Kyrgyzstan at a Crossroads: the authorities must widen the scene for human rights defenders

Press release

(Geneva, Paris) As a trial is due to resume tomorrow against the President of Kyrgyzstan for his slanderous statements against two leading Kyrgyz human rights activists, the Observatory (joint FIDH-OMCT partnership) publishes today the main concerns of an international mission conducted last week in partnership and solidarity with FIDH member organisations, Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan and Kylym Shamy. The international mission aimed to present an Observatory report titled “Kyrgyzstan at a Crossroads: Shrink or Widen the Scene for Human Rights Defenders” to the authorities and the media.

The Observatory delegation met with the First Vice Minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, the Deputy Prosecutor General, the Deputy Ombudsman, a member of Parliament, as well as the OSCE Office Representative, the OHCHR Representative, the Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation, and representatives from the United States, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Sweden embassies. Besides, a seminar on the situation of human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan and other countries in the post-Soviet area was organised, with the participation of more than 50 defenders from different regions of Kyrgyzstan, as well as regional experts and human rights defenders from Kazakhstan and Russia. The mission was composed of Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH Honorary President (Tunisia), Ales Bialiatski, FIDH Vice President and Human Rights Centre “Viasna” President (Belarus), and Alexandra Poméon, Observatory Director at FIDH (France).

The delegation concluded that while the Foreign Agent Bill has been rejected thanks to the important mobilisation of the Kyrgyz civil society and of the international community, the environment for human rights defenders remains deleterious. The mission could witness a general context of demonisation of NGOs, regularly accused of "receiving foreign funding", "LGBTI propaganda", "foreign interference", or "attempt to destabilise the country". During a public speech on May 14, 2016, the President of Kyrgyzstan, Mr. Almazbek Atambayev, resorted to the "foreign agent" terminology to smear Ms. Tolekan Ismailova, President of Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan, and Ms. Aziza Abdirasulova, President of Kylym Shamy. The two NGO Heads subsequently filed a complaint against the Kyrgyz President for "insulting their honour and dignity". Last week, the Observatory delegation observed the opening of the trial before the Pervomaysk region court of Bishkek on June 8. The next hearing is scheduled for June 15, 2016.

The Observatory firmly deplores the slanderous statements made last week in a number of pro-government Kyrgyz media against its delegates, accusing them, inter alia, of “meddling in the internal affairs of Kyrgyzstan” and “destabilising the country” in relation with the mission’s human rights and solidarity activities. The delegation also regrets that it was again denied the right to visit human rights defender Azimjan Askarov in jail, as it was already the case during a previous Observatory mission in September 2015 in spite of duly-filed requests with the competent authorities.

At the legislative level, the delegation fears that restrictive legislative initiatives might be adopted in Parliament. In particular the Bill on the “promotion of non traditional sexual relationships", which was already voted in second reading, is still on Parliament’s. The delegation was also alerted on the pressure and risks of prosecution faced by journalists and the media, due to the control of media outlets by State officials (TV, radio, Web, newspapers), and to the lack of independence and plurality of journalists.

The delegation made a number of recommendations to the Kyrgyz authorities which can be found in the report published last week and available at:

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.

For more information, please contact:
· FIDH: Audrey Couprie: + 33143552518
· OMCT: Delphine Reculeau / Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui: +41 22 809 49 39

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