Kyrgyzstan: Mounting pressure on human rights defenders as the Constitutional referendum approaches

Press release

Bishkek-Paris-Geneva, December 9, 2016. In the run-up to the Constitutional referendum scheduled on December 11, 2016, women human rights defenders Tolekan Ismailova and Aziza Abdirasulova are subject to increasing pressure, verbal attacks and surveillance. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT partnership) calls the Kyrgyz authorities to ensure the physical integrity and security of human rights defenders and to stop harassment of critics of the referendum.

On December 8, 2016, head of FIDH member organisation "Centre for Human Rights "Kylym Shamy" Aziza Abdirasulova was hospitalised for urgent treatment following revelation of facts of wiretapping and mounting media harassment. Persecution of Aziza Abdirasulova and Tolekan Ismailova, Head of FIDH member "Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan", intensified during the retrial of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov. Condemned to life imprisonment in 2010 in judicial proceedings considered as unfair by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Azimjan Askarov is being retried – only at the appeals level - since October 2016.

As the verdict of Azimjan Askarov approaches, mounting pressure on Tolekan Ismailova, Askarov’s public defender, and Aziza Abdirasulova, defense witness in the retrial, has resulted in increased surveillance and regular hounding in media and social networks.

"We regret the inability of the Kyrgyz authorities to protect human rights defenders. Moreover, in the majority of cases, current and former decision-makers incite public hatred towards leading human rights defenders, which increased in the context of the upcoming constitutional referendum"

FIDH Director of Operations Marceau Sivieude

Our organisations recall that Tolekan Ismailova and Aziza Abdirasulova are regularly victims of verbal attacks, acts of harassment and slandering campaigns [1]

“Intimidation and persecution of human rights defenders place them at increased risk and serve to obstruct their legitimate human rights activities. We call upon the Kyrgyz authorities to guarantee their protection and to ensure that they are able to carry out their work without hindrances”

OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock

Beside strengthening the power of the executive and weakening the independence of the judiciary, the proposed constitutional amendments introduce a set of “highest values” that may be used to curtail universal human rights and freedoms. The amendments would also delete part of Article 41 of the Constitution which require the national authorities to restore the rights of Kyrgyz citizens in the case of violation established by international mechanisms. This constitutional provision was the legal basis for the retrial of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov [2].

The initiative to hold a constitutional referendum introducing major changes into the fundamental law was made public in the mid-summer, leaving citizens only roughly four months to debate. Our organisations are also alarmed by the recent reports of Facebook users being summoned by the security services for criticizing the authorities.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

Read more