Kyrgyzstan: FIDH allowed to visit imprisoned human rights defender Azimjan Askarov after years of unsuccessful requests

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Photo: FIDH network.

Paris-‎Bishkek. During a mission to Kyrgyzstan that took place from 13 to 18 November 2018, FIDH delegates visited human rights defender Azimjan Askarov, who has been in prison since 2010. While appreciating the reception accorded by the authorities to the delegation, FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos expressed his concerns on the human rights situation in the country. He also criticised Askarov’s appalling conditions of detention and called on the authorities to release the human rights defender, as requested by the UN Human Rights Committee in 2016. His release would demonstrate the commitment of the new government to respect its international obligations.

FIDH conducted a mission to Kyrgyzstan in order to raise its concerns with the authorities regarding the human rights situation in the country, including the harassment of human rights defenders. FIDH is particularly concerned about the inclusion of its member organisations’ report to the UN into a list of material deemed extremist by the country.

"Kyrgyz society expects genuine reforms in the spheres of justice, rule of law and fight against discrimination. It is high time for Kyrgyzstan to leave behind the historic legacy of authoritarian regimes. We expect from our authorities that they respect their international obligations and commit to protecting human rights in the multi-ethnic context of Kyrgyzstan. This can only be done by ensuring checks and balances exist and by reforming the security sector”

Tolekan Ismailova, FIDH Vice-President and Chairperson of "Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan".

Advocacy for the release of Azimjan Askarov was one of the main goals of the mission. Askarov has been languishing in prison since 2010 when he was arbitrarily arrested during the civil unrest in Kyrgyzstan’s south and subsequently tried in an unfair trial. The FIDH delegates were able to obtain an official permission to visit the human rights defender in pre-trial facility No. 1 where he currently serves a life sentence that was declared arbitrary by the UN.

"The conditions of detention are so poor, that a dog would die in a place like this. I’m hanging on thanks to the kind attitude of prison guards towards a 67 year old innocent man, but also because of the encouragement I get from the letters of support from around the world”

Azimjan Askarov. FIDH calls on all supporters of human rights defenders to send Askarov postcards at the following address: Azimjan Askarov, СИЗО № 1 (учреждение № 21), Бишкек, Кыргызстан.

Following two consecutive unsuccessful attempts to visit Azimjan Askarov during missions to Kyrgyzstan in 2015 and 2016 headed by FIDH presidents at the time, the delegates were relieved to be able to visit Mr. Askarov. However, the visit took place in humiliating conditions.

"The conditions of the visit were appalling: Azimjan Askarov was placed in a narrow cage in cold and wet premises in the part of the pre-trial detention centre intended for interrogation. We could not take photos. Around 10 security guards were present during our conversation. We were told that this was necessary under the prison rules. We were not allowed to give him presents, including chocolates and painting brushes”

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President.

During the mission, the FIDH delegates also met with the representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, Office of the Prosecutor General, National Centre on the Prevention of Torture, Ombudsman, leaders of Parliamentary factions and the Chairwoman of the Supreme Court to raise with them issues such as the use of torture, the lack of independence of the justice system, violations of the right to freedom and expression, as well as different forms of discrimination.

During the meetings with the diplomatic corps, FIDH reminded that foreign aid should be disbursed to Kyrgyzstan under conditions of respect of international human rights obligations by the national authorities.

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