ADC “Memorial” expresses its full support for the open letter of the board of human rights’ organization “Bir Duyno Kyrgyzstan” in defense of human rights activist Azimzhan Askarov, who had been sentenced to life sentence in prison four years ago. ADC “Memorial” supports the demand for court appeal of this case in accordance with the principles of all-sided and unbiased legal consideration.
Azimzhan Askarov, a journalist and head of human rights NGO “Vozdukh” (“Air”), who had documented the riots in Dzhalalabad region of Kyrgyzstan, during which police officers had been escorting attackers during the pogroms against ethnic Uzbeks without even trying to stop pogromists, was charged with organization of riots and later, on September 15, 2010 was judged guilty and sentenced to life term in prison.
Human rights defenders refer to numerous violations of human rights, Constitution of Kyrgyzstan, criminal and procedural legislation on the part of state officials since the moment Azimzhan Askarov was detained throughout the whole period of his imprisonment. However, the facts of illegal detention, torture, cruel and humiliating treatment of the prisoner were left without consideration by all the court authorities, including Kyrgyzstan Supreme Court.
Askarov was detained at a local police station on June 15, 2010 and from the beginning was subjected to cruel treatment and torture: “First I was forced to clean the yard from the bottles and trash, then made collect cigarette remains there. They kept saying that it was my turn to serve them…” “Then I was beaten up by three or four police officers. I think they were the officer on duty and three investigative officers, later all in all it was probably about seven people” and “when blood appeared on my lips, somebody screamed “Stop it or you will kill him”. “Then I was forced to sing the national anthem”.
“On the night of June 15-16, 2010 they threw me into temporary detention unit, where police officer on duty was present and I was held behind the bars… I came close to the bars and each police officer that passed kicked me”.
However, in spite of all evidence the investigators failed to correctly state the date of Askarov’s detention, because the police officers there failed to remember which day it was. In order to exclude all information related to the facts of torture described in the appeal, investigative protocols were falsified: the date of Askarov’s testimonies, which had been written after detention, were changed from noon of June 15, 2010 to June 16, which is in direct contradiction to other materials of the case. The very appeal against illegal detention was not even considered by the court as a violation of human rights and the rights of the detained person.
Conclusions of medical expertise presented to the court were subject to criticism by those who had reviewed his case and the latter stated that “medical expertise that was carried out regarding Mr. Azimzhan Askarov is not correct and should not be considered at all during the court procedural activities”. The court ignored the fact of beating of Askarov using the handle of the pistol, which had been registered by medical experts, as well as the expert’s statement regarding incompetence and arbitrary refusal to consider the medical proof of torture.
Instead the court stated the absence of proof of torture applied to Askarov and of pressure against his lawyer (although in fact all of these things took place). The court also stated that all the witnesses for the defense were questioned in court, though in fact this was not the case and some important testimonies were not incorporated into materials considered by the court.
However, important testimonies in defense of Askarov, although they were ignored by court, are of utmost importance and should be considered during the appeal of his case as part of a comprehensive, objective and unbiased consideration. The court’s judgment regarding the human rights defender is subject to reconsideration based on the principle of priority of human rights and unacceptability of torture and other cruel treatment of detained persons.
Paris-Geneva, September 9, 2014. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), condemns the latest court decision regarding the sentencing of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov to life imprisonment.