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Human Rights Commissioner Kofler and French Ambassador for Human Rights Croquette on the death of Kyrgyz human rights defender and journalist Azimjan Askarov

28.07.2020 - Press release

French Ambassador for Human Rights François Croquette and Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance Bärbel Kofler issued the following statement today (28 July) on the death of Kyrgyz human rights defender and journalist Azimjan Askarov:

We were deeply saddened to hear that Kyrgyz human rights defender and journalist Azimjan Askarov died on 25 July whilst in custody. The UN Human Rights Committee had called for his immediate release back in 2016. At that time, the Committee also underscored the responsibility incumbent on Kyrgyzstan to guarantee all prisoners had adequate access to medical care pursuant to the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules. This May we expressed our concern for Mr Askarov’s life in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We demanded his release on humanitarian grounds in view of his advanced age and his poor health. 

All states have a responsibility to protect the lives and health of persons held in prisons and closed facilities. It is therefore our opinion that the Kyrgyz Government is obliged to fully investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Askarov. The question of why he had not been given medical treatment in well-equipped facilities much earlier deserves special attention, especially since his deteriorating health was known to the Kyrgyz authorities. We call on the Kyrgyz Government to take urgent measures to protect the life and health of prisoners and thereby to fulfil its international obligations.

Background information:

Kyrgyz human rights activist Azimjan Askarov died in custody on 25 July, following the rapid deterioration of his already poor health. The ethnic Uzbek journalist had been in prison since 2010. Askarov’s case drew international attention in connection with the ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010 which claimed so many lives. Askarov’s work as a human rights activist focused above all on police violence and torture. He was sentenced to lifelong imprisonment for allegedly inciting and abetting the murder of a policeman. The UN Human Rights Committee found in 2016 that Askarov had been tortured and denied a fair trial and should thus be released.

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