(By Shahid Qureshi – London Post) : –
U.S. State Department’s human rights award for Azimzhan Askarov seen as ‘threat to unity, stability, peace’ in Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz Parliament tells U.S. Congress.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic is authorized to state that the news of giving Human Rights Defender Award by the U.S. State Department to Azimzhan Askarov, a Kyrgyz Republic citizen convicted by all instances of the Kyrgyz Republic for incitement of interethnic hatred, organizing mass riots, complicity in murder of a law enforcement officer during the time of tragic events of June 2010, was taken in the Kyrgyz Republic with bewilderment. In accordance with general criteria of the State Department, Human Rights Defender Award is given to individuals or organizations that have shown exceptional valor and leadership in advocating for the protection of human rights for a period of time and under government’s repression.
The eligibility of A.Askarov draws numerous questions. His actions at the time of interethnic conflict of June 2010 cannot be evaluated as defending human rights and peace-making. In the Kyrgyz Republic A.Askarov is perceived as an accomplice in murder and one of the most active participants of interethnic clashes at the south of the country in June 2010. Moreover, as a result of inappropriate actions of civic activists and foreign states’ representatives this person became a symbol of disruption not a unity of people of Kyrgyzstan. Taking into account the above stated, giving A.Askarov such a high award is considered by the Kyrgyz Republic as a deliberate act directed against strengthening interethnic peace and harmony in our country.
The Kyrgyz Republic believes that the State Department’s award is presented to the wrong person at the wrong time in the country where human rights activity is not restricted; on the contrary, it is supported by the government. And active work of numerous human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations is the proof of it. The Kyrgyz Republic is the only state in the region that successfully proceeded to parliamentary democracy, which has been repeatedly recognized by the leaders of democratic nations, including the President of the United States B.Obama.
It is a considered opinion of the Kyrgyz side that awarding A.Askarov is not a reward for his activity. More likely, the main reason is his ethnicity and the status of a convicted for his crimes during the events of June 2010. The court order established that A.Askarov actively participated in organizing mass riots on June 12-13, 2010 in the village of Bazar-Korgon of Jalal-Abad region, and was one of the organizers of blocking the strategic Bishkek-Osh highway near the bridge over Kara-Unkur river.
During the explanatory work among the participants of riots 13 unarmed police officers got injuries of varying severity, and the district police officer M.Sulaymanov was killed with special cruelty and then burned. On September 15 and November 10, 2010 Azimzhan Askarov was found guilty of the charges by district and regional courts of the Kyrgyz Republic, respectively. On December 20, 2011 the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic upheld the sentences of these courts. Considering requests of international organizations and foreign countries, the Kyrgyz side initiated repeated verifications of the investigation legitimacy and the justification of the trials with the invitation and participation of international experts. The result of these inspections did not reveal considerable reasons for a retrial.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic considers giving A.Askarov Human Rights Defender Award as a way to cause negative international reaction. The Kyrgyz side views this as a factor aimed at undermining the process of strengthening the unity of the people and harmony in the country. The Kyrgyz Republic is concerned that such an award may cause ethnic clashes and destroy the today’s fragile peace which is being restored and strengthened by enormous efforts of the country’s people.
The time for this award – four years after the Supreme Court decision – evokes surprise as well. Even more surprising is that such an award was never given to any human rights activist of the Kyrgyz Republic during the rule of former presidents A.Akaev and K.Bakiyev. In such context, this award will be associated with the withdrawal of the Transit Center from the International airport “Manas” in Bishkek and the appointment of Richard Miles as interim head of the American mission. The contradictory approach is revealing when one of the State Department’s awards was given to Roza Otunbayeva as the head of the state in 2011 who exerted efforts to preserve peace and unity of the people, and in 2015 – to the criminal who publicly incited ethnic hatred and was sentenced at the time when the former president received the award of the U.S. State Department.
Through no fault of the Kyrgyz Republic the United States’ actions employing interethnic theme cause serious damage to bilateral relations. Taking into account the long-term fruitful cooperation based on common democratic values, in consideration of mutual respect of the non-interference and sovereignty principles the Kyrgyz Republic voices protest over the decision of the American side which will not contribute to comprehensive Kyrgyz-American cooperation.