Kyrgyzstan: Smear campaign and judicial harassment against Ms. Tolekan Ismailova in the framework of the prohibition of the screening of a human rights film

31/10/2012
Urgent Appeal
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The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Kyrgyzstan.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory was informed by reliable sources of the prohibition of the screening of a film scheduled in the framework of a human rights film festival, as well as of the smear campaign and judicial harassment that has targeted Mrs. Tolekan Ismailova, Director of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) “Citizens Against Corruption” (CAC) and director of the said festival, in relation with the film and with the event.

According to the information received, on September 28, 2012, around 11 am, four representatives of the State Committee of National Security (SCNS) presented themselves at the HRC CAC offices. One of them, Mr. N. Soodanbekov, served an official warning to Mrs. Tolekan Ismailova, alleging that the documentary “I am Gay and Muslim”, scheduled on the same day on the occasion of the human rights film festival Bir Duyno - Kyrgyzstan (One World – Kyrgyzstan)[1], was considered as encouraging “inter-religious hatred”. The warning read as follows: “according to the decision by the State Commission of Religious Affairs, based on point 6.1 of Article 1 of the ’Law on Combating Extremist Activity’, the film is considered ’extremist’ and its diffusion and broadcasting within the territory of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan might encourage religious hatred and set the scene for mass disorder”.

As the SCNC official who served this warning did not have the authority to do so, Mrs. Ismailova subsequently lodged a complaint. On October 31, 2012, the first hearing was held before the Bishkek Inter-district Court, allowing Mrs. Ismailova and HRC CAC’s lawyer to provide all the details related to the violations mentioned above. The Chairperson of the Court finally decided to schedule the next hearing on November 15, 2012.

On the day this warning was served to Mrs. Ismailova, the Pervomaysky District Court of Bishkek reportedly banned the film on the whole Kyrgyz territory, thus preventing its broadcast in any circumstances. This order followed a complaint lodged by the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, which requested that the film be recognised as “extremist, inciting religious hatred and aimed at dishonouring Muslims”. As the decision of the court came into force immediately, the festival’s organisers could not contest the ruling before the scheduled screening time. However, the HRC CAC subsequently filed an appeal to overturn the court’s decision. The Bishkek City Court scheduled the appeal hearing on December 5, 2012.

In addition, in that context Mrs. Tolekan Ismailova has been targeted by a smear campaign depicting her as spreading propaganda for homosexuality and destructing Kyrgyz values in relation with the film “I am Gay and Muslim”. Such accusations were spread on ELTP TV programme broadcast on October 14, 2012, as well as in a Kyrgyz newspaper.

It is to be further noted that on September 27, 2012, the festival organisers, including Mrs. Tolekan Ismailova and other members of HRC CAC, had received phone calls and text messages threatening them with physical assault. The director of the cinema “Manas”, where the film was to be shown, also received threats that the building would be burnt down if the screening was not cancelled.

Finally, on October 8, 2012, HRC CAC received a letter from their web hosting company warning the human rights NGO that its website might be shut down if it contained references or links to the said documentary.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about the arbitrary decision to ban the screening of the human rights documentary, which violates the fundamental rights to freedom of speech and to freedom of information.

Accordingly, the Observatory urges the Kyrgyz authorities to shed the light on the conditions in which this ban was served and to ensure that the international standards of a fair trial are fully respected during the next hearing of Mrs. Ismailova’s complaint scheduled on November 15, 2012, as guaranteed by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Kyrgyzstan is a State party.

The Observatory further denounces the smear campaign against Ms. Tolekan Ismailova and the threats against her and other members of HRC CAC, as these acts amount to harassment and seem to merely aim at sanctioning their human rights activities.

Actions requested :

Please write to the authorities of Kyrgyzstan, urging them to:

i. Put an end to any act of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mrs. Tolekan Ismailova, as well as against all human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mrs. Tolekan Ismailova as well as of all members of HRC CAC and human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan;

iii. with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:
- its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,
- its Article 6 (b) and (c), which states that “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others […] as provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms and [...] to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”.
- and its Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration” ;

iv. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Kyrgyzstan.

Addresses :

• Mr. Almazbek Atambaev, President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Chuy Ave, 205, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Tel: +996 312 63 91 17, Fax: + 996312626191
• Mr. Chamil Atahanov, Minister of Internal Affairs, Frunze st. 469, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Tel: 0996 312 66 24 50, Fax: + 996312682044 / + 996312623853, email: pressa226@mvd.kg
• Ms. Aida Salyanova, General Prosecutor of Kyrgyzstan, Fax: +996312661734
• Permanent Mission of Kyrgyzstan to the United Nations in Geneva, Rue Maunoir 26/Rue du Lac 4-6, 1207 Geneva, Switzerland, Email: kyrgyzmission@bluewin.ch, Fax: +41 22 707.92.21
• Embassy of Kyrgyzstan in Brussels, 47 rue de l’Abbaye, 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium, Tel: + 32 2 640 18 68 / + 32 2 640 38 83, Fax: + 32 2 640 01 31, Email: aitmatov@infonie.be

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Kyrgyzstan in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, October 31, 2012

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

[1]The documentary “I am Gay and Muslim” deals with the issue of gay rights in the Islamic world, taking the example of Moroccan young men who speak about their sexual orientation and their religious background.

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