WARSAW, 11 November 2010 – The Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, today encouraged Kyrgyzstan’s authorities to ensure full compliance with fair trial standards in the case of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov and other trials related to the June violence in the south of the country.
An appeals court yesterday upheld the 15 September verdict of a lower court, which sentenced Askarov to life imprisonment and confiscation of his property on charges of organizing mass disorder and inciting inter-ethnic hatred.
ODIHR monitors at the first instance trial and appeal proceedings 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 an instance of physical attack against one of the lawyers. This added to an atmosphere of fear and intimidation surrounding many of the cases related to the June violence, in particular those involving ethnic Uzbek defendants.
Monitors also found that the judge failed to follow-up on allegations of torture made during the appeal proceedings.
« It is commendable that the authorities stepped up security for the appeal hearings, but we remain concerned about reports of torture and procedural irregularities and an atmosphere of intimidation in and around the courtroom that challenged the ability of the defence to make its case, » said Lenarcic.
He called for a full investigation of allegations of torture and said irregularities had to be addressed to ensure a fair trial for Askarov and the other defendants.
Askarov, who has worked with ODIHR on detention monitoring projects in southern Kyrgyzstan in the past, is the head of the non-governmental human rights organization « Vozdukh ».
As a participating State of the OSCE, Kyrgyzstan is bound by international fair trial standards as enshrined in OSCE commitments and is obliged to take effective administrative, judicial and other measures to prevent and punish torture and ill-treatment.