OPEN LETTER TO MR. KURMANBEK SALIEVICH BAKIEV, PRESIDENT OF THE KYRGYZ REPUBLIC

05/08/2009
Press release
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Arbitrary arrest and harassment of human rights defenders while peacefully demonstrating

Dear Mr. President,

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), expresses its deep concern about the arbitrary arrest and harassment of several human rights defenders while peacefully demonstrating in Bishkek.

According to the information received, on July 24, 2009, Ms. Tolekan Ismailova, Director of the human rights organisation “Citizens Against Corruption”, Ms. Diana Makenbaeva, lawyer, Ms. Aida Baydzhumanova, Ms. Umutay Arykova, Ms. Eugene Krapivina, Mr. Urmat Kyzy Mirgul and Ms. Erkingul Imankozhoeva, all employees of the organisation “Citizens Against Corruption”, organised a demonstration in the framework of the “Global Day of Action for Iran” on the square adjacent to the M. Gorky monument[1]. Following this action, the participants moved towards the Iranian embassy to convey a letter to the Iranian Ambassador in Kyrgyzstan. As they were moving towards the embassy, they hold their posters while the convoy of the Kyrgyz President passed close to them.

This fact was considered to be an infringement of the Law on the right of citizens to assemble peacefully, without weapons, to freely hold rallies and demonstrations that was adopted on July 6, 2008 following a decision of the Constitutional Court of July 1, 2008 and that empowers the local authorities to significantly restrict the space for peaceful gatherings in their town.

The seven members of “Citizens Against Corruption” were therefore arrested and brought to the police station of the Pervomayski district. Mr. Timur Shaihutdinov, of the Council for the Protection of the Rights of Youth and Students at the Ombudsman of Kyrgyzstan, accompanied the above-mentioned defenders to the police station. All were charged and sentenced the same day for alleged violations of the provisions of the July 6 Law on the right of citizens to assemble peacefully.

The sentences range from administrative fines of 1,500 soms (around 25 euros) for Ms. Aida Baydzhumanova, Mr. Timur Shaihutdinov, Ms. Tolekan Ismailova, Ms. Erkingul Imankozhoeva and Ms. Diana Makenbaeva, to a verbal warning for Ms. Eugene Krapivina, and acquittals for Ms. Umutay Arykova and Mr. Urmat Kyzy Mirgul. All of them were then released.

Moreover, on July 30, 2009, Ms. Tolekan Ismailova, Ms. Asiya Sasykbaeva, Director of the centre “Interbilim”, Ms. Aziza Abdirasulova, Head of the human rights center “Kylym Shamy”, and Gulnara Dzhurabaeva gathered in front of the Government House to protest the detention of citizens in Bishkek and Balykchy. They also showed pictures of people who, they consider, were brutally beaten by law enforcement bodies.

Unknown persons then immediately came to them, presumably National Security Service (NSS) officers or public safety officers, who demanded the defenders to show their identity documents. But the four human rights defenders asked them to tell who they are as required by law. The unknown people then left. A short time later, the Deputy of Pervomai militia Talantbek Shatmanov arrived, who asked to stop the action. Turning the posters, the women defenders sat quietly in a police car, and were taken to Pervomai militia. They were then brought to Pervomai Regional Court, which sentenced them a fine of 1,500 soms. All were then released.

On July 31, Ms. Ismailova, Ms. Sasykbaeva, Ms. Abdirasulova and Ms. Dzhurabaeva decided to keep on protesting against the illegal detention of 11 citizens who disagreed with the outcome of the presidential elections by chaining themselves with iron chains to the Government House fence, and displaying pictures of demonstrators victims of torture after being detained by the police. This time, the four human rights defenders were sentenced under Article 371 (“disobedience to legal orders or requests by militia officers exercising their duties to protect public order”) and Article 392 (“violation of an established procedure”) of the Code of Administrative Responsibility to fines of 2,000 soms (Ms. Sasykbaeva and Ms. Abdirasulova), 500 soms (Ms. Ismailova) and 1,000 soms (Ms. Dzhurabaeva).

The Observatory strongly condemns these sentences, which are clear evidence of the ongoing determination of the Kyrgyz authorities to strike down any form of dissent in the country, and recalls that as a Participating State of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Kyrgyzstan acknowledges that “the [...] UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders [... places] a responsibility [...] on states to adopt and implement adequate legislation and administrative procedures that would provide for a conducive environment for human rights defenders to promote and strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and recognises “the need for particular attention, support and protection for human rights defenders by the OSCE, its Institutions and field operations, as well as by participating States”.

The Observatory is more generally concerned by the decision of the Constitutional Court of July 2008 and of the provisions of the Law of July 6, 2008 approved by President Bakiev and criticised by the joint opinion of the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR of October 17-18, 2008, which states that “[t]he law does not reflect the positive obligation on the State to secure conditions permitting the exercise of the freedom of assembly. There is no provision for spontaneous assemblies which are undoubtedly guaranteed by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Moreover, vagueness and redundancy of certain provisions present serious problem”.

Accordingly the Observatory calls upon the authorities of Kyrgyzstan to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Tolekan Ismailova, Ms. Diana Makenbaeva, Ms. Aida Baydzhumanova, Ms. Umutay Arykova, Ms. Eugene Krapivina, Mr. Urmat Kyzy Mirgul, Ms. Erkingul Imankozhoeva, Ms. Asiya Sasykbaeva, Ms. Aziza Abdirasulova, Ms. Gulnara Dzhurabaeva and Mr. Timur Shaihutdinov.

The Observatory also urges the Kyrgyz authorities to put an end to acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them as well as all human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan, and to guarantee in all circumstances freedom of peaceful assembly, as guaranteed by Article 25 of the 2007 Constitution of Kyrgyzstan, by the 1998 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted on December 9, 1998 by the General Assembly, as well as by international human rights instruments, in particular by Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

More generally, the Observatory calls upon the Kyrgyz authorities to comply with the 1998 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the provisions of the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the 2nd Conference on the Human Dimension of the Cooperation and Security Conference in Europe (CSCE) (1990), and guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments ratified by Kyrgyzstan.

We express our sincere hope that you will take these considerations and requests into account,

Yours sincerely,

Souhayr Belhassen Eric Sottas
FIDH President OMCT Secretary General

[1] According to the information received, the meeting was first planned to take place in the building of the Iranian embassy. However, the refusal of the Mayor’s office in Bishkek and Permovayski district capital (relying upon Article 11 of the July 6 Law on the right of citizens to assemble peacefully, which allows “local government bodies to identify special places for organizing and carry out assemblies, meetings and demonstrations”) constrained the participants to gather on the square adjacent to M. Gorky monument, on the basis of Article 3 of the Bishkek restrictions on freedom of assembly, which provide that the M. Gorky monument is one of the only places where gatherings are allowed in the town of Bishkek without any notification requirement.

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