Friday, 14 June 2013

Human Rights Committee Scheduled To Review Kyrgyzstan

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by Aigul Kasymova (06/12/2013 issue of the CACI Analyst)

The 108th Session of the UN Human Rights Committee is scheduled to take place July 8-26, 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland. During the session, the committee will review Kyrgyzstan, where the human rights situation has changed significantly since its last review 13 years ago. Kyrgyzstan has experienced two revolutions leading to the overthrow of two governments and the establishment of a Parliamentary system, and a violent inter-ethnic conflict between ethnic Kyrgyz and the Uzbek minority in southern Kyrgyzstan in the summer of 2010. The session will also review two other post-Soviet states, Ukraine and Tajikistan. The last review of Kyrgyzstan by the UN Human Rights Committee took place in July 2000 during its 69th session in Geneva. 


On April 26, 2013, Human Rights Watch submitted recommendations on Kyrgyzstan to the UN Human Rights Committee in advance of a Pre-Sessional Review of the country. As stated in the Memorandum, torture and ill-treatment in places of detention remains a persistent problem throughout Kyrgyzstan. Perpetrators of violent acts frequently go unpunished despite the fact that the government has enforced necessary reforms of the criminal code in adherence to international standards on the prevention of torture and ill-treatment and new legislation has been adopted. Kyrgyzstan ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) on December 29, 2008.

In December of 2011, Kyrgyzstan hosted a UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez. At the end of his mission, Mendez advised the Kyrgyz government to urgently prevent abuse, torture and ill-treatment. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur urged the government to put a stop to impunity by making sure that perpetrators are punished accordingly by the law. One of the main concerns of the Special Rapporteur dealt with the fact that there is a serious lack of proper, sufficient and impartial investigation into accusations of torture and ill-treatment, especially when it comes to effective investigation and prosecution of law enforcement officials.

Concerns over torture and ill-treatment in Kyrgyzstan are not new. In 2007 the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and the Kyrgyz human rights organization Kylym Shamy expressed concern over suspected use of torture by law enforcement officials in Kyrgyzstan. Both organizations stated that law enforcement officials in the northern city of Naryn were suspected of torturing at least three detainees to death.

According to the Human Rights Watch report, torture and arbitrary detention continues to be a problem in Kyrgyzstan. In August 2011, Human Rights Watch stated that an ethnic Uzbek died two days after his release after being tortured by the police in southern Kyrgyzstan. According to the U.S. Department of State 2012 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Kyrgyz Republic which was published in April 2013, at least one person died while in detention in southern Kyrgyzstan. Following the death of the victim, the Prosecutor’s Office began a criminal investigation into the incident and two police officers were suspended on the order of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The report furthermore states that despite the fact that at least five persons died in detention in 2011 and investigation and trials followed in certain cases, no law enforcement official has been punished for these acts.

Arbitrary arrests and detention greatly increased after the inter-ethnic conflict in 2010, despite being prohibited by law. Both local and international human rights organizations have recorded cases where law enforcement officials used the ethnic clashes of June 2010 in order to extract money from ethnic Uzbeks. The police officers would threaten ethnic Uzbeks to either pay the requested amount or be charged with involvement in the conflict. Despite repeated arbitrary arrests, most cases went unreported. Certain human rights activist argue that victims see no point in reporting these arrest as the perpetrators are unlikely to be punished and it could lead to further arrest and abuse of the victims.

Despite the enforcement of necessary reforms in the criminal code and new legislation to prevent torture and ill-treatment by the Kyrgyz government, the reality remains very different. Even when cases of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials make it to court, frequent delays in trials and failure to present proper evidence leaves little hope for victims to obtain rulings in their favor. For example, on April 18, 2013, court hearings in Bishkek of police officers accused of torture of a female accused of abducting two children were been postponed due to the medical conditions of the defendants. The hearing has been rescheduled three times for various reasons.

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The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.


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