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Human rights defenders urge EU to pay attention to release of Askarov issue

Human rights organization Human Rights Watch published an appeal to the European Union with a request to call on the Kyrgyz authorities to immediately release human rights defender Azimzhan Askarov from prison.

The joint letter was published ahead of the European Union-Kyrgyz Republic Cooperation Council, which will take place in Brussels on December 10, 2018.

The human rights organization stresses that Azimzhan Askarov’s wrongful detention since June 2010 is a serious stain on Kyrgyzstan’s human rights record. Although the UN Human Rights Committee called for his immediate release in a decision adopted in March 2016, Askarov remains wrongfully imprisoned.

As the EU and Kyrgyzstan negotiate an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, the human rights defenders ask to prioritize this issue in political dialogues with President Sooronbai Jeenbekov and the government of the Kyrgyz Republic.

In April 2016, the EU called upon the Kyrgyz authorities to «fully implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee» and during a visit to Bishkek in November 2017, immediately after Jeenbekov was elected Kyrgyzstan’s president, you stressed the significant advantages of close cooperation with international bodies, including the UN Human Rights Committee. Now, one year later, the EU should step up its engagement and stress to Kyrgyzstan’s top officials, including President Jeenbekov, that Azimzhan Askarov’s release is critical to strengthening EU-Kyrgyzstan relations. The Kyrgyz government needs to end Askarov’s wrongful imprisonment, quash his conviction, and provide him with rehabilitation and reparation," the letter says.