Kyrgyzstan’s UPR: A Missed Opportunity to Address the Country’s Human Rights Record

Press release

The review of Kyrgyzstan’s human rights record by the United Nations, which took place today in the framework of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), largely failed to address key issues, challenges and patterns of human rights violations in the country.

Given the international community’s lack of attention to the situation in the country in other fora, the UPR of Kyrgyzstan is a missed opportunity, said FIDH and Bir Duino today.

After the Kyrgyz government delegation presented the country as a haven of peace, stability and human rights in the region, most UN member states failed to raise concerns and adequately highlight patterns of violations, including intimidation, harassment and threats against human rights defenders and civil society organizations, restrictions to freedom of expression, accountability for the June 2010 inter-ethnic violence, and violations of the rights of migrant workers and of children.

UN member states should be more vocal in raising issues of concern with the Kyrgyz authorities, said Tolekan Ismailova, leader of the Human Rights Movement “Bir Duino” and FIDH Vice-President. Kyrgyzstan should now accept all UPR recommendations that are based on its international and constitutional obligations, and implement them. Meaningful recommendations should become a basis for legal and policy reform, she added.

It is particularly disappointing that the case of Azimjan Askarov, Director of the human rights organisation “Vozdukh” (Air) and a prominent human rights defender who, following an unfair trial, was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of organizing mass disturbances and causing the death of a policeman during the 2010 riots in South Kyrgyzstan, was left completely unadressed.

Several states did make substantial recommendations, and raised concerns about accountability for the 2010 violence and draft laws that could severely restrict freedoms of association and expression in the country – namely the bill on “foreign agents”, which draws inspiration from a drastic Russian legislation on the matter, draft legislative amendments to the law on non-profit organizations, which would establish a set of harsh restrictions, and the bill on “homosexual propaganda”, which would impose administrative and criminal penalties on anyone expressing “a positive attitude” towards “non-traditional sexual relations”.

FIDH and Bir Duino remain gravely concerned over these legislative initiatives. We urge the Kyrgyz Parliament not to adopt them and the Kyrgyz authorities to ensure that any future legislation is in line with international standards. We also reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of Azimjan Askarov, since his detention is arbitrary and only aims at sanctioning his human rights activities.

For countries that receive little attention at the international level, such as Kyrgyzstan, the UPR is a key moment. Unfortunately, the opportunity to adequately address the country’s human rights record was by and large missed today, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. We will continue to engage with the Kyrgyz authorities on the basis of their existing international obligations, including to protect human rights defenders, he added.

Kyrgyzstan was first reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council’s UPR in 2010. Its second review took place today in Geneva. Kyrgyzstan’s replies to recommendations that were made to it are due by the 29th session of the Human Rights Council (June 2015). The UPR is the only universal, regular mechanism for reviewing UN member states’ human rights record. All UN member states are reviewed every four-and-a-half years through an interactive dialogue with the Human Rights Council, during which they receive recommendations – which they can accept or reject.

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