New legislation severely restricted the rights to freedom of religion and assembly. Refugees and asylum-seekers from Uzbekistan continued to be at risk of abduction and forcible return.
One of the harshest winters to hit Central Asia for several decades beset vital infrastructure and left vast swathes of the country facing severe energy and food shortages. In November the UN launched a US$20 million emergency appeal to provide food, shelter and additional energy supplies.
"Refugees and asylum-seekers from Uzbekistan continued to be at risk of forcible return or abduction..."
Freedom of religion
In November parliament approved a restrictive new law on religion. It bans all unregistered religious activity and makes it very difficult for religious minorities to seek official registration. A national programme of action to combat the “spread of religious extremism” launched in January appeared to be targeting members of the banned Islamist party Hizb-ut-Tahrir.
- In November a court convicted 32 people, including a 17-year-old boy and two women, of calling for the overthrow of the constitutional order, and sentenced them to prison terms of between nine and 20 years. Allegations that they were tortured to force them to confess were not taken into consideration by the court. They were accused of being members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir and of participation in violent protests in the town of Nookat on 1 October. Scores of villagers had reportedly clashed with police when traditional Muslim celebrations of Eid-al-fitr were cancelled. Relatives claimed that the 32 were not members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and that police officers had used excessive force to disperse villagers, including by beating women and children with batons. Protesters reportedly threw stones and bricks at police officers.
Freedom of assembly
In July the Constitutional Court ruled that restrictions placed on the right to demonstrate in a draft law approved by parliament in June were unconstitutional. Despite this, President Bakiev signed it into law in August. The new legislation gives local authorities the right to refuse permission for a demonstration on an extensive number of grounds. One human rights activist was repeatedly detained during the year for staging peaceful protest actions outside government offices in Bishkek.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Refugees and asylum-seekers from Uzbekistan continued to be at risk of forcible return or abduction by the Uzbekistani security service operating sometimes in co-operation with their Kyrgyzstani counterparts. Those fleeing faced serious human rights violations in Uzbekistan. At least one asylum-seeker was feared to have been abducted. The Migration Service persisted in not giving refugee status to asylum-seekers.
- In July the UN Human Rights Committee found that Kyrgyzstan had committed grave breaches of its international obligations under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by forcibly returning four asylum-seekers to Uzbekistan in 2006 in disregard of the Committee’s request for interim measures of protection for the four men.
- Erkin Kholikov, an Uzbekistani asylum-seeker, was extradited to Uzbekistan in May even though his asylum application was pending before a court. He had been detained in Kyrgyzstan in August 2007 and was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in March 2008 for concealing a crime and illegally crossing the border.
Freedom of expression – killing of journalist
- There was no substantive progress in the investigation into the murder of independent ethnic Uzbek journalist and editor Alisher Saipov in October 2007. In June, Alisher Saipov’s family publicly urged President Bakiev to keep his promise to personally supervise the investigation and ensure that the suspected perpetrators were brought to justice without delay. In November the Ministry of Internal Affairs stated that Alisher Saipov’s murder was not connected to his journalism. Alisher Saipov had often covered sensitive subjects, including the situation in Uzbekistan, 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.
Amnesty International reportsSummary of Human Rights Concerns in Central Asia, March 2007-March 2008: (9 April 2008)
Kyrgyzstan: A year after the murder of Alisher Saipov – no closer to the truth (24 October 2008)