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Kempir-Abad case: Human rights activists call for immediate release of detainees

A number of international human rights organizations, including the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, International Partnership for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, People in Need, Civil Rights Defenders, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Freedom Now, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) made a joint statement, in which they call on Kyrgyzstan’s authorities to drop politically motivated charges and immediately release defendants in the so-called Kempir-Abad case.

As the human rights activists note, the prosecutors’ request for 20-year sentences for a group of government critics in the so-called Kempir-Abad case compounds an already shocking miscarriage of justice.

«Kyrgyzstan’s authorities should drop the politically motivated charges and immediately release the group, who were arrested arbitrarily, and some of whom have already spent up to 19 months in pretrial detention,» the statement says.

On June 10, 2024, prosecutors asked the Pervomaysky District Court in Bishkek to convict the defendants, who are charged with fomenting mass unrest and attempting to seize power by force, sentence them to 20 years in prison, and confiscate their property.

As the human rights activists note, authorities classified the case as secret and the trial has taken place behind closed doors. This violates the defendants’ right to a fair and public hearing, guaranteed by article 14.1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Kyrgyzstan is a party.

Contrary to international norms, hearings have in some cases been held in the absence of defense lawyers, defense motions such as those to commission expert studies of court materials have repeatedly been rejected, defense witnesses have not been allowed to testify in court, and defense lawyers have not been granted adequate time to prepare their cases.

«The defendants in the Kempir-Abad case were arbitrarily arrested, their extended detention was unjustified, and they should never have been charged or prosecuted for any crime, far less the serious ones the authorities pursued. The authorities are blatantly retaliating against the activists’ peaceful and legitimate criticism and civic engagement,» the statement reads.

Their criminal prosecution in a trial that violates international standards not only deals a severe blow to freedoms of expression, association, and assembly in Kyrgyzstan, but also to guarantees for access to justice and the rule of law in the country.

From the statement

«The authorities should prevent any further damage, drop the case, and secure the unconditional release of the defendants. Kyrgyzstan’s international partners should support this call and demand justice for the defendants and accountability for those responsible for violations of their rights,» the human rights activists say.

It is also noted in the statement that the case takes place against the backdrop of a dramatic deterioration in civic space in Kyrgyzstan, with civil liberties coming under unprecedented pressure.

Human rights organizations call on the authorities of the republic to end their crackdown on free speech and other fundamental freedoms in the country and put in place meaningful measures to safeguard human rights in line with Kyrgyzstan’s international obligations.