Posted 2011/11/28

Kyrgyzstan: Open letter to President Otunbayeva as appeal of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov begins on 29 November 2011

Azimjan AskarovAzimjan Askarov

Front Line Defenders issued an open letter today to Roza Otunbayeva, President of the Kyrgyz Republic, as appeal of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov begins on 29 November 2011.

Full text of the Open Letter

To: H.E. Ms Roza Otunbayeva, President of the Kyrgyz Republic

Your Excellency,

Front Line Defenders, the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, would like to draw your attention to the case of human rights defender Mr Azimjan Askarov.

Mr Askarov is a prominent human rights defender and director of the human rights organisation “Vozdukh” (Air) based in Bazar Korgon, Jalalabad region of Kyrgyzstan. Azimjan Askarov was imprisoned after the violent ethnic clashes that took place in the South Kyrgyzstan in summer 2010. He was condemned to life imprisonment following an unfair trial at which the main pieces of evidence presented against him were confessions obtained as a result of torture and testimonies of policemen involved in the events.

On 15 September 2010, Azimjan Askarov was one of eight defendants of Uzbek origin found guilty of inciting national hatred and organising mass disorders which resulted in killing a policeman during ethnically charged clashes in the southern Kyrgyz village of Bazar-Korgon in June 2010. Askarov was accused of complicity in the murder. No credible evidence has yet been presented to link him to the murder. Front Line Defenders observed part of the first instance trial and reported grave violations of the judicial proceedings and of the right to a fair trial.

The appeal of Azimjan Askarov begins tomorrow, 29 November, in the Supreme Court. Front Line Defenders is respectfully urging you to guarantee that Azimjan Askarov's appeal takes place in accordance with international fair trial standards and to ensure that adequate measures are taken to ensure the security of the defendant and his lawyers in the courtroom.

Grave concerns have been raised both nationally and internationally regarding the fairness of the original trial, the treatment of Azimjan Askarov, and the credibility of the evidence used to convict him. The Kyrgyz Human Rights Ombudsman Mr Tursunbek Akun, who carried out a parallel investigation, said that there was no evidence to link Azimjan Askarov to the crime – and that the charges against him were clearly politically motivated. OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) monitored the trial and appeal proceedings at first instance, and noted that the authorities failed to make adequate efforts to address repeated instances of verbal abuse, including death threats, directed at the lawyers and the defendant, as well as a physical attack against one of the lawyers, and that the judge failed to follow-up on allegations of torture made during the appeal proceedings. The Director of ODIHR, Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, called for a full investigation of allegations of torture and said irregularities had to be addressed to ensure a fair trial for Azimjan Askarov and the other defendants.

During his interrogation in a prison in Jalal-Abad, Azimjan Askarov was subjected to torture. He was also reportedly beaten, along with other defendants after an appeal hearing at Nooken Regional Court on 5 November 2010. Azimjan Askarov's health began to deteriorate as a result. On 12 November 2010, following increased pressure from the international community, Azimjan Askarov was transferred to a penitentiary institution in Bishkek where he received medical attention.

Front Line Defenders believes that the imprisonment, unfair trial and torture of Azimjan Askarov are directly related to his legitimate work in the defence of human rights.

Front Line respectfully urges Your Excellency to:

1. Ensure that human rights defender Azimjan Askarov's appeal takes place in conformity with international standards, including Article 14 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights;

2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Azimjan Askarov and his defence lawyers, both inside and outside of the courtroom;

3. Ensure that the treatment of Azimjan Askarov, while in detention, adheres to all those conditions set out in the ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment', adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;

4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

Yours sincerely,

Mary Lawlor, Director, Front Line Defenders

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