Press release of the PA HRM “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan”
25 July 2021 is the first anniversary of the death of human rights defender Azimzhan Askarov, who did not live to see a fair hearing of his case by an independent and impartial court and died in colony No. 47. He was 69 years old.
The human rights community calls on the country’s authorities to comply with the Views of the UN Human Rights Committee regarding his case. Human rights defenders have repeatedly pointed out the lack of access to timely and high-quality medical care, poor conditions of detention, which eventually led to the deterioration of the human rights defender’s condition and death. The investigation of his death in the colony was conducted by the State Penitentiary Service, the same agency that ensures the quality of conditions of detention and the realization of the rights of prisoners, and therefore cannot guarantee and ensure the independence and impartiality of the investigation. The Human Rights Movement “Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan”, attorney Aidar Sydykov continue to protect the rights and interests of the human rights defender’s family after his death in prison.
During his 10 years in prison, Askarov, along with his family and lawyers, took part in about 45 hearings in several areas: on the main case, the review of the case, based on the Decision of the UN Committee, regarding property, etc. Each trial took place in tense conditions, Askarov and his defense were attacked and threatened, the arguments of his lawyers were ignored, the trials were held with an accusatory bias. How much strength, courage and patience does it take to survive such events? All the weaknesses of the judicial system were revealed by the example of the life of one human rights defender, a victim of judicial arbitrariness, victim of torture and the inhumane attitude of the authorities.
Is the prosecution of Askarov connected with his previous professional activity? After all, he had been defending the rights of the vulnerable people, the poor, convicts, victims of torture, and representatives of national minorities for many years. He went against the established system, pointing out its omissions, shortcomings and neglect. He needed the struggle for justice like he needed air to breathe, that’s what his human rights organization in Bazar-Korgon was called – “Air”.
He himself was subjected to torture and ill-treatment. His numerous statements about torture did not yield results — none of the perpetrators were brought to justice.
Many years after his complaint was filed, in 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee found violations of the following rights in Askarov’s case: the right to a fair trial, the right to respect for dignity in places of detention, the right not to be subjected to torture or ill-treatment, and the right not to be subjected to arbitrary detention. The Committee indicated that, in order to provide Askarov with an effective remedy, Kyrgyzstan should take appropriate steps to immediately release him and to overturn his conviction. Kyrgyzstan should provide Askarov with adequate compensation due to the deterioration of his health in prison and, if necessary, hold a new trial that would meet the standards of a fair trial. So far, none of this has been done… The government in the country changes periodically, but there are no obvious changes towards improving access to fair justice.
Lawyers had repeatedly appealed to the authorities to release Askarov, who suffered from serious illnesses, on humanitarian grounds, but everything was in vain. Human rights activists persistently speak of the need to implement and comply with the principles of N. Mandela in order to treat prisoners more humanely.
Denial of access to justice leads to deprivation of vital forces. He was weakened, but not broken — we remember and respect Azimzhan Askarov for his courage, commitment to ideals, desire for justice, desire to help people. We remember…
PA HRM “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan”
23 July 2021
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