- For defenders
- How can I help?
As Andrew Anderson finishes his research mission to Kyrgyzstan the courage and commitment of the human rights defenders he met reminds him of how optimism must triumph over experience.
Optimism Over Experience
The end of our visit was a whirlwind of media interviews, meetings with human rights defenders and a valuable meeting with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
In the media interviews the main focus was the gross violations of Azimjan's right to a fair trial. He was tortured. He was denied access to his lawyer. He was unable to call witnesses because of threats and intimidation in the court room. His lawyer was beaten and he faced death threats during what pretended to be a trial. His allegations of torture were ignored.
No credible evidence was brought against him.
It seems the authorities are embarrassed and know that this is damaging their international relations but there are also questions as to whether they have the courage or capacity to address this. We heard repeated allegations that political figures have intervened in the case because of their own family interests.
Kyrgyzstan: International conference on Political Stabilisation fails to address human rights issues
On the second day of his mission to Kyrgyzstan Andrew Anderson attended a conference on Political Stabilisation in the Kyrgyz Republic - the usual weak combination of "platitudes and positive thinking" The highlight of of our second day in Bishkek was having lunch with two of the most indefatigable of Kyrgyz human rights defenders, Aziza Abdirasulova and Tolekan Ismailova. They had both faced death threats and a media defamation campaign because they spoke out about the bloody inter-ethnic violence of the summer. They were accused of being traitors because they highlighted the killings of ethnic Uzbeks.
We were attending a conference titled “Political Stabilisation in the Kyrgyz Republic” which brought together political leaders, diplomats, academics and civil society representatives in a plush Western hotel.
Front Line's Deputy Director Andrew Anderson is currently on mission in Kyrgyzstan where he had been given permission to visit imprisoned human rights defender Azimjan Askarov. Azimjan is serving a life sentence after an unfair trial during which he was routinely beaten and denied access to his lawyer.
Azimjan Askarov - a brave man in a cruel imprisonment
"We had the great privilege of meeting Azimjan Askarov in prison colony 47 today in Bishkek.
The prison is actually supposed to be a prison hospital although that is not immediately obvious as we arrive at the entrance and shiver in the icy cold whilst our permissions and presents are processed and checked. Its very much a Soviet era institution, apparently the x-ray machine is a genuine antique, but we are ushered across a frozen courtyard and up to the Prison Director's office to meet Azimjan.
We receive a warm welcome from Azimjan who is looking much better than he did at his appeal hearing. He insists he is feeling much better too, and is being treated well here in Bishkek.
Front Line's Deputy Director Andrew Anderson is currently on mission in Kyrgyzstan - however the adventures started in the air as they successfully landed in Bishek - on the 4th attempt.
Good old hammer and sickle!
I was not sure if the hammer and sickle on the uniform of the Aeroflot woman at the check in for my flight from Moscow to Bishkek meant the uniform was twenty years old or they just had resisted corporate rebranding.
Our first two attempts to land in Bishkek the pilot had to pull out because of below minimum visability. So he announced we were diverting to Almaty. but he had to pull out of an attempted landing there too. Apparently whilst I was wondering how much extra fuel our plane might carry the weather cleared over Bishkek. We bumped down fourth time lucky. Good old hammer and sickle.
Pictured - Andrew Anderson with human rights defender Tolekan Ismailova outside Bishek prison.