KYRGYZSTAN: Insults to the honour and dignity of leading human rights defenders go unpunished

22/06/2016
Press release

Paris-Geneva, June 22, 2016 - On June 15, 2016, the lawsuit brought against the President of Kyrgyzstan for his slanderous statements against two leading Kyrgyz human rights activists, Tolekan Ismailova and Aziza Abdirasulova, was dismissed by the Pervomaysk region court of Bishkek. Throughout the trial, a number of violations of fair trial standards and equality of arms principle were reported. Both defenders intend to appeal the decision.

On June 15, 2016, the Pervomaysk region court of Bishkek dismissed the lawsuit brought by Ms. Tolekan Ismailova, President of Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan, and Ms. Aziza Abdirasulova, President of Kylym Shamy, against the Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, in relation to a public speech he gave on May 14, 2016, in which he mentioned their names next to those of alleged organisers of a political upheaval, promising to ruthlessly suppress any attempts to destabilise the country. Moreover, in his speech, the President resorted to the “foreign agents” terminology, presenting Ms. Ismailova and Ms. Abdirasulova as NGOs “faithfully serving their financial donors”.

This decision of the Pervomaysk region court was issued after the President’s legal representative highlighted in court that both human rights defenders had misinterpreted the words of Mr. Atambayev, adding that the latter’s comments had been formulated in a positive spirit through the word “faithfully” and that the words "serving financial donors" merely meant a praise for a well done job.

We are concerned about the arguments presented by the legal representative of the Kyrgyz President. Suggesting that these human rights defenders act as “foreign agents” sends a very negative signal to the whole civil society in Kyrgyzstan and fuels an atmosphere of impunity. It further shrinks the space, rather than widening it”, regretted FIDH Honorary President Souhayr Belhassen.

Trial of Tolekan Ismailova, President of Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan and FIDH Vice-President, and Aziza Abdirasulova, President of Kylym Shamy, against the Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev


We are all the more concerned that the decision of the Pervomaysk region court of Bishkek was issued after a series of violations of fair trial standards and equality of arms principles were reported”, said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock. “We hope that international standards will be respected in appeal”, he added.

The Observatory was indeed informed of a series of irregularities within the framework of this trial: firstly, the court refused to add to the case file certain documents which were aiming at strengthening the arguments of the plaintiffs; secondly, several motions tabled by the plaintiffs, including those summoning the President himself to the trial, requesting video recording of the hearings, and requesting the removal of the judge from the case for lack of impartiality (after the latter took stance in favour of the President’s representative on several occasions) were all rejected. It is also important to emphasise that while an expert analysis requested by Ms. Ismailova to detect the presence of elements of hatred in the President’s speech was added to the case file, the court did not refer to its findings when issuing its judgement. The expert analysis stated that negative parallels, disproportionate comparisons and generalisations referring to the plaintiffs’ belonging to groups aiming to destabilise the country as part of the alleged organisation of a coup d’état contributed to give a negative perception of the two human rights defenders towards the Kyrgyz public opinion.

The Observatory recalls that the first trial hearing took place on June 8, 2016 and was observed by an Observatory delegation headed by FIDH Honorary President Souhayr Belhassen to present the Observatory latest report on Kyrgyzstan.

The Observatory also deplores the continuation of slanderous statements in a number of pro-government Kyrgyz media, accusing Ms. Ismailova and Ms. Abdirasulova of anti-patriotic acts, such as “advocating against the “Foreign Agents Bill”, supporting the LGBTI community, opposing the “Bill on the promotion of non traditional sexual relationships" and defending those accused of terrorism and extremism”. The Observatory recalls that similar statements had been made last week against the Observatory mission delegates and personally against Ms. Souhayr Belhassen, 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 Observatory calls upon the Kyrgyz authorities to comply with fair trial standards and equality of arms principles in the upcoming appeal trial opposing Ms. Ismailova and Ms. Abdirasulova to the President of Kyrgyzstan, and to put an end to all acts of harassment against them and all human rights defenders in the country so they are able to carry out their work without hindrances.

The Observatory more generally urges the Kyrgyz authorities to comply with the recommendations outlined in the report published on June 8, 2016 and available at:

- https://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/kyrgyzstanobsang2016web.pdf
- http://www.omct.org/files/2016/06/23793/kyrgyzstan_mission_report_2016_english.pdf

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.

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