Kyrgyzstan: Confirmation by the Supreme Court of the unlawfulness of the searches in the office of Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan, and in the residences of lawyers Messrs. Valerian Vakhitov and Khusanbay Saliev

29/06/2015
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the confirmation by the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan of the unlawfulness of the searches that took place on March 27, 2015 in the office of the human rights organisation Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan, and in the residences of lawyers Messrs. Valerian Vakhitov and Khusanbay Saliev.

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New information
KGZ 001 / 0315 / OBS 025.3
End of judicial harassment
Kyrgyzstan
June 26, 2015

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information in the following situation in Kyrgyzstan.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the confirmation by the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan of the unlawfulness of the searches that took place on March 27, 2015 in the office of the human rights organisation Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan, and in the residences of lawyers Messrs. Valerian Vakhitov and Khusanbay Saliev [1] (see background information).

On April 30, 2015, the Osh Regional Court had decided to nullify the above-mentioned search warrants, but the Senior Prosecutor of the Osh region, Ms. Aiym Raimkulova, had subsequently appealed this decision, and requested the Supreme Court to cancel it. On June 24, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled out the application of the Senior Prosecutor, thereby confirming the illegality of the searches [2].

The Observatory welcomes the Supreme Court decision and calls on the Kyrgyz authorities, and in particular the Osh Office of the State Committee of National Security (SCNS), to implement it without delay, to put an end to the judicial harassment of Bir Duino and human rights lawyers, and to return all the materials seized during the search.

The Observatory recalls that the searches in Bir Duino premises and in lawyers’ residences took place on March 27, 2015 in violation of the Kyrgyz legislation on the practice of lawyers (see background information). Up to the June 24, 2015 hearing, part of the materials seized during the searches has not been returned. In total, materials on about 100 legal cases were seized, thus putting them on hold and violating the right to legal defense of victims whom Bir Duino represented in courts.

The Observatory recalls that the Senior Prosecutor Ms. Raimkulova had also appealed a ruling issued on May 18, 2015 by the Osh City Court, recognising as unlawful the non-return of 21 video discs seized during the searches. The hearing in the Osh Regional Court took place on June 25, 2015, and Ms. Raimkulova’s appeal was also dismissed.

The Observatory further recalls that this is not the first time Bir Duino and its representatives are facing harassment (see background information). Recently, the organisation and its staff have been targeted in a smear campaign perpetrated by the state media. According to the information received on May 28, 2015, member of the Kyrgyz Parliament Joroku Kenesh called Bir Duino a “threat to national security”. In a context where the law on "foreign agents" is being table in Joroku Kenesh, the harassment of NGOs serves to exert pressure and further intimidate human rights defenders.

Background information:

On March 27, 2015, at 4.20 pm, officers from the Osh Office of the State Committee of National Security (SCNS) searched the premises of the Osh office of Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan and residences of human rights lawyers Messrs. Valerian Vakhitov and Khusanbay Saliev.

On that occasion, the officers from the SCNS seized computers, material related to criminal cases and USB drives containing working documents on human rights issues. SCNS officers also searched and seized work material at the place of residence of lawyers, Messrs. Valerian Vakhitov and Khusanbay Saliev. Mr. Valerian Vakhitov and Mr. Khusanbay Saliev, both members of the Osh office of Bir Duino, who have been notably working on the case of Uzbek human rights defender Azimjan Askarov who was found guilty of killing a policeman during violent clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the south of Kyrgyzstan, following an unfair and politically motivated trial.

The Osh City court decision issuing the search warrant was taken on the basis of a criminal case filed against Mr. Umar Faruk [3], a US journalist, under Article 13 of the Penal Code on charges of “countering extremism activity by confiscating forbidden material of religious character”. The Senior Prosecutor of the Osh Region pointed namely to the religious expertise allegedly proving the "extremist character" of the video materials seized from Mr. Faruk as a lawful basis for searches. During the search, materials on cases against SCNS officers were also seized.

The Observatory notes however that the religious expertise was carried out in violation of the procedure established by the Article 13 of the Criminal Code. The law obliges the Prosecutor to send a request to a judge, who in turn conveys it to the Ministry of Justice. If the Ministry of Justice considers that the material in question can have an “extremist” character, it must publish the list of the documents in question, before the latter can be seized. In the present case, non of these procedures were respected.

Moreover, U. Faruk has always denied the video materials belonged to him and claimed they were planted. In his appeal to the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor of the Osh Region groundlessly claims the DVDs were handed to him by Messrs. Valerian Vakhitov and Khusanbay Saliev.

The searches also violated the law "On the Practice of Law” of the Kyrgyz Republic protecting lawyers from any arbitrary interference in their professional activity. In particular, Article 29.5 of the aforementioned law allows for confiscation of information on a criminal case only if a lawsuit was previously filed against the lawyer in question. The day the Osh City Court issued its order to search Bir Duino premises and the residences of Mr. Vakhitov and Mr. Saliev, neither of the two lawyers were accused in a lawsuit.

The Observatory further recalls that this is not the first time Bir Duino and its representatives are facing judicial harassment. In July and December 2013 [4], unidentified individuals broke into the Bishkek office of Bir Duino to stole money as well as the video surveillance camera and five laptops which contained key data of the organisation. Bir Duino staff members and Director, Ms. Tolekan Ismailova, have also been judicially harassed and slandered on several occasions [5].

Actions requested :

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

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Valerian Vakhitov and Khusanbay Saliev and of all human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally return the confiscated equipment and material to their owners, and notably to Messrs. Valerian Vakhitov and Khusanbay Saliev;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against all human rights lawyers and defenders in Kyrgyzstan;

iv. Comply with the national legislation safeguarding the independence of lawyers and protecting them from unlawful interference in their professional activities;

v. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with:

- its Article 1, which provides 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 5 (a): “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels (a) To meet or assemble peacefully”;

vi. Comply with the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers which states that “Governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference”.

vii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international 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. Melis Turganbayev, Minister of Internal Affairs, Frunze st. 469, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Tel: 0996 312 66 24 50, Fax: + 996312682044 / + 996312623853, email: pressa226@mvd.kg

· Ms. Jyldyz Mambetalieva Jeenbaevna, Minister of Justice, 32 M.Gandi Str., 720010 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Tel: +996 (312) 656490 , Fax: +996 (312) 656502, email: jm.26@mail.ru

· Ms. Indira Joldubayeva, General Prosecutor Office, 39 Erkindik Avenue, 720040 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan ,Tel: +996 (312) 663373, Fax: +996 (312) 661734

· State Committee of National Security, Erkindik blvd 70, Bishkek 720040, Kyrgyzstan, Tel: +996 (312) 66 04 75, Fax +996 (312)66 00 24

· 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’Abbay/Abdijstraat, 1050 Bruxelles, Kingdom of Belgium, Tel: + 32 2 640 18 68, Fax: + 32 2 640 01 31, Email: kyrgyz.embassy@skynet.be

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

***
Paris-Geneva, June 26, 2015

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.

Read more
appelobs