Kyrgyzstan: Prominent women human rights defenders at risk following their participation in OSCE meeting

Press release
Tolekan Ismailova and Aziza Abdirasulova during a hearing at the Pervomaysk region court of Bishkek with their lawyer Valerian Vakhitov (15 June 2016)

Paris-Geneva, September 26, 2016 - The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT partnership) strongly condemns the verbal attacks and acts of harassment by the Kyrgyz authorities against Tolekan Ismailova and Aziza Abdirasulova in reprisal to their participation in the 2016 OSCE HDIM, and calls upon diplomatic missions and the OSCE to provide them with all necessary protection.

Human rights defenders Tolekan Ismailova and Aziza Abdirasulova are both heads of FIDH member organisations in Kyrgyzstan, Bir Duino and Kylym Shamy. They have recently been the subject to virulent verbal attacks and threats by Kyrgyz Members of Parliament (MPs), law enforcement agents and State-owned on-line media following their participation in the 2016 Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), which is taking place from September 19 to 30, 2016, in Warsaw (Poland).

On September 20, 2016, Ms. Tolekan Ismailova made a speech in Warsaw, focusing on the rights of Kyrgyz women migrants and their children, during the working session of the annual OSCE/HDIM conference, titled “The International Covenants on Human Rights and their importance for OSCE Human Dimension”. As she was delivering her speech, she found herself sitting by coincidence next to a Kyrgyz ethnic Uzbek political activist sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia for his alleged role in the ethnic conflict that took place in 2010 and who now resides in Sweden as a political refugee.

Shortly after Ms. Ismailova’ speech, a photo of her sitting next to the individual was published on the Internet, and sparked virulent reactions on the part of Kyrgyz MPs and law enforcement agents. Ms. Aziza Abdirasulova was also captured on the picture as she was entering the plenary hall, and was also subject to similar threats.

On September 22, 2016, a representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kyrgyzstan who attended a Parliamentary Committee on International Affairs Defence and Security publicly stated that the Ministry had received a negative reply from Interpol to its request to search for the above-mentioned individual, on the grounds that Interpol would not search persons prosecuted on politically motivated charges. During the same session, some MPs called for the opening of a criminal case against Ms. Ismailova, after which the press office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs confirmed that ”operational work” had been opened to hold “Kyrgyz citizens” accountable[1]. Through social networks, a number of Internet users also promised to “welcome” “the traitors” upon their return to the country.

The Observatory fears for the physical integrity of the two human rights defenders, and urges diplomatic missions and the OSCE office in Bishkek to condemn the threats uttered against Ms. Tolekan Ismaikova and Ms. Aziza Abdirasulova, and provide them with all necessary protection, in line with the European Union and OSCE Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.

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 program is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

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