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Human Rights Watch concerned about human rights situation in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan’s human rights situation has suffered multiple setbacks this year. Mihra Rittmann, Human Rights Watch researcher for Central Asia said.

On December 19, a national television station, NTS, had its property frozen by a court order. Local journalists and a rights defender critical of the government have been targeted with unfounded lawsuits and barred from leaving Kyrgyzstan until they pay multi-million sums in «damages.» A local rights defender is serving a life sentence in the face of a UN Human Rights Committee decision calling for his immediate release. This July, Vitaly Ponomarev, a Russian rights defender who has long worked on Central Asia, was denied entry at the border and banned from the country. AFP’s Central Asia correspondent, Chris Rickleton was also denied entry to Kyrgyzstan on December 9.

«Kyrgyzstan is the only Central Asian country that has come close to holding free and fair elections, and where people can generally gather to peacefully express critical opinions. The Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe granted Kyrgyzstan «Partnership for Democracy» status, and the European Union and Kyrgyzstan have begun negotiations to enhance their relations,» statement says.

It’s not too late for Kyrgyzstan’s government to reverse this trend. Instead of targeting critical media, Kyrgyzstan’s recently elected president and his government should ensure space for independent journalism and civil society organizations.

Human Rights Watch

«The authorities should also welcome Chris Rickleton and others back to Kyrgyzstan.

The European Union, EU member states, and the United States, among others, should speak out against Kyrgyzstan’s assault on freedom of expression and the harm caused to the Kyrgyz people,» the organization says.