Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2009 - Kyrgyzstan
|Publisher||International Federation for Human Rights|
|Publication Date||18 June 2009|
|Cite as||International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2009 - Kyrgyzstan, 18 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a5f302223.html [accessed 6 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
In 2008, the situation of human rights deteriorated in Kyrgyzstan, particularly following the adoption of new restrictive laws and the development of increasingly repressive practices. The Kyrgyz authorities adopted several unconstitutional laws: under the pretext of the fight against terrorism and extremism, a new law on freedom of worship, for example, passed by Parliament on November 6, 2008, restricts the recognition of religious movements. In addition, on November 14, 2008, the Parliament adopted a law on life imprisonment of former death row prisoners1 that authorises the use of inhuman and degrading practices, even torture, in the framework of their detention. In addition, a new blow was struck in 2008 against freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, following the adoption of provisions and the implementation of practices contrary to international human rights standards.
Furthermore, in early 2008, NGOs were unable to obtain court rulings ordering the publication of the district-by-district results of the December 2007 parliamentary elections, which results were still contested in late 2008, and peaceful assembly protests that followed were repressed.
Finally, freedom of expression was significantly restricted by means of greater State control on public media. On June 4, 2008, President Bakiev signed a law giving him the power to appoint the Executive Director of the public consortium NKTR (public television and radio). On the other hand, pressure on the independent media exacerbated: the last two independent newspapers, De facto and Alibi, stopped publication in July and August 2008 due to lawsuits against some of their leaders.2 At the beginning of December 2008, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the BBC were also forced to stop radio broadcasting in Kyrgyzstan, following a unilateral decision that was not justified by the Government of Kyrgyzstan.3
Systematic harassment and repression of defenders during demonstrations
Restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly and repression of demonstrations continued and even strengthened in 2008, particularly following a decision by the Constitutional Court in July 2008 that allowed local authorities to significantly restrict the space for peaceful gatherings across the entire country.4 Obstacles to freedom of assembly were translated into reality through bans on demonstrations and by the systematic arrest of demonstrators. Far instance, the youth movement "I do not believe", protesting against irregularities in the parliamentary elections of December 2007, had numerous brushes with the authorities in 2008, with each of their gatherings resulting in arrests and fines. For example, on January 28, 2008, twenty members of the movement who had gathered in front of the Parliament to protest peacefully against the fraud that marred the parliamentary elections of December 2007 were arrested within a few minutes. Several weeks later, the movement received a negative response from the administration of the city of Bishkek to organise a peaceful demonstration. Furthermore, Mr. Maxim Kuleshov, leader of the association "World-light of culture" and Coordinator of the Resource Centre for Human Rights in the city of Tomok, was also arrested repeatedly in 2008 for having organised rallies and peaceful demonstrations. For instance, his arrest on October 23, 2008 occurred minutes after he launched one of his "democratic street lessons" to encourage people to struggle peacefully for human rights and respect for the Constitution. Accused of violating the Law on Assemblies and disobeying the police, he was sentenced to a fine of 2,000 soms (about 40 Euros).
Intimidation and judicial harassment of human rights defenders
In 2008, journalists who dared to denounce corruption and other human rights violations committed by the administration and Kyrgyz circles of power were victims of repression of various forms. The Editor of the independent newspaper De facto, Ms. Cholpon Orozobekova, was charged on July 3, 20085 for "deliberate publication of false information" under Section 329 of the Criminal Code. The charge followed the publication in her newspaper on June 12, 2008 of an open letter6 highlighting the practices of corruption in tax collection that involved the Director of tax service in Bishkek, Mr. Taalaibek Dalbaev. Ms. Cholpon Orozobekova, who had already been harassed and threatened on several occasions in the past by strangers asking her to leave her position, had to leave Kyrgyzstan to protect her family.
As in other countries in the region, in 2008 the notion of extremist threat was also increasingly used in Kyrgyzstan as a pretext to prosecute human rights defenders. For example, on March 11, 2008, Mr. Ravshan Gapirov, Director of the Human Rights Centre "Justice and Truth", was remanded in custody on a decision by the Court of the city of Osh;he was then charged under Article 299, paragraph 2, subparagraph 2, of the Criminal Code for "incitement to hatred of the nation or religious hatred", following an open letter he sent on February 4, 2008 to Mr. Ruskyl Mondochev through websites such as www.centrasia.ru and www.ca-oasis.info. In the letter, Mr. Gapirov wanted to answer accusations of membership in the radical Islamic party "Hizb ut Tahrir", participation in a terrorist plot, and destabilisation of the country that had been made by Mr. Mondochev.7 Mr. Ravshan Gapirov recalled in particular that he belonged to no party and invited Mr. Mondochev to issue a denial.
Obstacles to freedom of association
Various obstacles to freedom of association increased in 2008. Echoing the barriers to funding of the associations raised by the guidelines of the Kyrgyz financial police in 2007, the Kyrgyz authorities prevented in 2008 the establishment of the office for Central Asia of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC). Their representative, Mr. Ivar Dale, was denied entry to the territory of Kyrgyzstan on October 12, 2008 while returning from a trip in Europe.8 On September 5, Mr. Dale was tried by a local court in Bishkek for "illegal work in Kyrgyzstan", the NHC not having been officially registered there, despite the completion of all formalities, and for providing "false information" in a visa application in November 2007. At that hearing, the court pointed out that the visa application submitted by the police had been falsified. Furthermore, the NGO "Mental Health and Society", which runs an office for the defence of patients within the Mental Health Centre of the Republic (RMHC), the largest psychiatric treatment centre in Kyrgyzstan,9 was subjected to constant harassment in 2008. In June, the Director of RMHC, Mr. Abjalbek Begmatov, demanded the NGO to be closed down and to leave RMHC premises after the NGO revealed financial irregularities within the RMHC.10 In addition, pressure was brought against doctors who cooperated with the NGO; on October 20, 2008, Mr. Begmatov and hospital staff tried to evict by force the members of "Mental Health and Society" from their office. Since then, the NGO "Mental Health and Society" has remained formally closed, following a decision by the Director of RMHC, but its members continued their activities on its premises. The hospital administration filed a lawsuit on November 24, 2008 demanding that "Mental Health and Society" leave the premises of the centre, but the court did not consider the complaint for lack of presence of the plaintiff.
Urgent Interventions issued by the Observatory in 200811
|Names of human rights defenders||Violations||Intervention Reference||Date of Issuance|
|Ms. Tolekan Ismailova, Ms. Toktaim Umetalieva, Ms. Nazgul Turdubekova, Ms. Aigul Kizalakova, Ms. Natalia Utesheva, Mr. Mirsujlan Namazaliev and Ms. Jibek Ismailova||Arbitrary detention / Release / Sentencing||Urgent Appeal KGZ 001/0108/OBS 007||January 16, 2008|
|Mr. Maxim Kuleshov||Arbitrary detention / Release / Sentencing||Urgent Appeal KGZ 001/0108/OBS 007||January 16, 2008|
|Arbitrary detention / Release / Sentencing||Urgent Appeal KGZ 002/1008/OBS 172||October 28, 2008|
|Mr. Ramazan Dyryldaev and Ms. Guliza Omurzakova||Assault||Press Release||October 20, 2008|
|Mr. Ivar Dale||Obstacles to freedom of movement / Expulsion|
1 The death penalty was abolished in June 2007.
2 On January 23 and 24, 2008, Alibi and De facto published an article involving the nephew of President Bakiev, Mr. Asylbek Saliev in a car accident causing a death in March 2007. Both newspapers were sentenced on June 4, 2008 to pay Mr. Saliev a million soms (about 19,047 Euros) for "moral damage". Because the latter refused compensation several times, Alibi found it impossible to enforce the sentence of the Court of Pervomaisk (Bishkek) and was therefore banned from publication on August 22, 2008. De facto, whose readers had made contributions to pay the fine, had already stopped operations on July 1, following the judicial proceedings initiated against its Editor, Ms. Cholpon Orozobekova (see below).
3 BBC programmes have been interrupted since December 6, 2008, and those of the RFE/RL since December 8.
4 In late 2007, the city of Bishkek limited peaceful gatherings in three places: the "Youth Park" away from the centre, the Erkindik "Old Place", near the Parliament, and Gorki Park. In July 2008, the Constitutional Court considered that the provisions adopted by the Bishkek City Council were in conformity with the Constitution, which now allows other municipal councils in the country to restrict freedom of assembly in certain places.
5 A criminal investigation was opened on June 13.
6 The author of the letter, who wrote under the pseudonym Zamira Moldoeva, disappeared. Ms. Orozobekoya does not exclude the possibility that the whole affair was organised to discredit De facto. See RFE/RL article, July 14, 2008.
7 See Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (KCHR).
8 Mr. Ivar Dale subsequently received confirmation by border police that he was banned from the territory of Kyrgyzstan for 10 years by the security services, on the grounds that his presence on the territory of Kyrgyzstan was considered as "contrary to national interests". Mr. Dale also received a letter from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation that the cause of the prohibition of entry into the territory was that the office of the NHC was not registered in accordance with Article 20 of the Administrative Code. Due to the absence of Mr. Dale, the office of the NHC was forced to close down in December 2008.
9 The RMHC is a psychiatric hospital founded in 2004 with the assistance of the UNDP, the OSCE office in Bishkek, the Soros Foundation and the OSI, and in accordance to a memorandum signed in 2005 between the Kyrgyz Ombudsman, the International Mental Disabilities Advocacy Centre (MDAC) and the NGO "Mental Health and Society". It is thanks to the support of the former Minister of Health that the organisation was able to use the premises of the RMHC.
10 In the context of cooperation between the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Health and the alliance "For a Transparent Budget" (of which the NGO "Mental Health and Society" is part), supported by the Ombudsman. See Open Viewpoint Public Foundation and Press Release from the organisation Mental Health and Society.
11 See the Compilation of cases in the CD-Rom attached to this report.