A senior United Nations official has encouraged Kyrgyzstan’s efforts to address the causes of the inter-communal violence that erupted in 2010, while stressing that they must be fully in line with human rights standards.
Hundreds of people were left dead or injured by the clashes that began in June 2010 between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks. The violence also displaced 400,000 people within the country and into Uzbekistan.
During his meetings earlier this week in the capital, Bishkek, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic encouraged efforts to address underlying causes of potential instability, including those that triggered the violence in 2010.
“I emphasized that these efforts need to be anchored in full respect for human rights, justice and accountability, irrespective of the ethnicity of perpetrators,” he said in a statement issued to the media today. In that context, he also raised concerns over fair trials, with reference to some specific cases.
Mr. Šimonovic said he was able to appreciate the challenges faced by Kyrgyzstan in its state building and transition towards long-term stability, peace and economic prosperity, against the background of the complexities of the region and the global economic crisis.
While welcoming ongoing legislative reforms, he stressed the need to ensure that laws, policies and practices are implemented in line with Kyrgyzstan’s international obligations and its Constitution.
Among other concerns, the Assistant Secretary-General highlighted the issue of violence against women, especially ‘bride abductions’ – conducted against the will of the abducted girls – which, according to the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), lead to one-third of marriages in the country.
At the same time, he said he was impressed by the “vibrant and robust” civil society in Kyrgyzstan, adding that the democratic space and the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, religion and belief should continue to widen.
“I underlined that legitimate security and counter-terrorism concerns and measures should not be undertaken to the detriment of these fundamental rights.”
As part of his regional visit, Mr. Šimonovic spent time yesterday in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where he met with a range of representatives, including Government officials.
“I appreciated the awareness of top Government officials of the challenges and shortcomings in the area of human rights,” he stated. “They recognized that there is a long way to go and that human rights and the rule of law are essential in the process of building a democratic state, achieving economic development and consolidating peace and stability following the end of the civil war in 1997.”
He discussed at length the problem of torture, and was granted, at short notice, a visit to a prison on the outskirts of Dushanbe. “I highlighted the importance of allowing access for the ICRC [the International Committee of the Red Cross] to all places of detention and of ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture to provide for independent monitoring of all places of deprivation of liberty.”
He also welcomed preparations towards the abolition of the death penalty, following the progressive reduction in the number of criminal offences with capital punishment and the moratorium introduced in 2004.
In all his meetings, Mr. Šimonovic raised the issue of empowering women, and in particular concerns about violence against them. He called for strengthening the participation of women in the police force and as prosecutors, while noting that, more broadly, increased representation of women in public life would enhance the visibility and role of women in society.
“My overall impression is that significant effort is ongoing in bringing national legislation in line with international human rights standards. Implementation is now key, as is coordination among national and international partners.”
He added that at a time when Tajikistan is discussing its potential membership in the UN Human Rights Council, the Government needs to make additional progress to improve the human rights situation in the country. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) remains committed to continuing to support these efforts.
Mr. Šimonovic’s visit to Central Asia will also include stops in Turkmenistan from 24 to 25 May and Uzbekistan from 26 to 29 May.