In a legal opinion issued today analyzing the retrial of the Kyrgyz human rights defender Azimjan Askarov, which followed the UN Human Rights Committee finding of multiple human rights violations in his first trial, the ICJ concludes that these violations have not been remedied by the retrial.
In particular, the ICJ finds that the retrial did not effectively examine allegations of the torture of Askarov in detention. It failed to conduct new investigations, hear new witnesses or question the elements on which the initial conviction was based. As a result, the retrial did not respect the presumption of innocence or comply with the requirements of a fair trial.
As a consequence, Azimjan Askarov’s conviction should be quashed and he should be released, the ICJ said.
“This analysis shows that despite years of court hearings, Azimjan Askarov has never been afforded a fair trial or an effective investigation into his allegations that he was tortured. We call on the Kyrgyz authorities to act on these findings and to quash his conviction and release him from detention. Without this, the decision of the UN Human Rights Committee will remain unimplemented ” said Róisín Pillay, ICJ Europe and Central Asia Director.
An investigation into allegations of torture and other violations of Askarov’s human rights should be launched, the ICJ concluded, and he should be accorded full reparations for violations of his human rights.
Azimjan Askarov, a prominent human rights defender in the Kyrgyz Republic, was convicted on 15 September 2010 of complicity in the murder of a law enforcement officer, attempted complicity in hostage-taking, illegal possession of firearms, incitement of interethnic hatred, and organization of riots.
The ICJ has followed his case since the initial trial and Askarov’s eventual conviction – and identified multiple violations of his human rights in detention, trial and conviction in 2010.
In 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) adopted Views in which it found violations of Askarov’s rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The HRC decided that Kyrgyzstan was to make full reparation to Askarov; take appropriate steps to immediately release him; quash his conviction and, if necessary, conduct a new trial in due compliance with fair trial guarantees.
Following the HRC decision, the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic remanded the case of Azimjan Askarov for retrial to the Chuy Regional Court due to new circumstances. The retrial took place from 4 October 2016 to 24 January 2017. The retrial proceeded without quashing the defendant’s conviction but with “resumption” of the proceedings in the case.
The ICJ legal opinion is based on the findings from the observation of a number of hearings before the Chuy Regional Court and analysis of documents in the case. It assesses the proceedings in light of Kyrgyzstan’s domestic law as well as relevant international law and standards. The opinoin is signed on behalf of the ICJ by ICJ Commissioners Justice Azhar Cachalia, Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa; Justice Nicolas Bratza, former President of the European Court of Human Rights, Professor Juan Mendez, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The full text of the legal opinion is available below.
In English: Kyrgyzstan-Askarov report II-Publications-Reports-Trial observation report-2019-ENG
In Russian: Kyrgyzstan-Askarov report II-Publications-Reports-Trial observation reports-2019-RUS