kgembassy.be@mfa.gov.kg;
· Mr. Albert Kolopov, Kyrgyz Republic Akyikatchy (Ombudsman), Email: ombudsman@inbox.ru;
· Mr. Eduard Auer, Head of EU Delegation to the Kyrgyz Republic, eduard.auer@eeas.europa.eu ;
· Human Rights Focal Point, Liaison Officer for human rights defenders of the EU Delegation to the Kyrgyz Republic, Email: delegation-kyrgyzstan-human-rights-defenders@eeas.europa.eu ;
· Mrs. Charlotte Adriaen, Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to the Kyrgyz Republic, Email: charlotte.adriaen@eeas.europa.eu.

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Kyrgyzstan in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, March 25, 2022

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

The 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 intervene 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.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
Tel OMCT: + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39

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