Kyrgyzstan’s retrial of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov a mockery unworthy of closer EU ties, Observatory reports
A Kyrgyz court ruled to uphold human rights defender Azimjan Askarov’s life sentence, after what was a mock retrial falling short of basic fair-trial requirements and running against United Nations recommendations to release him, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) reported today (the report is available in English and Russian).
The Chuy Regional Court, which reconsidered Azimjan Askarov’s case in appeal from October 4, 2016 to January 24, 2017, upheld the 2010 verdict which had been issued in a trial marred by a flawed investigation, bias, lack of substantial evidence and allegations of torture and the absence of investigation thereof. In its decision published in April 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee requested the authorities to release Azimjan Askarov and quash his conviction. Neither of the recommendations were brought into effect.
Moreover, the Chuy Regional Court itself, by refusing to hear some defence witnesses, restricting access to the courtroom, failing to investigate credible allegations of torture and ignoring acts of pressure and intimidation targeting defence witnesses and lawyers, failed to guarantee Askarov’s right to a fair trial in accordance with international human rights standards.
“Kyrgyzstan has also made a complete mockery of its international human rights obligations,”said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General. “If this country wants to be a European trading partner it has to be clear to it that it has to behave very differently.”
Tomorrow, President Atambayev is scheduled to meet with European Union (EU) leaders in Brussels, including EU Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, to discuss a new Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation and a Memorandum of Understanding on a 13 million euros worth project aimed at supporting judicial reform in Kyrgyzstan. Shortly after the court’s decision on January 24, 2017, UN bodies and the EU voiced serious concerns over the “serious shortcomings” in Kyrgyzstan’s judicial system, recalling that “full compliance with its international human rights obligations, including the opinions of the UNHRC, is essential to maintain the international standing of the Kyrgyz Republic”.
“The arbitrary character of Azimjam Askarov’s detention is unquestionable. EU leaders must take the opportunity of President Atambayev’s visit to remind him of Kyrgyzstan’s human rights commitments and the need to demonstrate at the highest level the will to support a genuine judicial reform. Support to judicial reform is meaningless if the right to a fair trial is not guaranteed and justice remains vulnerable to political interference,” said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH Honorary President.
This press release was published on OMCT's website on February 15, 2017.