HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE CONSIDERS REPORT OF KYRGYZSTAN
11 March 2014
The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of the second periodic report of Kyrgyzstan on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Introducing the report, Zhyldyz Mambetalieva, Deputy Minister of Justice of Kyrgyzstan and Head of Delegation, said that many changes had occurred in Kyrgyzstan during the past few years. The new Constitution provided guarantees for the protection of human rights and the rule of law. The Government of Kyrgyzstan had undertaken the reform of the judiciary, the penitentiary system and law enforcement bodies to bring them in line with international human rights standards. A State body for the protection of the rights of minorities had been created and worked on issues such as inter-ethnic relations. Kyrgyzstan was also developing a national plan of action and a national strategy to achieve gender equality and to eliminate gender discrimination. The Government had also adopted measures to prevent gender-based violence and to protect the rights of children.
Committee Members commended Kyrgyzstan’s commitment to bring its legal system in line with international standards, including through constitutional provisions recognizing the right to file complaints before international human rights bodies, and stressed the importance of implementing these provisions. Experts asked questions regarding gender-based discrimination and expressed concerns about the apparent lack of protection against discrimination based on ethnicity, languages, sexual orientation and gender identity. They also inquired about measures to ensure that violence against women and children, including bride kidnapping and human trafficking incidents, was addressed in practice. Committee Members expressed serious concerns regarding allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, including in the aftermath of the June 2010 events, and concerning human rights guarantees in counterterrorist activities.
In concluding remarks, Zhyldyz Mambetalieva said that, despite remaining challenges in the field of human rights, Kyrgyzstan had the political will to move forward and to continue collaborating with international human rights mechanisms and civil society organizations.
Sir Nigel Rodley, Chairperson of the Committee, welcomed the fact that the delegation had provided precise information and encouraged Kyrgyzstan to continue its efforts in the area of human rights.
The Delegation of Kyrgyzstan included representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Office of the Prosecutor General, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Secretariat of the Human Rights Coordination Council, and the Permanent Mission to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will next meet in public this afternoon, at 3.00 p.m., to begin its consideration of the initial report of Sierra Leone (CCPR/C/SLE/1).
The second report of Kyrgyzstan can be read here: CCPR/C/KGZ/2.
Presentation of the Report
ZHYLDYZ MAMBETALIEVA, Deputy Minister of Justice of Kyrgyzstan and Head of the Delegation, introducing the report (CCPR/C/KGZ/2) focused her presentation on the list of issues prepared by the Human Rights Committee. Many changes had occurred in Kyrgyzstan during the past few years. After the revolution of 2010, a new Constitution had been adopted, which provided guarantees for the protection of human rights and the rule of law, and had been followed by Presidential elections. Kyrgyzstan faced challenges as it transitioned from a presidential to a parliamentary system. A national strategy for economic and social development had been adopted and budgeted for in order to provide the necessary resources for its implementation. An Expert Group was conducting large scale work in order to align the national legislation with international human rights standards. The National Human Rights Coordination Council, headed by the Vice-Prime Minister, was in charge of monitoring and coordinating reforms in the field of human rights and included, for example, a reform of judiciary. Civil society organizations were invited to exchange information with this Council regarding the human rights situation in the Country.
Members of this Council were also in charge of visiting detention facilities throughout the country and ensuring that they were in line with international standards, including those regarding the prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. The judicial system still faced problems, Ms. Mambetalieva acknowledged, and fundamental changes were needed. In 2010, the President had initiated a process of judicial reform and established, in 2012, a commission tasked with proposing elements for reform, including the administration of justice. States bodies responsible for the execution of justice were fully participating to that process. A programme of action for the reform of the judiciary had recently been adopted and set out priorities for the reform. Civil society as well as academics had sent recommendations to this commission. Over the past two years, comprehensive work had been carried out to reform the interior ministry, including the adoption of a plan of action to reform public structures and to develop law enforcement systems.
In January 2014, criminal legislation had been amended and alternative procedural forms for pre-trial cases had been introduced. Legislation also provided for better witness protection. In May 2012, a strategy had been adopted to improve and develop detention facilities, in accordance with human rights standards, including the allocation of additional resources. The situation of the penitentiary system had consistently improved and special facilities were being built for those serving life sentences. Cases concerning allegations of torture had been filed in accordance with the Convention against Torture. A national centre counted with direct access to all detention facilities and worked closely with the United Nations Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture. Measures had been adopted to prevent torture, such as prohibiting censorship of detainees’ correspondence and the installation of video surveillance in interrogation cells.
A governmental body for the protection of minorities’ rights had been created, which worked on issues such as language and interethnic relations, and cooperated with civil society organizations. Kyrgyzstan was also developing a national plan of action and a national strategy to achieve gender equality and to eliminate gender discrimination. The main priorities included broadening women’s access to justice, to education and to political decision-making processes. Public prevention centres had been created to target gender-based violence and to provide assistance to victims throughout the country, including psychological and medical services. In December 2012, amendments to the criminal code had reinforced sanctions for abducting women and forced marriages. The Government had also adopted measures regarding the rights and protection of children, including the development of a juvenile justice system. Kyrgyzstan benefited from a vibrant and free civil society, and hosted a regional bureau of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This illustrated the international community’s recognition of the progress achieved towards democracy and human rights. Kyrgyzstan cooperated constructively with human rights treaty bodies and other United Nations mechanisms, and had been a member of the Human Rights Council between 2009 and 2012.
Questions by the Experts
Regarding the human rights legal framework, a Committee Members commended Kyrgyzstan’s commitment to human rights and for bringing its legal system in line with international standards. The remaining challenge concerned the implementation of these dispositions and ensuring that international human rights standards were directly implemented. The Expert regretted therefore that the delegation had not been able to refer to any legal cases in which explicit references to the Covenant had been made, despite the provisions in Art. 6 of Kyrgyzstan’s Constitution. An Expert requested details concerning allegations that the Government had rejected opinions by the National Human Rights Committee on individual cases, therefore implying that this body had no real legal power. Did the Government intend to pay compensations in some cases, in accordance with decisions by international organs, including past decisions by the Human Rights Committee, on individual complaints? An Expert requested clarification regarding the case of Mr. Kondrachov, who had allegedly been subjected to torture while in detention.
Concerning Kyrgyzstan’s counterterrorism activities, an Expert asked whether an investigation had been initiated to respond to allegations of excessive use of force by the authorities that had led to 11 persons being killed by official forces. Which set of laws was used to justify and frame counterterrorism activities, and what guarantees were in place to ensure that human rights were protected in the process? An Expert asked for more details in relation to the State of Emergency provisions and whether non-derogable rights under the Covenant were protected during a State of Emergency situation.
Experts inquired about steps initiated to address the issue of gender violence and under-reporting, and asked whether data was being collected in this regard. Had any enforcement officers been reported for refusing to register a complaint for incidents of gender-based violence? What was being done to address social pressures and to change mentalities concerning the issue of gender violence? Experts also inquired about allegations that women’s rights to work and freedom of movement were still restricted. An Expert raised concerns that the Courts of Elders might base their decisions on morals and traditions, and inquired whether there any guarantees were in place to ensure that those courts were not used to further discriminate against women and girls. Regarding the issue of trafficking, a Committee Member asked what measures were being adopted to prevent trafficking of human, including women and girls, and to provide reparations to the victims.
Another Expert inquired how gender equality would be mainstreamed in the activities of Government Ministries, and whether the necessary funds would be allocated to combat gender discrimination. Was it possible to denounce the abduction of women and what measures were taken to hold perpetrators accountable?
Experts stressed that persons with HIV/ AIDS faced discrimination and noted that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination had expressed concerns last year that a climate of racial and inter-ethnic tensions remained in place. What concrete actions had been undertaken to implement the action plan on the prevention of ethnic violence? Had any steps been undertaken to combat racist stereotypes? There were concerns that the Kyrgyz language was being used as a tool for discrimination, and that universities teaching in Uzbek had been closed, preventing Uzbek minorities to benefit from education in their own language. Experts expressed concerns that some religious leaders held a hostile views against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, and inquired about steps taken to prevent and respond to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons were sometimes afraid to address complaints to the police out of fear, an Expert indicated.
Other than legislation on gender discrimination, there seemed to be no legislation to prevent other forms of discrimination, such as racial discrimination or discrimination based on languages. A Committee Member said that a more proactive approach was needed to ensure that legal and constitutional provisions were implemented. Equal access to social and health services, as well as to the judiciary and other public services, had to be provided. Were there measures to ensure that State Officials be held accountable for discriminatory practices?
Responses by the Delegation
Regarding the implementation of international standards, the delegation noted that statistical information on the number of explicit references to the Covenant in judicial cases was not available. Work was currently under way in order to review national legislation and implement recommendations emanating from various United Nations bodies, including the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The National Human Rights Coordination Council was in charge of reviewing and addressing individual cases, but had unfortunately just started its work four months ago. An Ombudsman was currently being established in compliance with the Paris Principles and would constitute an independent entity, guaranteed by its election mechanism.
Regarding the case of Mr. Kondrachov, the delegation said that Mr. Kondrachov was held criminally liable for a violation of the criminal code and had been sentenced to prison for one year, but he had not appealed this decision. Two investigations into allegations of torture had been carried out but none of them were conclusive.
Regarding counter-terrorism actions and the allegations that 11 persons had been killed on during such actions, the delegation said that those killed had planned to commit serious crimes. .
Concerning violence against women, legislation had been recently adopted to amend the family code, establishing the possibility for restraining orders. Five hundred women protection centres had also been established and were financed appropriately. A coordination council for human rights was hearing the views of civil society organizations on human rights related matters. Criminal cases had been opened to follow up on rape allegations and perpetrators had been sentenced, although some had left the country.
The delegation underlined Kyrgyzstan’s commitment to address human trafficking, as illustrated by the creation of a special body in charge of dealing with this issue and noted that judicial procedures on cases of child trafficking had been filed.
Concerning discrimination, the delegation said that the national plan of action on gender equality would receive the necessary resources to ensure its implementation. Regarding discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, Kyrgyzstan was committed to addressing this issue. No cases of discrimination on these grounds had yet been registered and this was rather new issue in the country and. This would require, however, that the public opinion was prepared to deal with that issue. On the question of language-based discrimination, the law on education enshrined the right for everyone to choose their language of instruction at school, Ms. Mambetalieva said.
Questions by the Experts
Experts welcomed that the Constitution of Kyrgyzstan recognized the right for everyone to file complaints before international human rights bodies and to receive reparations from the State, and hoped that the National Human Rights Council would work to give full effect to this disposition. Another Expert demanded whether citizens had access to remedies in case this constitutional provision was violated.
A Committee Member asked whether the National Human Rights Coordination Council, chaired by the Vice-Prime Minister, was in charge of monitoring the implementation of recommendations made to Kyrgyzstan by international human rights bodies.
An Expert welcomed that the delegation had informed them about pending judicial reform, and asked whether such reform would ensure that the judiciary and the people of Kyrgyzstan were fully aware of international human rights provisions, including those contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Experts requested further details on how Kyrgyzstan would strengthen the combat against trafficking in children. Regarding the issue of bride kidnappings, an Expert expressed satisfaction that the phenomenon seemed to have been reduced, but asked for further details on cases filed. Experts also asked the delegation how Kyrgyzstan was addressing the issue of polygamy.
Experts regretted that the delegation considered the issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons to be new, which they were probably not. The State was obliged to immediately respond to allegations of violence or discrimination against any group, and this could not wait for or rely on changes of mentalities in the society.
Experts expressed concern about the response by the delegation to the murder of 11 persons during counterterrorist actions by the Kyrgyz authorities, under the suspicion that they were about to commit violent acts. It seemed that the decision to annihilate these people was disproportionate to States’ right to defend themselves. Experts inquired whether Kyrgyz law provided limitations and restrictions on the use of lethal force by the authorities. An Expert expressed concern that allegations of torture had not been properly addressed by the judiciary.
Responses by the Delegation
Regarding the combat against trafficking in persons and its effectiveness, the delegation said that the official statistics of the Ministry of Interior showed that the number of registered offenses and cases brought to court had increased. Statistics showed that most alleged perpetrators of trafficking were sentenced. A case of trafficking involving a new-born child was currently in court. The Law on Prevention and Combatting Trafficking in Persons provided that a sufficient budget was allocated to the protection of and assistance to the victims.
Regarding domestic violence, the delegation indicated that marital rape was considered a criminal offence, as any other kind of rape, and medical assistance was provided by the State all victims of violence, including women and children.
On the issue of bride kidnapping, legal provisions established criminal liability for forced marriage of persons under 17 and for kidnapping a woman for the purpose of marriage. An increased number of cases was being brought before the courts, which demonstrated that victims had more trust in the State’s ability to address the situation. This increase could also be explained by the fact that such offenses were often carried out by groups of persons. Kyrgyzstan had strengthened the protection for the rights of women and girls, including the right not to marry before 17. Kyrgyzstan was currently discussing increasing sentences of up to 10-years for kidnappers.
Regarding the Committee’s concerns that allegations of torture against Mr. Kondrachov had not been fully investigated, the delegation indicated that investigations, including examinations carried out by medical experts, lacked evidence that he had been subjected to torture.
Responding to questions about counterterrorist activities, the delegation stated that the group of 11 persons who had perished had first opened fire against Kyrgyz security forces, prompting them to use lethal force. This case was very sensitive and concerns had been raised by non-governmental organizations in Kyrgyzstan and discussed at the national level. Measures had been taken to train police forces in accordance with international standards.
The government was closely monitoring the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and worked in cooperation with civil society organizations on combatting discrimination and violence against them. The government also worked closely with the Councils of Elders to ensure that the rights of women were fully respected.
Regarding the rights of migrants, the delegation indicated that 5,113 persons had received the Kyrgyz citizenship during the past year, and had been given access to social protection as well as housing or land.
Questions by the Experts
Experts reiterated questions concerning legal dispositions regulating the use of weapons by law enforcement units. Regarding investigations on human rights violations committed during the June 2010 events in the south of Kyrgyzstan, Experts inquired whether cases would be reopened to ensure that persons responsible were held accountable and families of victims received compensation. Reports claimed that persons had been detained by the police and held for seven months without charges; and there were allegations of torture and forced confessions.
What steps had been taken to ensure that the rights of the Uzbek minority were protected? What difficulties might be faced by Uzbek women giving birth in the South of Kyrgyzstan in obtaining passports?
Experts welcomed the establishment of a national centre tasked with monitoring detention centres to prevent torture and other cruel or degrading treatments, and requested additional information on its activities. The Committee also welcomed the fact that Kyrgyz law provided for the protection of persons under police arrest, including the right to access a lawyer. What procedures did the Government intend to institute to put an end to abusive treatments by law enforcement officers in practice? An Expert noted that corporal punishment in schools was unlawful in Kyrgyzstan, but was concerned that despite the existence of several legal texts addressing the issue of violence against children, there seemed to be no comprehensive prohibition on this practice.
Experts requested explanations about allegations of brutality against human rights defender Mr. Askarov. Experts asked how did the Government ensure that law enforcement personnel that violated the rights of persons in detention were held accountable, including for acts of torture. There seemed to be the need for harmonizing legislation in this regard. Experts also express concern at the lack of judicial reactions to allegations of torture. There seemed to be differences between what the delegation said on that issue and what non-governmental organizations were saying. An expert therefore demanded whether NGOs had been included in the preparation of Kyrgyzstan’s report. An Expert asked whether the authorities would undertake measures to improve detention conditions, which were sometimes very harsh. A Committee Member offered the example of a detention facility where detainees were reportedly not allowed to take showers more than once a week.
Regarding the independence of the judiciary, Expert expressed concerns about the nomination of judges, which seemed to lack independence and transparency, especially regarding the veto power by the President. There were also concerns regarding the issue of due process and equality during trials held in the aftermath of the June 2010 events. Defendants, defence lawyers and defence witnesses were indeed repeatedly assaulted, harassed and intimidated by other parties, and police forces had allegedly failed to intervene. If this was the case, it would constitute a serious infringement on the right to a fair trial. What measures had Kyrgyzstan taken to stop these attacks and to hold those responsible accountable?
Regarding freedom of religion, an Expert inquired about the status of the virtual directorate for Muslims, which covered about a thousand Mosques. Was the existence of such institution compatible with a secular State? The 2008 Law on Religious Freedoms and Religious Institutions was under review, an Expert noted. Would restrictions contained in this law, including those regarding the distribution of religious documentation outside places of cult or missionary activities, be repealed? Such restrictions indeed seemed to contradict the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Religious organizations had to be registered, an Expert said. Some religious organizations complained that they were not allowed to register, which could give rise to questions about discrimination among religions and, more precisely, between traditional and non-traditional religions. The Muslims converting to other religions reportedly faced strong social and political preventing them from leaving Islam, especially in rural areas. Was the Government aware of this issue and what actions were being taken to ensure converts’ right to religious choice? Were efforts to combat religious extremism and terrorism combined with the necessity to protect religious freedom? An Expert asked whether the right to conscientious objection was guaranteed.
Regarding freedom of expression, an Expert further inquired whether the prohibition of insulting public officials complied with article 19 of the Covenant. The Committee also raised concerns about the situation of journalists and activists sentenced on such grounds.
Concerning the rights of minorities, Experts ask whether figures were available regarding the representation of Uzbek and Russian minorities in public bodies. The Committee also inquired whether compensation paid to victims of torture was related to the establishment of the guilt of the public officer.
Responses by the Delegation
Regarding the June 2010 events, the delegation shared information on the number of cases and criminal investigations undertaken. Prosecutions had been ethnically unbalanced and reforms in this sector were underway. A reform of the Prosecutor Office was being carried out and Kyrgyzstan was ready to reopen or review cases if new materials, evidence or information were made available.
Following the visit to Kyrgyzstan by the Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel of Inhuman Treatments, a plan of action to combat torture had been adopted and being implemented. Among other measures, progress had been made regarding the formation of lawyers and public financial aid was offered to those who could not afford the services of a lawyer. Preventive measures included the installation of cameras in all pre-trial facilities, which were systematically reviewed by the Office of the Prosecutor to avoid human rights violations. This had had a positive effect on the prevention of acts of torture.
The delegation informed that a prohibition of corporal punishment against children existed in the Criminal Code and could lead to parents losing their parental rights. Awareness raising campaigns were also organized to make it clear that this was an unacceptable practice. The Children Code provided advanced protection for children but efforts were needed in order to disseminate information regarding complaints procedures for children who suffered from violence.
The representation of ethnic minorities in public institutions, together with gender parity, were guaranteed by the Electoral Code at the local level. There were two languages in the country, Kyrgyz and Russian, and the introduction of the Kyrgyz language in schools sought to promote the integration of minorities and was often a request made by Uzbek parents. The situation of new-borns whose mothers lacked passports or official documents was being addressed by the Government and public awareness was being raised on this issue. This problem was often linked to the issue of human trafficking.
The Constitution stated that Kyrgyzstan was a secular State. Several laws, however, were connected to freedom of religion. More than 2,400 religious organizations were officially registered and represented a large variety of faiths. The registration of religious organizations and missionary activities was quite fair. Registration had to be completed within a month, following the complete submission of an application by a religious organization.
Regarding the process for legal reforms, all draft laws initiated in Kyrgyzstan had to be subjected to public scrutiny. They were discussed in the media and any citizen could introduce proposals and comments on a draft law, including criticism. These amendments had to be published and a justification was required in order to reject them.
A comprehensive reform of police activities was currently underway and had been drafted in consultation with civil society organizations. Trainings for police officers were being conducted and included pre-trial procedures. The Government was working to enhance civil oversight over police activities and the work would be concluded in April 2014, before proceeding to the necessary legal amendments. This would contribute to address questions of human rights violations committed by police officers and in detention facilities. New legislation regulating police forces would be reviewed.
ZHYLDYZ MAMBETALIEVA, Deputy Minister of Justice of Kyrgyzstan and Head of Delegation, expressed her satisfaction regarding the dialogue with the Human Rights Committee. Despites remaining challenges in the area of human rights, Kyrgyzstan had the political will to move forward and to continue collaborating with international human rights mechanisms and civil society organizations.
Sir NIGEL RODLEY, Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, welcomed the fact that the delegation had been really precise regarding data and calendars for measures to be adopted. Mr. Rodley encouraged Kyrgyzstan to continue its efforts to address impunity, and to continue its constructive engagement with the United Nations human rights mechanisms.
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