Kyrgyzstan Must Restore Order, Due Process to Courts
Freedom House expresses its deep concern about continued incidents of violence against attorneys representing ethnic Uzbeks on trial for charges related to violence in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, in June 2010. During court proceedings on January 10 in Bishkek, relatives of a victim attacked and insulted the defendant’s attorney. This egregious lack of security undermines the right to fair trial. Freedom House calls upon the government of Kyrgyzstan to ensure the security and well-being of defendants and their attorneys.
The defendant, Mahamatzhan Bizurukov, was arrested in January 2011 on charges of “deprivation of liberty” related to the murder of Almaz Askarov. Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court overturned Bizurukov’s original life sentence and ordered a new trial be held in the Osh regional court. Authorities moved the trial to Bishkek, ostensibly to prevent attacks against his attorneys. But the court in Bishkek was unable to provide adequate security.
“Incidents of allowed courtroom violence have occurred repeatedly since the tragic events of June 2010,” said Susan Corke, director of Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “The government must ensure that defendants are guaranteed a fair trial, humane treatment, and the ability of their attorneys to practice safely.”
“If rule of law is to be respected, the courtroom must be a place of order and due process, not a boxing ring,” Corke said.
In June 2010, two months after violent street protests forced former Kyrgyzstani President Kurbmanbek Bakiev to flee, violence along ethnic lines broke out in the southern city of Osh. While the majority of the victims were ethnic Uzbeks, most of the defendants have been Uzbeks. These trials have been marred by violations of due process, documented incidences of torture, and outside interruptions that threaten the safety of defendants and their attorneys.
“We call on the Kyrgyz government to provide security for the lawyers and uphold the principles of rule of law to prevent mob justice,” Corke said. “All citizens must be treated fairly and equally before the law.”
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