EU-KYRGYZ REPUBLIC COOPERATION : Human rights violations must not be under-evaluated

Press release

The Sixth meeting of the Cooperation Council between the European Union and the Kyrgyz Republic, which took place in Brussels on July 13 2004, was a first meeting of this level between the EU and this country since the EU enlarged to 25 member States on 1 May 2004. It came five years after entry into force, on July 1 1999, of the EU-Kyrgyz Republic Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) and marked the halfway point in the initial 10 year period of the PCA.

In its Joint Communiqué dated July 13 2004, the EU welcomed measures of the Kyrgyz Government to further democratisation.

The Kyrgyz Government, in the same Joint Communiqué, expressed its hope that EU enlargement would considerably increase trade relations with the EU and the level of the investment from EU member States.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) demand the Cooperation Council, while examining key aspects of future cooperation between the EU and the Kyrgyz republic, not to silence massive and recurrent Human rights violations nor to overestimate the level of democratisation of the Kyrgyz Republic.

"Human Rights defenders suffer harassment, the freedoms of the press, of assembly and of association are permanently violated" said Sidiki KABA, President of the FIDH, " the EU should publicly condemn these practices within their bilateral meetings", he added, referring to the human rights clause, which is a part of the bilateral agreement.

During the previous Cooperation Council, the EU had affirmed, that despite a relatively liberal political climate in Kyrgyzstan, it felt concerned about the difficult relations between the government and the opposition and the civil society.

The FIDH underlines that the situation of Human Rights in Kyrgyzstan shows no improvement, especially concerning systematic pressure on the civil society (human rights defenders, media, opposition members). This situation may seriously question the possibility of free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections in 2005. The FIDH calls the EU to act with the greatest firmness towards Kyrgyz authorities in regard of the respect of human rights and not to build economical and political cooperation on the basis of permanent violations of rights and freedoms in this country.

Background on the Human Rights violations in Kyrgyzstan.

Freedoms of assembly and association

On March 5 2004 a bill on community organisations and associations was proposed by the Kyrgyz Government for consideration by the Kyrgyz Parliament. Community associations, which unite people belonging to local small communities and work on the basis of self-management, exist in many parts of the country. They are usually not officially registered but work often very efficiently. The definition and the status of those community organisations as proposed in the bill can be seen as a matter of concern. Indeed, it creates certain ambiguity and confusion in comparison with already existing status of non-commercial associations as defined in the Kyrgyz Constitution and the law On non-commercial associations.

Moreover, according to the bill, the community associations should be controlled by the local authorities (art. 11), which contradicts the independence of the associations guaranteed by the Kyrgyz Constitution and international documents signed by the Kyrgyz republic.

Furthermore, a number of independent associations regularly face difficulties in their work. Public Fund Civil Society Against Corruption (CSAC) met different major obstacles within their programme for awareness of citizens’ rights. A CSAC public forum, which was due to take place on April 8, 2004, in Bakonbaevo, with the participation of local human rights organisation Shoola-Kol, was forced to cancellation, due to pressure received from law enforcement bodies.

During their campaign in some Kyrgyz villages in mid-April 2004, the CSAC members, Tolekan Ismailova, Timur Dulatov and Diana Markanbaeva, were followed all the way long by cars. One of the men in the car presented himself as a member of law enforcement bodies. CSAC members were threatened and insulted by both some inhabitants and militiamen.

They finally had to abridge their journey because of the pressure they suffered. According to the information received, officials persuade inhabitants not to cooperate with human rights defenders, threatening to provide no longer the villages with tractors or gasoline.

In February 2004, Baktygul Imankodjoevas, a CSAC local partner in Barskaun village, was fired for the second time in two years from her work at hospital, due to her activities as human rights defender. Baktygul Imankodjoevas and her sister, Erkingul, who is the leader of human rights NGO Karek, are both regularly summoned to National Security Service.

The FIDH reminds that the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (KCHR) still suffers today from permanent pressure. The KCHR’s chairman R. Dyryldaev had to leave the country, on May 26, 2003, because of constant harassment. On July 3 2004, the unknown men attacked the daughter of R. Dyryldaev, Ainura Aitbaeva, at her home in Bishkek where she stayed with her two children, 7 and 3 years old. The attackers bet Aitbaeva up till she fainted. Nothing was stolen from the house. Aitbaeva was not working since the persecutions against her father began, because nobody would take her to work. This attack might be also connected to the human rights activities of her father, who now lives in exile.

The article 16 - 14 of the Kyrgyz Constitution, which provides the right to assemble peacefully and without weapons, to free meetings and demonstrations, was modified by the February 2, 2003 referendum. Gatherings are now subject to a prior notification of authorities. However, in practice, authorities tend to interpret this obligation as a demand of authorisation, which lead to repeated refusals. For instance, on March 17, 2004, the State administration of Aksy region refused to issue permission to organise meetings in honour of Aksy events. On March 17, 2002, during the violent repression of a peaceful demonstration organised in Aksy, in support for the release of MP Beknazarov, six civilians died from bullets, fired by militiamen. 28 others were wounded and more than 100 became were subjects to torture. And to date, nobody has been facing criminal responsibility for that tragedy.

On April 15, 2004, a peaceful march was organised in support of Felix Kulov, the leader of the main opposition party Ar-Namys. F. Kulov is serving a ten-year sentence in prison, accused of abuse of power and treason resulting from an unfair trial [1]. During the demonstration, members of militia from Peromaiskyi Rayon Department of Internal Affairs arrested eighteen people. Among them Tolekan Ismailova, leader of Public Union Civil Society Against Corruption; Doolot Nusupov, representative of Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights; Emil Aliev, member of Ar-Namys party and Aziza Abdirasulova, leader of human rights organisation Kylym Shamy. All eighteen people were released that same day. Some of them were fined for organisation of public action not authorised by authorities. According to the information received, Aziza Abdirasulova was ill treated and beaten by militiamen during her detention. (See the Open Letter of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture and the FIDH, to Mr. Nikolai Tanaev, Prime Minister of Kyrgyz Republic, on April 28, 2004)

On April 19, 2004, the Pervomay regional court has considered the case of another human rights defender, Tursunbek Akun. He was, first, arrested and fined after the April 15 unsuccessful march. And further arrested while participating to a meeting organised by several victims of Renton Group (a commercial firm that bankrupted, leaving moneyless its shareholders). Militiamen presented him the charges based on articles 392 (disturbing public order by organising gatherings, meetings, demonstrations and protest marches), 364 (violation of public order and tranquillity of the citizens) and 371 (disobedience to public authorities) of the administrative code. The accusations of the militiamen, that Tursunbek Akun offended them and resisted them, were not proved on the video filmed by the police itself. Aziza Abdrasulova, Tursunbek Akun’s lawyer, declared "We can conclude from this that Tursunbek Akun is being persecuted."

This case may question the independence of the judicial branch toward executive branch of power, regarding to the unwillingness of the authorities to issue fair verdict on the case of F. Kulov and Aksy tragedy.

Freedom of the press

According to the information received by the KCHR, member-organisation of the FIDH, the environment of State hostility toward independent media is also of great concern. On March 17, 2004, the independent company Pyramid stopped its broadcasting. It faced technical problems, which were solved within a few days; however, the representatives of telecommunication authorities didn’t allow Pyramid to restore broadcasting on meter diapason. On March 10, 2004, Pyramid held a program dedicated to the fifth anniversary of its debate show Our Time. The topic was Which freedom do we need? Political actors, opposition representatives and independent journalists did participate to the show. Pyramid is one of the only independent media in Kyrgyzstan, and in the framework of presidential election of 2005, its closure is very preoccupying, leaving no room for the opposition to be heard in the media.

On March 30, the State commission on radio frequencies rejected the request of Osh TV to extend the term of permission to broadcast from meter diapason without any motivated reasons.

On April 24, four unidentified men attacked Chingiz Sydykov, the 21-year-old son of Zamira Sydykova, chief-editor of the independent newspaper Respublica. She was hospitalised with serious injuries. Ms. Sydykova believes that this assault was in retaliation for the recent series of four articles, published in Respublica, criticising the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kyrgyzstan. It is to note that for more than a decade the government’s campaign to silence Respublica has focused on Zamira Sydykova. In 1995, Ms. Sydykova was charged with slander, after publishing information about President Akaev’s foreign bank account. Then, in 1997, she was convicted and sent to a labour camp after reporting on corruption in a government gold-mining company. She was released after serving one month and was banned from working in journalism for 18 months.

The FIDH wishes to recall that during the precedent EU-Kyrgyzstan Cooperation Council (on July 22, 2003), the EU expressed its preoccupation with occasional pressures, judicial and otherwise, on mass media outlets and journalists. FIDH underlines that those preoccupations remain concerning as no improvement can be observed.

Police violence

The FIDH also expresses its concern over the excessive use of force by police and law officials and over the attacks on physical and psychological integrity of Kyrgyz people.

On June 5 2004 a group of unknown men in camouflage, all in masques and armed, attacked the house of Mirlan Murataliev, an entrepreneur, in Novopokrovka IssykAta region. They presented themselves as a criminal investigation, put everybody face down, including children, and searched the house. They took away gold jewellery and money. One of the members of the family was taken as a hostage by the attackers who later demanded 1 000 US dollars for his liberation. The attackers were later discovered when receiving money from Mirlan Muratariev and happened to be officers of the Kyrgyz National Security Service, members of the elite Alpha Special Forces Department, including a Deputy Head of Alpha Department. According to the information received, none of them was arrested but only degraded.

On March 18, 2004, sixty-two prisoners in the Naryn town’s jail took control of the prison building. The prisoners complained about extremely bad conditions of maintenance, poor food quality, sanitary conditions and the brutality of the guards. The riot began after three guards had beaten-up the prisoner Ilich Asanbekov. Several ring-leaders seized keys from a guard and released all the prisoners from their cells. As a sign of solidarity with Asanbekov eight men slit their wrists. After more than two hours the prison staff alarmed the police, which main task was to prevent a mass escape by the prisoners. After some negotiations a brigade of emergency doctors was called and the local prosecutor promised to initiate a criminal case and punish those responsible for beating Asanbekov. However, so far no criminal inquiry was opened. On March 19, one of the self-injured prisoners, Aidarbek Asrankulov, died in hospital because of loss of blood. This situation shows that the dramatic conclusions drew by the UN Committee against Torture in 1999 concerning allegations of ill treatment and torture in detention in Kygyzstan [2] are still valid.

On March 30, 2004, law enforcement bodies violently evicted by force 64 families from a building attached to a slaughterhouse in Bishkek. Overall, there were 327 people, including 201 children. Amongst those who were evicted, there were six invalids, five children under one year old and three pensioners. One of the evicted people ended up at the hospital due to the beating done by militiamen. These evictions were carried out without notice and without any proper judicial process. Indeed, law enforcement bodies didn’t wait for the term of the trial instituted in that case. Moreover, the inhabitants were not provided with any adequate alternative housing. Those people are now living outside in inhuman conditions. On April 6, Mambetalieva Ayim, a 25-year-old invalid, died from cold. The FIDH recalls that according to official figures, given during a press conference in Bishkek, on May 6, 2004, there are more than seven thousand homeless children in Kyrgyzstan. Several people participated to this conference including Mr Itikeeva, director of centre for the protection of children and Mr Madiarova, director of the centre for children’s social adoption of Bishkek City. However the figures may be below reality.

On March 25, 2004, Uigur trader Ilshat Gabazov was killed in the street of Bishkek by four shots. So far, the investigation lead by the Administration of Internal Affairs gave no result. The Uigur community is a Muslim Chinese minority of the Autonomous Region of Xinjiang Uygur of China. They had to flee harassment in China. A part of the Uigur population settled inKyrgyzstan. However since 2000, Kyrgyzstan works to strengthen its ties with China, and Uigurs have to face a new wave of persecution. Since 2002, the Uigur markets in Bishkek already burned down three times. For instance, the Dordoy’s one burned on mid April 2004, causing heavy loss for more than 500 traders.

Two Uigurs, dwellers of Xuar region, Rahmatulla Ismail and Arken Yakuf, were quickly extradited to China after being arrested on July 3, 2002 and then convicted of the murder of the first secretary of Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan, Van Xiampin, in June 2002. They were both executed, in China, during the course of April 2004.

The FIDH welcomes the positive steps taken by the Kyrgyz authorities concerning the death penalty. It completes the moratorium on executions decided in 1998, fully implemented since then. At the beginning of the year 2004, at the initiative of parliamentarians, the Parliament adopted a new law, which amended three articles of the Kyrgyz Criminal Code. On March 25, President Akaev signed the law approving those amendments.

Indeed, there used to be six crimes warranting the death penalty in the Kyrgyz criminal code. They had now been reduced to three: aggravated murder, rape of underage children and genocide. For the others, death penalty was commuted into life sentence. However, the FIDH calls the Kyrgyz authorities to fully abolish the death penalty and to enshrine this position in the constitution. Indeed, death penalty is still pronounced by courts. For instance, on March 19, the Aksy District court sentenced to death Dayyrbek Bartyrbekov for the murder of a policeman. Moreover, according to the information received, at least 160 people were reported to be on death row in 2002.

Notes :

[1] F. Kulov was first acquitted in August 2000. After the trail the judge in charge of the case was dismissed as well as the President of the Supreme Court. In 2002, the Pervomai Court condemned Kulov to 10 years imprisonment.

[2] Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture: Kyrgyzstan. 18/11/99. A/55/44, paras.70-75

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