HUMAN RIGHTS IN KYRGYZSTAN

HUMAN RIGHTS IN KYRGYZSTAN

According to the U.S. Department of State: “The most important human rights problems included a continued denial of justice in connection with ethnic violence in the South in 2010; routine violations of fundamental procedural protections in all stages of the judicial process, including law enforcement officials’ use of arbitrary arrest and torture; and attacks, threats, and systematic, police-driven extortion of vulnerable minority groups.[Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Kyrgyzstan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

Additional human rights problems reported during the year included: torture; arbitrary arrest; poor prison conditions; lack of judicial impartiality; violation of the principle of double jeopardy; harassment of both local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), activists, and journalists; pressure on independent media; restrictions on religious freedom; authorities’ failure to protect refugees adequately; pervasive corruption; discrimination and violence against women, persons with disabilities, ethnic and religious minorities, and persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity; child abuse; trafficking in persons; and child labor. \*\

Underscoring the country’s human rights problems was an atmosphere of impunity for officials in the security services and elsewhere in government who committed abuses and engaged in corrupt practices. This situation reflected the central government’s inability and unwillingness to hold human rights violators accountable, allowing security forces to act arbitrarily, emboldening law enforcement officials to prey on vulnerable citizens, and allowing mobs to disrupt trials by attacking defendants, attorneys, witnesses, and judges. \*\

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, ethnic origin, creed, age, political or other beliefs, education, background, property, or other status. The government did not effectively enforce these prohibitions. Although women were active in government, education, civil society, the media, and small business, they encountered gender-based discrimination. Rights activists claimed authorities failed to investigate or punish perpetrators of crimes of discrimination during the year. Members of the LGBT community have reported systematic-police led harassment and beatings. NGOs reported ethnic Uzbeks were attacked by ethnic Kyrgyz because of their ethnicity. \8\

Development of Kyrgyzstan’s Human Rights Policy in the 1990s and Early 2000s

In its early days, Kyrgyzstan demonstrated a strong commitment to observation of human rights, from which it has subsequently stepped back. Nevertheless, the republic remains generally more sensitive to human rights than are the states in its immediate environment. The republic's constitution provides very strong guarantees of personal liberty, protection of privacy, freedom of assembly and expression, and other hallmarks of democratic societies. On several occasions, the government has violated or abrogated the constitution, raising the possibility of abuse of human rights. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

In early years the government of Askar Akayev proved itself generally responsive on issues of human rights, at least in part because of the republic's dependence upon the approval of Western financial supporters. The legal system, which remains based almost entirely upon Soviet-era practices, does permit pre-trial detention of up to one year (there is no bail), which in one or two celebrated cases has appeared abusive. In the early 1990s, international monitoring organizations found no evidence of political arrests, detentions, disappearances, or extrajudicial punishments. There were some unsubstantiated complaints by political activists of wiretapping and other illegal surveillance. In a celebrated case in 1992, Uzbekistani security forces arrested two Uzbek delegates to a human rights conference held in Bishkek. Although this arrest was subsequently found to be in technical agreement with Kyrgyzstani law, the public manner in which the arrest was conducted demonstrated Kyrgyzstan's lack of resources to defend human rights activists. *

Beginning in the late 1990s, journalists who criticized the Akayev regime often were imprisoned, as were opposition political figures such as Feliks Kulov. Four political parties were barred on technicalities from the parliamentary elections of 2000. The election code changes of 2004 restricted access to electoral procedures by the media. Courts often do not observe the nominal right to counsel and to presumption of innocence of the accused. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Kyrgyzstan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

The reporters of some independent media outlets have been harassed and threatened, acts of violence have occurred, and copies of independent newspapers have been confiscated. Registration of new media outlets has been prolonged or denied, and the government’s awarding of broadcast frequencies prolonged. Authorities have restricted the activities of some Muslim groups considered extremist and of some Christian missionary groups. The constitutional amendments of 2003 contain several nominal improvements to human rights protections, but genuine reform has not occurred. Women, who have equal status by law, are well represented in most professions, particularly law, medicine, banking, and nongovernmental organizations. However, women are more likely than men to lose their jobs in economically difficult times, and domestic violence and forced marriage reportedly are common. [Source: Library of Congress, January 2007 **]

Disappearances and Unlawful Killings in Kyrgyzstan

According to the U.S. Department of State: “ There were reports the government or its agents purposely committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. There were no reports of deaths from injuries suffered while in the custody of law enforcement agencies. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Kyrgyzstan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

At year’s end, the four Bazar Korgon officers (Jalalabad Oblast) charged with abuse of power, torture, extortion, and manslaughter in the 2011 death of Osmonjon Kholmurzayev remained under house arrest while investigations continued. The victim, an ethnic Uzbek citizen of Russia, died of internal bleeding and organ failure following his detention by the Bazar Korgon police. According to an attorney involved in the case, the trial was administratively delayed in March 2012 for “further investigation” and continued to be delayed at year’s end. \*\

During 2014 there were no reports of new disappearances. In 2013 human rights organizations reported disappearances and instances of abductions by law enforcement agencies. Many of the cases seemed related to the continuing ethnic tensions in the South. Local and international observers continued to report numerous instances in which law enforcement officers held detainees incommunicado for long periods. \*\

Torture in Kyrgyzstan

According to the U.S. Department of State: “The law prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Despite widespread acknowledgement of torture by government officials and the establishment of governmental bodies to monitor and fight torture, authorities investigated or prosecuted very few cases of alleged torture. According to the government, from 2010 through the first half of the year, it received 1,176 complaints of torture and opened 48 cases. According to the government, two persons received criminal sentences for torture during this period. The Prosecutor General’s Office reported it conducted 1,010 unannounced inspections in the first half of the year. As in 2013, defense attorneys, journalists, and human rights monitoring organizations, including Golos Svobody, Bir Duino, and international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), continued to report numerous incidents of torture by police and other law enforcement agencies. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Kyrgyzstan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

Golos Svobody played a central role monitoring torture and was the central organizer of the “Antitorture Coalition,” a consortium of 10 NGOs that worked with the Prosecutor General’s Office to track complaints of torture. The Prosecutor General’s Office indicated it received 109 torture complaints in the first half of the year and opened criminal investigations into nine of those complaints. According to Golos Svobody, based on these investigations, the Prosecutor General’s Office sent three cases involving six individuals to court but received no guilty verdicts. By comparison, in the first six months of 2013, the Prosecutor’s Office reported receiving 146 torture complaints. The Prosecutor General’s Office noted this was a 25.3 percent reduction in complaints and credited the government’s work on the problem. Of the 146 complaints of torture, the office opened criminal investigations in seven. It sent five of the seven cases, involving a total of nine individuals, to court. \*\

The Antitorture Coalition also accepted complaints of torture independently and passed them to the Prosecutor General’s Office with the intention of opening an investigation. The coalition reported that, for the first nine months of the year, it received 90 complaints of torture for the project. According to members of the Antitorture Coalition, the cases it submitted against alleged torturers did not lead to convictions. In the cases where police were put on trial for torture, prosecutors, judges, and defendants raised procedural and substantive objections, delaying the cases. This resulted in evidence becoming stale and led to the dismissal of cases based on a legal requirement that trials be prompt. Other NGOs reported significant concerns the Prosecutor General’s Office failed to investigate independently claims of torture because prosecutors were unwilling to prosecute police. \*\

Despite widespread reports of abuse in detention, most detainees did not file torture claims while in pretrial detention because of fear of retribution from detention facility personnel and concern their claims would never be investigated. NGOs reported confessions resulting from torture were included as evidence. Lawyers routinely stated that, once investigators took a case to trial a conviction was almost guaranteed. According to Golos Svobody, investigators often took two weeks or longer to review torture claims, at which point the physical evidence of torture was no longer visible. Defense attorneys presented most allegations of torture during trial proceedings, and the courts typically rejected them. In some cases, detainees who were allegedly tortured filed claims they later recanted in the face of intimidation by law enforcement personnel. \*\

In January, following an armed robbery of approximately $4.5 million at Osh airport, police arrested three suspects, Davran Marazykov, Mirbek Teshebayev, and Farkhat Yulbasaro, and later detained a witness, Sultan Murzabekov. According to the lawyers representing the defendants, police initially told the men they could pay $5,000 for their release. When they declined, the officers severely beat and tortured them. The attorney representing the defendants successfully had a case opened against the police. In September, however, the Osh city court dismissed the case. The dismissal was appealed to the Osh regional court, but at year’s end a hearing had not been scheduled. \*\

Ferghana.ru reported the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) beat Dilior Djumaliev, an ethnic Uzbek arrested on September 15 for membership in the banned religious group Hizub ut Tahrir. His lawyer reported to Ferghana.ru that when he appeared in court, he showed signs of having a concussion. His lawyer also reported the GKNB had to call paramedics to see him because of his injuries. \*\

Arbitrary Arrest and Detention in Kyrgyzstan

According to the U.S. Department of State: “While the law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, both greatly increased following the interethnic violence in 2010 and in subsequent years. According to official government statistics submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee as part of the Universal Periodic Review process, 68.8 percent of the victims of the 2010 events were ethnic Uzbeks. Despite this, 71.7 percent of individuals arrested in connection with the events and 73.3 percent of those convicted of crimes were, according to the government, ethnic Uzbek and 24.4 percent ethnic Kyrgyz. NGOs, however, reported that, of those who were ethnic Kyrgyz and were sentenced, many received fines, probation, and other “small” sentences, while the courts sentenced the vast majority of ethnic Uzbeks to long prison sentences. NGOs reported a sense of injustice and strain remained due to the imbalance.[Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Kyrgyzstan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

According to multiple NGOs, authorities in the South continued to harass and detain ethnic Uzbeks for crimes committed during the 2010 interethnic violence with which they had no connection. Authorities detained ethnic Uzbeks on suspicion of knowing, or being related to, another suspect. NGOs also reported police approached young Uzbek men and demanded to know where they were in June 2010, forcing them into a situation where they had to find an alibi to defend themselves. Local and international observers reported arbitrary arrests persisted but were underreported because victims saw no benefit in reporting the misconduct to police or NGOs. Human rights organizations in Osh reported a dramatic increase in arrests for alleged involvement in banned religious organizations and for alleged “religious extremism activity.” \*\

On April 1, the government published a list of individuals who allegedly participated in what the government categorized as either terrorist or extremist activity, most of whom had been convicted and were in prison. Of the 54 persons the government listed as “participants in a terrorist activity,” 31 were ethnic Uzbek, including human rights activist Azimjon Aksarov, and two were ethnic Kyrgyz. Of the 233 individuals listed as participants in extremist activities, 145 were ethnic Uzbek and 74 were ethnic Kyrgyz, with the rest having either a different or no nationality. \*\

Arrests for lack of proper identification documents were common. Police frequently used false charges to arrest persons and then solicited bribes in exchange for release. In May the GKNB arrested four police officers for engaging in a scheme in which they would accuse a foreigner of attempting to rape a police-planted prostitute and then demand bribes to drop the charges. Police often physically and verbally abused individuals who were unable to pay. Attorneys and human rights activists regularly discussed the system of bribes that arrestees had to pay to secure their release. \*\

As in previous years, NGOs and monitoring organizations, including Golos Svobody, Bir Duino, HRW, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the OSCE continued to record complaints of arbitrary arrest. Most observers asserted it was impossible to know the number of cases because the majority went unreported. According to NGOs in the South, arrests and harassment of individuals allegedly involved in extremist religious groups--predominantly ethnic Uzbeks--increased. Attorneys reported that detained persons often sought to avoid physical abuse or the court system by quickly paying off the arresting officers. Attorneys believed this practice was most prominent in the South. \*\

According to Bir Duino, police in Osh arrested approximately 50 individuals over the first half of the year--almost all of them ethnic Uzbek--for alleged possession of printed materials from the banned religious group Hizb ut-Tahrir. Bir Duino stated that the arrests were driven by corruption within the law enforcement system. Police appeared at homes claiming to have a nonexistent search warrant. There were allegations police would enter the home, plant printed material promoting Hizb ut-Tahrir, and arrest the suspect. In one example, authorities arrested a 72-year-old man and charged him with possession of illegal religious materials for having a religious book presented to him during the Hajj. In another example, courts convicted a man of possession of illegal religious videos on a SIM card--a portable memory chip used mainly in cell phones--even after attorneys established to the courts and prosecutors the SIM card was added to the evidence after the fact by police. Many suspects allegedly paid bribes to police to secure their release in such cases. According to Bir Duino, the Ministry of Justice has never published any official list of prohibited religious materials. \*\

Shokhruh Saipov, an independent journalist in Osh, reported in an online article that the GKNB routinely threatened religious Muslims with arrest for terrorism and extremism and forced them to pay 25,000 soms ($440) to secure their release. Following the publication of the article, GKNB officials summoned Saipov for questioning and initiated a lawsuit against him for defamation. The GKNB withdrew the suit once the article’s editors from Ferghana.ru agreed to publish the GKNB’s version of events. \*\

Political Prisoners in Kyrgyzstan

According to the U.S. Department of State: “Courts have convicted opposition party members and ethnic Uzbeks of politically motivated actions related to violence. In view of numerous questions surrounding their connection to the violence and the fairness of the trials and appeals, some observers considered them political prisoners. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Kyrgyzstan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

Azimjon Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek human rights activist convicted with seven codefendants of killing a police officer during the interethnic violence in 2010, remained in prison at year’s end. In February, Askarov’s lawyer filed a complaint with the Oktyabrskii District court in Bishkek, alleging the government ignored exculpatory evidence and failed properly to investigate credible claims of torture in Askarov’s case and called on the Prosecutor General’s Office to reopen the investigation. On April 30, the court issued a decision calling on the prosecutor general to reopen the investigation or justify its unwillingness to do so. On June 12, the Bishkek City Court reversed the lower court’s decision and ruled the prosecutor did not have to reopen the case. On September 3, the Supreme Court upheld the appellate decision. \*\

In December 2013 the prison service stated it would only allow six visits per year to imprisoned Uzbek human rights defender Azimjon Askarov. NGO leaders from Bir Duino and Golos Svobody, however, reported making regular visits to him under an exception to the regulation that permits local NGOs involved in providing medical, psychological, and other support to visit. They reported Askarov was thin and losing weight. \*\

On July 25, the Military Court of Bishkek convicted 14 of the 28 individuals accused of complicity in the shooting deaths of protesters during the 2010 revolution. Those convicted included Oksana Malevanaya, former head of the Presidential Secretariat (sentenced to 10 years in prison), and Murat Sutalinov, former chairman of the GKNB (sentenced to 20 years in prison). Human rights activists were critical of the proceedings, claiming the government restricted the defendants’ right to see the evidence against them during the trial. \*\

Harassment and Big Brother Tactics in Kyrgyzstan

According to the U.S. Department of State: “The law requires approval from the prosecutor general for wiretaps, home searches, mail interception, and similar acts, including in cases relating to national security. The law states officials should use wiretapping of electronic communications exclusively to combat crime and only with a court order. Eleven government agencies have legal authority to monitor citizens’ telephone and internet communications. Cellular telephone operators MegaCom and Beeline confirmed that the security services wiretapped citizens. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Kyrgyzstan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

In January 2014, the mufti of Kyrgyzstan, Rakhmatulla Egemberdiev, was forced to resign after internet sites published a video of him engaging in sexual activity with a woman identified as his “second” wife, notwithstanding that polygamy is illegal. Egemberdiev confirmed he was in the video but expressed suspicion it was filmed with the help of individuals connected to the State Commission on Religious Affairs who infiltrated his home. The Law on Defense and Armed Forces authorizes the military to confiscate private property for the purpose of state security. \*\

Freedoms Promised in the Kyrgyzstan Constitution

The law as laid out in the Kyrgyzstan constitution provides for freedom of speech, press, assembly and association, and the government generally respects these rights. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Kyrgyzstan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

Andrei Richter of the Moscow Media Law and Policy Centre wrote: “On 27 June 2010 a new Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic was adopted via a national referendum. It replaces the previous edition of the act that was adopted on 21 October 2007. The 2007 Constitution replaced in its turn the 2006 edition. Unlike the earlier 1993 Constitution all later editions including the new one did not forbid censorship (although such a ban still exists in the 1992 mass media law). The new edition no longer forbids parliament to adopt a statute which would limit freedom of speech and of the press. Other guarantees of freedom of expression and of the press remain in place. [Source: Andrei Richter, Moscow Media Law and Policy Centre ||||]

“The new Constitution expands the notion of freedom of information and adds the right to seek information to the existing right of everyone to freely receive, obtain, keep and use information, and to disseminate it in oral, written or any other form (para. 1 Art. 33). It also guarantees everyone access to information on the activity of governmental and local bodies, their officials, entities with governmental participation, as well as any entity funded from the national or local budget (para. 3 Art. 33). Para. 4 of Art. 33 stipulates that everyone is guaranteed access to information kept by governmental and local bodies and their officials in the order stipulated by a statute (such a statute was indeed adopted in 2006). |The Constitution outlaws criminal defamation by stipulating that no one shall be prosecuted under criminal law for disseminating information that is defamatory or denigrating to one’s honour and dignity (para. 4 Art. 34). Thus Kyrgyzstan becomes the first country in Central Asia to ban criminal prrosecution for defamation.” ||||

Freedom of Religion, See Religion

Freedom of Speech in Kyrgyzstan

According to the U.S. Department of State: “ On May 19, 2014, President Atambayev signed into law amendments to the criminal code making it a crime falsely to accuse someone of committing a crime “in a public statement and/or in the media.” Many in civil society anticipated the amendments would have a chilling effect on journalists and free speech. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Kyrgyzstan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

“On August 25, the power went out in the movie theater Dom Kino immediately before a screening of the film 20 Testimonies about Maidan. Organized and sponsored by Bir Duino, the film screening was to portray eyewitness accounts of the events surrounding the violence in Kyiv earlier in the year. Although power outages were common in Bishkek, Bir Duino believed the GKNB organized the outage to prevent the screening. According to Bir Duino, on the day of the screening, the NGO’s director received calls from individuals who identified themselves as Ministry of Culture officials instructing Bir Duino not to screen the film until it underwent appropriate “expert review” for approval. \*\

“On August 31, police officers detained Marat Musuraliev, head of Kyrgyzstan against the Customs Union, ahead of Musuraliev’s planned distribution on a central square of ribbons with the Kyrgyz flag on them. The purpose of the protest was to oppose the country’s proposed membership in a customs union with Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia. During the detention, police brought Musuraliev first to a police station and then to a police medical facility, where he was screened for alcohol and drugs. Dukenbayev reported the screening was a tactic to keep him away from the protest. \*\

“The government took aggressive steps to stop discussion of sensitive issues related to ethnic reconciliation in the South in the wake of the June 2010 events. On September 24, the head of the NGO Uzbek Ethnic Cultural Center in Osh, Rashidkhan Khodzhaev, criticized Freedom House for “inciting ethnic violence” because a subcontractor, the Human Rights Advocacy Center (HRAC), planned to distribute two surveys about the state of interethnic reconciliation in the South. That same day the GKNB summoned a Freedom House employee based in Osh and questioned her about the survey. On September 25, approximately 15 persons appeared at Freedom House’s Osh office, demanding closure of the office. On September 30, six officers of the GKNB conducted a search of HRAC in Osh, seizing four computers as part of an investigation into charges of incitement of “national, racial, or religious enmity.” The GKNB requested an expert opinion from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on the contents of the survey. The NAS stated the document could in “certain situations” incite interethnic hatred. \*\

“In late November, following a two-month investigation in which seven employees of Freedom House and HRAC were called in for questioning, the GKNB announced charges against two employees of the center for incitement as part of a conspiracy or group, a crime that carries a mandatory prison term of five to eight years. On December 4, the Osh Regional Court ordered the case closed on the basis of a written request from the Prosecutor General’s Office that stated the GKNB had failed to show a crime had been committed. \*\

“On October 17, approximately 100 protesters from Kalys prevented a concert by the international pop group Kazaky because of possible “gay propaganda” in their performance. The protesters told the media they stopped the concert because of the need to preserve “traditional values” and prevent European “ideological extremism.” The concert’s organizers said the protesters were visibly drunk and spent six hours outside of the venue, harassing any ticket holder who arrived and threating to “burn down” the club if a “gay parade” took place. The club’s owner said he repeatedly appealed to the approximately 20 police nearby, but they replied they were not going to take any action because the protesters were “peaceful.”

Freedom of Press in Kyrgyzstan

Independent Kyrgyzstan initially had a very free press. Later it was muzzled and harassed and picked as one of the 10 worst countries to work as a journalist (See Akayev). Despite harassment an independent press and opposition survive and do better than in Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan. See Freedom of Speech Above

According to the U.S. Department of State: “As in 2013, some journalists reported threats for covering sensitive topics, such as interethnic relations, the events of June 2010, or the rise of nationalism in the country. The trend was particularly salient against Uzbek-language media outlets. Others felt threatened for reporting critically on public figures. Many journalists, even those not assaulted or threatened, admitted to self-censoring their reporting due to fear of reprisals. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Kyrgyzstan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

“Press Freedoms: On April 16, the parliament amended the criminal code to make it a crime falsely to accuse another of committing a crime “in a public statement and/or in the media;” the president signed the amendment into law on May 17. The law calls for fines or community service for a false accusation of a nonserious crime, or house arrest or imprisonment for an accusation of a “serious crime.” Members of the news media were concerned about the amendment’s chilling effect on the media and asserted it could “kill independent journalism.” There were no reports the amendment was applied during the year, although GKNB officials threatened to use the law against a journalist in the South. The OSCE’s representative on freedom of the media, Reporters without Borders, and other international organizations released statements condemning the law. \*\

“The Ministry of Justice required all media to register and receive ministry approval in order to operate. The registration process nominally took one month but was often much longer. It included checks on the background of each media outlet’s owner and its source of financing, including financing by international donor organizations. \*\

“Foreign media generally operated freely. While the law prohibits foreign ownership of domestic media, there was a small degree of foreign ownership of media through local partners. Russian-language television stations dominated coverage and local ratings. A number of Russia-based media outlets operated freely in the country, and the government treated them as domestic media. \*\

“Violence and Harassment: On March 12, blogger and human rights activist Ilya Lukash fled the country after the youth movement Kalys organized a protest against foreign NGO funding and support for sexual minorities. Protesters burned Lukash’s portrait because of his lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) activism and for his alleged promise “to organize a second Maidan in Kyrgyzstan.” After the protest, Kalys activists attempted to attack Lukash in a Bishkek cafe. \*\

“On April 2, 50 protesters shut down a Freedom House-organized roundtable in Osh for local human rights organizations, asserting the meeting was a forum for discussing LGBT rights. The protest took place during a visit of two Freedom House officials. Freedom House staff left the premises due to the crowd's aggressiveness and the refusal of police to provide security to a second location, where they were followed. Freedom House staff then sought refuge at an OSCE office until they were able to leave the city safely. \*\

“The founder of the opposition newspaper Alibi, Babyrbek Jeenbekov, reported that, on November 6, unknown individuals broke into the newspaper’s office, threw papers on the floor, and tried to open the office’s safe. Jeenbekov, the father of opposition member of parliament Ravshan Jeenbekov, believed the break-in was a “warning” to the paper after it published an article critical of President Atambayev. While the intruders did not take anything, Jeenbekov claimed the break-in intimidated his staff and other independent outlets. \*\

“Censorship or Content Restrictions: The law places significant restrictions on television and radio broadcast companies and establishes Kyrgyz-language and local content requirements. Human rights activists asserted the law is unconstitutional because it conflicts with constitutional rights to freedom of speech and access to information. The law also provides for sign-language interpretation or subtitles in public television programming. \*\

“As in previous years, journalists and NGO leaders alleged some news outlets instructed their reporters not to report critically on certain politicians or government officials. The sources also reported some news outlets received requests from offices of the government to report in a particular way or to ignore news stories. \*\

“On December 11, the Prosecutor General’s Office instructed the State Agency on Connectivity to order internet service providers to block the news website Kloop.kg, since the website was carrying a 15-minute video, produced by the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant, about Kazakhstani nationals, including children, undergoing militant training in Syria. Kloop.kg became unavailable on several providers. On December 16, the State Agency for Connectivity unblocked Kloop.kg and withdrew the request, stating that the Prosecutor General’s Office did not secure a proper judicial decision to have the site blocked. \*\

“Libel Laws/National Security: While libel is not a criminal offense, NGO leaders described the False Accusations Amendments, passed on April 16, as a “recriminalizing of libel.” Journalists have noted the law opens journalists and media outlets to libel suits in civil courts that could bankrupt the outlets or journalists. In its report, Freedom House noted “insult” and “insult of public officials” continue to be criminal offenses and that the law is detrimental to the development of freedom of speech and mass media in the country. The head of the Media Policy Institute reported her organization routinely defended journalists charged with libel and slander, and members of the media regularly feared the threat of lawsuits. \*\

Freedom of Assembly in Kyrgyzstan

According to the U.S. Department of State:“Organizers and participants are responsible for notifying authorities about planned assemblies, but the constitution prohibits authorities from banning or restricting peaceful assemblies, even in the absence of prior notification. Local authorities have the right to demand an end to a public action and, in the event of noncompliance, are empowered to take measures to end assemblies. The government stated that, during the first two months of this year, there were 65 protests across the country, the vast majority of which were conducted peacefully and without interference. Human rights activists disputed the government’s figures, stating approximately 30 percent of planned protests were broken up by the government. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Kyrgyzstan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

“In March the Pervomaisky District Court in Bishkek issued a ruling prohibiting protests in front of the parliament building and in the main square for the month of April, coinciding with the fourth anniversary of the 2010 revolution. The court stated it would allow protests at parks and other squares nearby. A coalition of opposition politicians, the National Opposition Movement, issued a statement criticizing the court’s move, claiming it violated the constitution. On March 27, human rights activist Aziza Abdirasulova reported police broke up a protest that she and 12 other women attempted to hold in front of the parliament’s main building. \*\

“On March 30, former parliamentarian and opposition activist Sadyr Japarov announced he was canceling a large protest planned for the city center on March 31. In an official statement, law enforcement officials stated his planned protest was illegal based on a 2012 law requiring protest organizers to register with police two days in advance of any protest. Japarov confirmed he did not submit a request for holding a public meeting, but declared citizens have a constitutional right to hold protests. His protest later took place on April 10 in a park near the central square. According to the media, on October 15, police detained five activists of the Jany Muun (New Generation) movement following a protest that day against rising energy prices. According to police, they arrested the activists for holding an unsanctioned protest. \*\

Freedom of Association in Kyrgyzstan

According to the U.S. Department of State: While the law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected it. NGOs, labor unions, political parties, and cultural associations must register with the Ministry of Justice. NGOs are required to have at least three members, and all other organizations at least 10 members. The Ministry of Justice did not refuse to register any domestic NGOs during the year. The law prohibits foreign-funded political parties and NGOs, including their representative offices and branches, from pursuing political goals. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Kyrgyzstan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

“The government’s State Concept on Religion lists 14 organizations as banned organizations: al-Qaida, the Movement of Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan, the Kurdish People’s Congress (Congra-Gel), the Organization for the Liberation of Eastern Turkestan, Hizb ut-Tahrir al’Islami (Hizb ut-Tahrir), Group Jihad (Union of Islam Jihad), the Islamic Party of Turkestan (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan), Jaishul Mahdi, Djundul Halifat, Ansarullah, At-Takfir Val-Hijra, and the Church for Uniting of Muna. \*\

“Numerous human rights activists reported a sharp increase in arrests and prosecution of persons accused of possessing and distributing Hizb ut-Tahrir literature. Most arrests of alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members occurred in the South and involved ethnic Uzbeks. The government charged the majority of those arrested with possession of illegal religious material. In some cases NGOs reported police planted Hizb ut-Tahrir literature as evidence against those arrested.

Investigations of Human Rights Violations in Kyrgyzstan

According to the U.S. Department of State: “Law enforcement officials harassed and threatened human rights activists who reported on ongoing abuses as well as those committed during and after the 2010 interethnic violence. The government made registration challenging and sometimes impossible for international NGOs. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Kyrgyzstan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

“In November 2013 the Ministry of Labor, Migration, and Youth informed HRW it would not re-accredit two of the organization's three international employees. The two staff members remained unregistered until May 12, when, after encouragement from the international community, the ministry re-accredited them. At year's end all three HRW international staff were accredited. \*\

“On February 19, the country program director for the Solidarity Center left the country after representatives of local trade unions accused him of being a spy. On May 15, the government denied entry to his replacement and informed him of his persona non grata status. The government had taken no action to resolve the case as of year’s end. \*\

“The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government permitted visits by representatives of the United Nations and other organizations in connection with the investigation of abuses or monitoring of human rights problems in the country, including those of the OSCE, the ICRC, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The entry ban issued on Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission chairman Kimmo Kiljunen remained in effect throughout the year. The ban was linked to Kiljunen’s 2011 report describing the 2010 violence and criticizing the government’s efforts at reconciliation and peace building. The government restricted visits to Azimjon Askarov but otherwise provided international bodies largely unfettered access to civil society activists, detention facilities and detainees, and government stakeholders. \*\

“In August the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for the closure of the OSCE’s Community Security Initiative (CSI). Established in 2010 in the aftermath of the June events, the CSI had 17 international police advisors embedded in police stations in villages across the South. The advisors worked with local police to generate a closer connection between law enforcement and the communities they serve, thus facilitating a more open exchange of information and reducing the chances of a repeat of 2010’s interethnic conflict. In November the government rescinded its call for the CSI’s early closure, allowing the office to remain open until the end of 2015 as originally scheduled. \*\

“Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman acted as an independent advocate for human rights on behalf of private citizens and NGOs and had authority to recommend cases for court review. During the year, however, the office did not report any complaints to parliament. The atmosphere of impunity surrounding the security forces and their observed ability to act independently against citizens, limited the number and type of complaints submitted to the Ombudsman’s Office. During the year the Ombudsman’s Office did not make available statistics regarding the number of complaints it received. The government established the Office of the Ombudsman and National Center to Prevent Torture. The human rights community cooperated with the National Center and effectively conducted routine and unannounced visits to prisons. \*\

“Following the June 2010 events, the government established the Department on Ethnic Development, Religious Policy and Interrelation with Civil Society under the President’s Office, headed by Mira Karybayeva.” \*\

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2016

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