The Constitution remained a source of political conflict, even though a new one had been adopted in 2006. A week-long demonstration in April in the capital Bishkek organized by opposition parties ended in violence when security forces tried to break up a rally. In September the Constitutional Court ruled that the 2003 Constitution should remain in force. This move prompted President Bakiev to hold a referendum in October, in which amendments to the Constitution were approved. The President then dissolved parliament and called new elections, which his party won in December. The election results sparked widespread protests after the opposition Ata Meken (Fatherland) Socialist party was barred from parliament, even though it came second, as a result of changes to the electoral code. Dozens of opposition activists and several human rights activists were briefly detained for taking part in these protests. The OSCE stated that the election failed to meet international standards and criticized a disproportionate use of force by the authorities in dispersing peaceful protests.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Torture or other ill-treatment in detention continued to be widespread and few law enforcement officers were held accountable. Two police officers accused of having tortured a detainee to death in 2006 were acquitted in August by a court in Naryn. The case had reportedly only come to trial because of sustained pressure from human rights defenders.
In August, Aziza Abdirasulova, chairwoman of the Kylym Shamy (Torch of the Century) human rights group, reported that at least 10 cases of torture had come to her attention, including three deaths in custody. While investigating reports that a suspect in pre-trial detention in Naryn died after he was beaten by a police officer in July, she met four young detainees aged 14 and 15 who complained about ill-treatment. They said that police officers had kicked and beaten them, and had placed gas masks on their heads and turned the air supply off to force them to confess to a crime they had not committed.
Freedom of assembly
Increasing restrictions were placed on freedom of assembly and expression, including by limiting the locations where demonstrations could be held in Bishkek. Dozens of protesters were charged with public disorder offences and at least 15 were convicted. Several demonstrations organized by human rights defenders, youth and civil society activists and political opposition parties were dispersed by police and state security officers, and participants were detained.
- Former Prime Minister Feliks Kulov was detained for questioning by police in April and again in August. He was charged with instigating mass public disorder in relation to the April clashes between opposition supporters and security forces. Two aides of Feliks Kulov were also detained and charged with causing public unrest. They were sentenced to four years in prison in August. They said that the charges were politically motivated.
- In July police officers dispersed a demonstration by Democracy, an NGO, and confiscated banners and flags. Human rights defender Tursun Islam, who had organized the peaceful rally in defence of human rights, was briefly detained. His son remained in custody for three days.
- Tolekan Ismailova, chairwoman of the Citizens against Corruption human rights group, was among 11 human rights defenders briefly detained and convicted for taking part in peaceful rallies in Bishkek protesting against the December election results.
Refugees from Uzbekistan
Refugees and asylum-seekers from Uzbekistan continued to be at risk of refoulement or abduction by the Uzbekistani security service (SNB) operating sometimes in co-operation with their Kyrgyzstani counterparts. The refugees and asylum-seekers faced incommunicado detention, torture or other ill-treatment as well as long prison terms following unfair trials in Uzbekistan. There were also reports that Kyrgyzstani security officers detained asylum-seekers and sold them to Uzbekistani border guards.
- In March, four asylum-seekers abducted by SNB officers in 2006 were sentenced to up to 16 years in prison by a court in Namangan, Uzbekistan.
- Otabek Muminov, an Uzbekistani man who was refused asylum in Kyrgyzstan, was secretly deported in June a month after the authorities received an extradition request from Uzbekistan. The Uzbekistani authorities had accused him of membership of the banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir Islamist party. He was detained in Osh in Kyrgyzstan in 2006 and sentenced to three years' imprisonment in April 2007 for inciting religious hatred and illegally crossing the border. His family had reportedly been given guarantees that he would not be extradited.
Freedom of expression: killing of journalist
- Alisher Saipov, a 26-year-old independent journalist and editor, was shot dead in Osh in October. A Kyrgyzstani national of Uzbek origin, he was the editor of a new Uzbek-language newspaper Siyosat (Politics), which covered human rights in Uzbekistan among other issues. Alisher Saipov also worked as a correspondent for Voice of America and contributed to independent websites covering Central Asia. He often covered sensitive subjects and had reportedly received anonymous threats. Parts of the Uzbekistani media had conducted a campaign denouncing his reporting as an attack on the Uzbekistani state.
In May President Bakiev signed several new laws relating to the criminal justice system. One replaced the death penalty with life imprisonment for ordinary crimes, although it was unclear whether this applied to crimes committed in wartime. The cases of the 174 prisoners already sentenced to death were to be reviewed by the Supreme Court within six months. The outcomes of these reviews were still pending at the end of the year.
Amnesty International reports
- Central Asia: Summary of human rights concerns, January 2006-March 2007 (EUR 04/001/2007)
- Kyrgyzstan: Dismay at murder of independent journalist (EUR 58/002/2007)
- Commonwealth of Independent States: Belarus - the sole executioner (EUR 04/002/2007)