UN human rights chief calls on Kyrgyzstan to address corruption and discrimination

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay (left) meets President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev. Photo: Presidential press service/Kyrgyzstan

10 July 2012 – The United Nations human rights chief today called on Kyrgyzstan to boost its efforts to address corruption and discrimination, adding that they are severely hampering the nation’s economic growth and social prosperity.

“Institutional deficiencies continue to hamper the delivery of justice and undermine the rule of law in Kyrgyzstan,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, at a press conference in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital. “The authorities have a duty to ensure accountability for crimes and abuses, including by the authorities themselves, and guarantee justice for victims and their families.”

During her visit to Kyrgyzstan – her first time in the country – Ms. Pillay met with President Almazbek Atambaev and other Government officials, as well as with human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations in Bishkek and Osh.

The human rights chief emphasized that corruption affects every aspect of society, having a “deeply detrimental” effect on the social and economic rights of citizens. In particular, she expressed concern over reports of torture by the authorities.

“Under international law there is an absolute prohibition of torture. This is reflected in the Kyrgyz Constitution… yet we continue to receive evidence of torture being committed by State authorities, including 68 cases of alleged torture or ill-treatment between August 2010 and February 2012, in the context of criminal investigations into the June 2010 violence in Osh and neighbouring regions,” Ms. Pillay said. In 2010, the southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad saw deadly clashes between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks, uprooting nearly 400,000 people.

“Policemen who get away with torture, and prosecutors and judges who effectively turn a blind eye to evidence of torture in the extraction of confessions, or who ignore or allow the intimidation of witnesses or defence lawyers, undermine the integrity of the State,” she added.

Ms. Pillay urged President Atambaev to lead the effort to eradicate the practice by making clear public statements stressing that there will be zero tolerance for torture.

In addition, the human rights chief emphasized that the Government must tackle discrimination against citizens due to their ethnic or religious identity, citing the case of Osh where around 50 per cent of the population is of Uzbek origin and yet there are no Uzbek judges among the judiciary.

“Discrimination, especially on ethnic, religious and gender grounds, remains a deeply problematic issue with ethnic and national minorities significantly underrepresented in the executive government and bureaucracy, law enforcement bodies and judiciary,” she said.

Ms. Pillay praised efforts made by the Government to increase accountability and improve its national human rights protection system, but underscored that much remains to be done. She also reiterated the UN’s support to help national authorities achieve progress no this front.

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