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.

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 **]

Text Sources: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last Updated March 2022

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