(26/07/2017). Report Nº 245 / Europe & Central Asia. Russia’s and China’s separate visions for Central Asia could transform the region’s political and economic landscape as well as relations between the two Eurasian giants. To the smaller, embryonic Central Asian nation states, the new geopolitical realities could offer both economic prosperity as well as worsening instability and conflict.
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.
Kyrgyzstan models itself as Central Asia’s only parliamentary democracy, but multiple challenges threaten its stability. Divided ethnically between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks and geographically north and south, the state is deeply corrupt and fails to deliver basic services, in particular justice and law enforcement. Its political institutions are under stress: the October 2015 parliamentary elections had a veneer of respectability but were undermined by systematic graft at the party and administrative level, and presidential elections will test state cohesion in 2017. The 30 August suicide car bomb attack on the Chinese embassy in Bishkek underscored Kyrgyzstan’s security vulnerabilities. There is need to prevent and counter the threat of growing radicalisation by bolstering the credibility of its institutions and adopting a more tolerant attitude toward non-violent Islamists.
The report follows an international fact-finding mission carried out in September 2015 on the situation of human rights defenders in the country. It presents concrete examples of increasing pressure faced by human rights defenders over the past few years, from both State officials and nationalist groups. The forms of harassment they are subjected to include illegal searches of their offices, surveillance and intimidation by intelligence services, threat to (mis)use criminal provisions on fighting extremism, physical attacks and smear campaigns in the media.
This 98-page report documents obstacles to accessing help or justice in cases of severe domestic abuse. Despite a 2003 domestic violence law, which guarantees survivors’ rights to protection, social services, and redress, Human Rights Watch’s report exposes gaps in state response to domestic violence, including police refusing to register or investigate complaints, police and courts failing to issue or enforce protection orders, and courts and prosecutors treating domestic violence as a minor offense carrying light penalties.
Kyrgyzstan’s relative stability belies the country’s brittle Central Asian neighbourhood, simmering ethnic tensions, religious extremism and political frustration. Russia, the West and China share interests here, creating a unique opportunity to work together for Kyrgyzstan’s democratic development during and after the upcoming 4 October parliamentary elections.
Amnesty International welcomes Kyrgyzstan’s active engagement with the UPR process and its acceptance of the majority of recommendations made by other states. The organization is concerned, however, at increasing restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and association in Kyrgyzstan, ongoing discrimination and violence against minority groups, and the continued failure to effectively investigate human rights violations committed in the context of the June 2010 violence.
Police Violence Against Gay and Bisexual Men in Kyrgyzstan. (29/01/2014). This 65-page report found that gay and bisexual men have been subjected to a range of abuses at the hands of police in Kyrgyzstan, including physical, sexual, and psychological violence; arbitrary detention; and extortion under the threat of violence or of exposing victims’ sexual orientation to friends and family. The report is based on detailed interviews with 40 gay and bisexual men in four regions of Kyrgyzstan. The government should condemn and thoroughly investigate reports of abuse and establish a confidential complaint mechanism for all cases of abuse by police officers.