The ICJ today welcomed the decision of Oktyabrskiy Court of Bishkek to reopen the investigation in the case against Azimzhan Askarov.
The prominent human rights defender was arrested immediately after the serious violence in the South of Kyrgyzstan in June 2010, which involved clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek groups.
He was convicted of complicity in murder, instigation of hostility and other crimes, and was sentenced to life imprisonment in September 2010.
His conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic in December 2010, despite credible allegations of multiple violations of his human rights in the investigation and trial.
The ICJ, as recorded in a 2011 report, concluded that Azimzhan Askarov had received an unfair trial and was the victim of arbitrary detention and torture and ill treatment.
On 5 May 2013, the Prosecutor General’s Office established an investigative team to check the evidence of the criminal case against Azimzhan Askarov and to examine the possibility of reopening proceedings based on newly discovered evidence.
On 5 February 2014, the Deputy Prosecutor General discontinued the work of the team “due to the absence of grounds for resuming the proceedings”.
This decision was challenged by Azimzhan Askarov’s lawyer and was overturned by Oktyabrskiy Court in Bishkek on 30 April.
“It is a promising sign that the Court has decided to reopen the investigation into this case. What is important now is that the structures and procedures for the investigation ensure that it is independent and impartial, and that it involves a thorough assessment of the case, including allegations of torture and other violations of human rights,” Róisín Pillay, Director of the ICJ Europe Programme, said. “It is crucial that the allegations of torture of Azimzhan Azkarov, which were documented by the ICJ and others, are investigated, that those responsible are held accountable and that Azimzhan Azkarov receives full reparation for the violations suffered.”
“The justice system in the Kyrgyz Republic should seize this opportunity to remedy the violations of human rights which occurred in the previous investigation and trial of Azimzhan Askarov,” she added. “Any trial which follows the investigation, must scrupulously respect the right to a fair trial.”
Róisín Pillay, Director, ICJ Europe Programme, roisin.pillay(a)icj.org
Temur Shakirov, Legal Adviser, ICJ Europe Programme, temur.shakirov(a)icj.org
The ICJ observed the appeal hearing in the case before the Supreme Court, in December 2010: the report can be found here
The ICJ report on the case, which followed the observation mission, documented violations of the rights of Azimzhan Askarov, including torture and other ill-treatment in detention, arbitrary arrest and violations of the right to a fair trial, can be found here
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