KYRGYZSTAN: The Supreme Court refuses to review the sentencing of Mr. Azimjan Askarov to life imprisonment

Press release


KYRGYZSTAN: The Supreme Court refuses to review the sentencing of Mr. Azimjan Askarov to life imprisonment

Paris-Geneva, September 9, 2014. 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), condemns the latest court decision regarding the sentencing of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov to life imprisonment.

On September 3, 2014, the Kyrgyz Supreme Court rejected Mr. Azimjan Askarov’s appeal for a review of the case against him. Mr. Askarov is a well-known ethnic Uzbek defender and Director of the human rights organisation “Vozdukh” (Air), which documented police ill-treatment of detainees and monitored the human rights situation in the province of Jalal-Abad, in particular the violent events in Bazar Korgon in June 2010. Mr. Askarov 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. September 15, 2014, will mark the fourth year since the regional court condemned the 60-year old human rights defender to life imprisonment.

In October 2011, Mr. Askarov’s defense team conducted a private investigation and gathered evidence pointing to the innocence of the latter and reporting use of torture and inhuman treatment against him. After years of pressure, in May 2013, a new investigation was ordered by the Vice Prosecutor General of the Kyrgyzstan Republic, but was closed nine months later for lack of (legal) basis.

On April 30, 2014, the Bishkek District Court satisfied Mr. Askarov’s complaint about the closure of the investigation based on Article 131 of Kyrgyzstan’s Penal Code. Despite a lack of clarity (and irregularities) of the Penal Procedure Code, the case was referred to the Supreme Court by decision of June 12, following an appeal of the General Prosecutor of Kyrgyzstan.

On September 3, 2014, the Supreme Court reversed the Bishkek District Court decision of April 30, 2014 which was in favour of a re-opening Mr. Askarov’s case. According to the information received, the hearing was marked by acts of intimidation against Mr. Askarov. It is reported that several unidentified individuals stopped the hearing and brought the convict outside of the courtroom to talk privately.

The Observatory recalls that on September 15, 2010, Mr. Azimjan Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment after he was found guilty of killing a policeman. Other ethnic Uzbeks were also sentenced to long-term imprisonment. On November 10, 2010, the Court of Appeal upheld Mr. Askarov’s life sentence following a trial marked by grave irregularities.

The Observatory considers that the whole judicial case against Mr. Azimjan Askarov merely aims at sanctioning his human rights activities, and remains deeply concerned with the continued arbitrary detention of Mr. Azimjan Askarov as well as with alleged acts of torture and ill-treatments during his custody.

Accordingly, the Observatory calls upon the authorities of Kyrgyzstan to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Azimjan Askarov and to ensure his immediate and unconditional release since his detention is arbitrary as it only aims at sanctioning his human rights activities.

More generally, the Observatory reiterates its call for the full respect of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in accordance with the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, and urges the Kyrgyz authorities to conform with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, and to ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Kyrgyzstan.

For more information, please contact:

OMCT: Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui: +41 22 809 49 22
FIDH: Audrey Couprie / Arthur Manet: + 33 1 43 55 25 18

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