UN Human Rights Office concerned over increasing intimidation of human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan
The UN Human Rights Office in Central Asia on Wednesday expressed its concern over the narrowing environment for the activities of human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan, saying that over the past year, it had noted a worrying increase in negative statements and intimidation by state actors directed at human rights defenders and their work.
Most recently, two prominent women human rights defenders were publicly defamed for having participated at a panel at the OSCE’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) in Warsaw, Poland, which was also attended by a refugee convicted in absentia to life imprisonment in Kyrgyzstan. A member of Kyrgyzstan’s Parliament even went so far as to encourage legal repercussions against the two human rights defenders. This incident follows repeated official criticism of human rights defenders’ activities in general, depicting them as mere instruments of foreign financial aid and accusing them of working towards political ends that endanger the country.
Furthermore, human rights defenders have been targeted in various provinces since early 2015. Human rights defenders’ offices and homes have been raided and privileged materials confiscated in the city of Osh, acts that were later recognized as illegal by the courts. Open animosity has also been directed at human rights defenders in the city of Jalal-Abad, where a prominent human rights lawyer was reportedly decried as an “enemy of the city”, a “traitor” and was threatened with expulsion by the city’s mayor.
The UN Human Rights Office deeply regrets these incidents, which appear to be strongly influencing public opinion, and negatively skewing public and political discourse against human rights defenders and the values they are protecting. Mr Ryszard Komenda, the Regional Representative in Central Asia of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, recalled that “Kyrgyzstan’s authorities are obliged to protect human rights defender’s rights including their right to freedom of opinion and expression, assembly and association, as laid out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Kyrgyzstan ratified in 1994”.
Mr. Komenda also encouraged the authorities “to take all measures necessary to ensure the rights and safety of human rights defenders including by actively countering deriding speech, insult and intimidation against human rights defenders”. Recalling the 2015 UN GA resolution on human rights defenders, he emphasized that “Kyrgyzstan should acknowledge through public statements, policies and laws the importance and legitimate role of human rights defenders in the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law as essential components requiring their recognition and protection.”
Mr Komenda concluded that Kyrgyzstan, which – to its credit – was the only country in the region to vote in favor of the 2015 UN GA resolution on human rights defenders, should continue to ensure human rights defenders can safely and effectively contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights in Kyrgyzstan.”