Kyrgyzstan: ill-treatment and unfair trial for Azimzhan Askarov

A new report by the ICJ says there have been multiple violations of human rights in the arrest and trial of Azimzhan Askarov, a prominent Kyrgyz human rights defender.

The report, published today, calls on the government of Kyrgyzstan to urgently initiate an investigation into the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of Azimzhan Askarov and his co-defendants, and to reopen the criminal case against them.

Azimzhan Askarov, director of Air, a human rights NGO, was arrested immediately after a serious outbreak of ethnic violence in the South of Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. He was charged with complicity in murder, instigation of hostility and other crimes.

“We found compelling evidence that, upon arrest, and throughout the trial, Azimzhan Askarov was subjected to constant severe beatings and other ill-treatment,” said Róisín Pillay, ICJ Europe Programme Director. “The trial was conducted amidst constant threats and was marred by lack of very basic guarantees such as security of witnesses, and attacks against lawyers.”

Azimzhan Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment and the verdict was upheld on appeal including by the Supreme Court. Credible allegations of torture and other violations of rights of the defendants were ignored by the courts.

The ICJ Report on the Arrest, Trial and Detention of Azimzhan Askarov documents in detail these allegations, the harassment of lawyers and witnesses, as well as other violations of international human rights law and the national criminal law and procedure of Kyrgyzstan.

The report ’s findings are the result of an ICJ mission to Kyrgyzstan in December 2011 where it observed the Supreme Court hearing in Bishkek, which upheld Askarov’s conviction and life sentence and met with the human right defender, lawyers and NGOs, representatives of the victims as well as with the Prosecutor General.

The report presents an account of the events which led to Mr Askarov’s arrest, describes his treatment in pre-trial detention and during the trial, and the conduct of the trial and appeal stages. It evaluates the facts based on international human rights law and criminal law of the Kyrgyz Republic.

“The case of Azimzhan Askarov shows how the distortion of the legal system at a time of crisis and division can lead to unchecked human rights violations and, ultimately, to denial of justice through the criminal justice process”, Róisín Pillay said. “The ICJ calls on the relevant authorities to use this report to assist in the initiation of proceedings against persons involved in those violations and to ensure a retrial of the case in accordance with the fair procedures required by national and international law.”

The ICJ urges the government of Kyrgyzstan to ensure that impunity for the serious violations of human rights in this case does not prevail and that those responsible are brought to justice.

Victims of human rights violations related to this investigation and trial should be afforded access to an effective remedy and full reparation, as required by international human rights law, the ICJ added.

The ICJ mission to Kyrgyzstan included Róisín Pillay, Director of ICJ Europe Programme, Daniyar Kanafin, lawyer, and Eva Rieter, Assistant professor at Radboud University Nijmegen.

Róisín Pillay, Director of the ICJ Europe Programme, T: +41 22 979 3830, E: roisin.pillay(at)
Temur Shakirov, Legal Adviser, Europe regional programme, T: +41 22 979 3832; E: temur.shakirov(at)

Kyrgyzstan-Arrest and trial of Askarov-trial observation report 2012 (full text, PDF)

Kyrgyzstan-Arrest and trial Askarov-press release-2012-rus (full text in Russian, PDF)

Kyrgyzstan-Arrest and trial of Askarov-trial observation report 2012-rus (full text in Russian, PDF)

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