BISHKEK, 16 December 2011 – After visiting prominent human rights defender Azimjan Askarov in prison, a delegation from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) today urged Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court to take fair trial violations and indications of torture into account when reviewing the case of Askarov and other defendants convicted in relation to the June 2010 violence in the south of the country.
“We strongly hope that the Supreme Court, as the country’s top judicial oversight body, takes action to prevent what could amount to a major miscarriage of justice,” said Assia Ivantcheva, the deputy head of ODIHR’s human rights department and head of the delegation.
Observers of the first and second instance trials, including from the OSCE, reported serious violations of fair trial standards, such as over-reliance on police evidence, and the failure of the authorities to adequately address the intimidation of defence witnesses and lawyers, to consider exculpatory evidence, and to effectively follow-up on visible signs of torture.
Askarov, who worked with ODIHR on detention monitoring projects in southern Kyrgyzstan and has on many occasions spoken out against police brutality, was convicted to life imprisonment and confiscation of his property on charges of organizing mass disorder, inciting inter-ethnic hatred, hostage-taking, and incitement to murder.
Askarov told the delegation that he hopes that justice will be delivered in his case.
“With Kyrgyzstan’s new leadership committing itself to pushing ahead with judicial reform, the resolution of this case in line with fair trial standards and the country’s obligations as an OSCE participating State would send an important signal,” said Ivantcheva.
Earlier this week, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, visited Askarov in prison and expressed concern about the denial of justice in this case.
As a participating State of the OSCE, Kyrgyzstan is bound by international fair trial standards as enshrined in OSCE commitments and is obliged to take effective administrative, judicial and other measures to prevent and punish torture and ill-treatment.