European leaders should raise rights concern: Human Rights Watch 

Kyrgyzstan

March 22, Brussels:  Leaders of the European Union, France, Germany, and Switzerland should raise pressing human rights concerns and seek commitments to address them from Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambaev, Human Rights Watch said today. The Kyrgyzstan leader is visiting Brussels and European capitals from March 22 to April 1, 2015.

European leaders should seek firm promises to reject two bills before the Kyrgyzstan Parliament that are wholly incompatible with respect for human rights in a democratic society. One is a blatantly discriminatory anti-gay “propaganda” bill, and the other a deeply problematic “foreign agents” bill that would limit the ability of human rights and other nongovernmental groups to continue their important work. EU leaders should also press Atambaev to release immediately the wrongfully imprisoned rights defender Azimjon Askarov, given the flawed and unfair trial that led to his lifetime imprisonment.

“Rights-violating legislation and longstanding, unaddressed abuses undermine democratic progress in Kyrgyzstan,” said Mihra Rittmann, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “European leaders shouldn’t miss this opportunity to speak out about these concerns and urge President Atambaev to call a halt to human rights abuses in his country.”

Atambaev will hold talks with several heads of state, including President of France François Hollande, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, and President of Switzerland Simonetta Sommaruga. In Brussels his hosts include Martin Schulz, the European Parliament president; Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president; and Donald Tusk, the European Council president.

Askarov, a human rights defender who has focused on ill-treatment and torture by the police, has been serving a life sentence since 2010 following a trial that did not meet fair trial standards. He was convicted for alleged involvement in the ethnic violence that rocked the country’s south in June 2010. During his trial, Askarov, 63, made credible allegations that he had been tortured in custody, but prosecutorial authorities have repeatedly declined to investigate. His health has declined markedly in prison.

The highly problematic bills would seriously curb freedom of association and expression by individuals and nongovernmental groups and contravene Kyrgyzstan’s obligation to ensure nondiscrimination, Human Rights Watch said.

The Oslo Times

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