WARSAW, 20 December 2011 – Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), expressed dismay today over the decision of Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court to uphold the life sentence for prominent human rights defender Azimjan Askarov.
“Given the serious violations of Askarov’s right to a fair trial reported by our observers, the Supreme Court decision raises grave concerns about the ability or willingness of Kyrgyzstan’s judicial system to address shortcomings in lower instance trials,” Lenarčič said.
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.
Violations reported during the first and second instance trials related to the June 2010 violence in the south of the country included 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 indications of possible torture.
An ODIHR delegation visited Askarov in prison last week and called on the Supreme Court to act on the reported fair trial violations.
As a participating State of the OSCE, Kyrgyzstan is bound by international fair trial standards as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and OSCE commitments, and is obliged to take effective measures to prevent and punish torture and ill-treatment.