Justice Initiative Files Update to UN Committee ahead of Kyrgyzstan Supreme Court’s Hearing on Askarov Case
The Justice Initiative filed a submission to the UN Human Rights Committee today as part of a follow-up procedure regarding the implementation of the Committee’s 2016 decision Askarov v Kyrgyzstan. The submission calls attention to the government of Kyrgyzstan’s failure to implement the decision, which ruled that Azimjan Askarov, a journalist and human rights defender, had been arbitrarily detained; that he had been tortured, mistreated and held in inhumane conditions; and that he had been prevented from adequately preparing his trial defense. In its 2016 decision, the Committee noted that Kyrgyzstan "is obligated, inter alia, to take appropriate steps to immediately release the author; quash the author’s conviction and, if necessary, conduct a new trial, in accordance with the principles of fair hearings, presumption of innocence and other procedural safeguards; and provide the author with adequate compensation."
As a result of a manifestly unfair trial, Askarov has been serving a life sentence in Kyrgyzstan since 2010. The charges against Askarov include alleged involvement in the death of a policeman during a wave of ethnic violence that swept the southern part of the country that year. The government of Kyrgyzstan continues to deny that Askarov was tortured, and has not conducted an investigation to identify and prosecute those responsible for his abuse. Furthermore, it has not awarded compensation or any other reparation to Askarov, nor has it published the decision of the HRC.
The government of Kyrgyzstan has also failed to reopen Askarov’s criminal case, as required by Kyrgyzstan’s Criminal Procedure Code once a UN treaty body has established that the right to a fair trial has been violated. Instead, a retrial was held at the appeal level, using only evidence and investigative conclusions from the initial case. The International Commission of Jurists issued a legal opinion concluding that the retrial “did not provide a thorough and fair reconsideration of the case in accordance with the right to a fair trial and did not remedy the violations of Mr. Askarov’s rights established by the Committee.” On January 24, 2017, Askarov’s life sentence was upheld. The Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the last appeal on his case on May 13, 2020.
The Justice Initiative’s submission to the UN Human Rights Committee also highlights the risks that Askarov’s continued detention pose to his health and life, as he has continued to be denied adequate treatment for chronic health issues. A recent medical examination notes that Askarov suffers from, among other conditions, heart disease, hypertension, respiratory issues, fever, and neurological irregularities. Turning 69 years old this week, he is at high risk for developing severe complications from COVID-19 if he remains in prison.
“Azimjan Askarov should have never been imprisoned,” said Masha Lisitsyna, a senior managing legal officer at the Justice Initiative. “Now, Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court must not turn a blind eye to the government’s failure to implement the decision of the UN Committee.”