Azimjan Askarov: a story of a human rights defender

The well-known human rights activist Azimjan Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment on false charges of inciting the murder of a policeman during the mass ethnic unrest in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. He is currently serving his sentence in prison in Bishkek.

In 1996 Azimjan Askarov began actively working in the field of human rights protection. He started working as a regional member of one of the Jalal-Abad regional human rights organizations, and in 2002 created his own human rights organization, "Air". "The rights and freedoms for the person are just as important as air," commented Askarov at that time.

His advocacy was marked by resonant work to protect the illegally detained and convicted. His work earned him attention across the country. Most noted were his efforts in the case of the brutal illegal beatings by the police and special forces of 53 people who were accused of involvement in Hizbut-Tahrir party; the killing of two detainees in the administrative chamber of Bazar-Korgon district police department; five cases of violent deaths in the temporary detention facility in their area; and the rape of a young female by police officers in the detention center.

The biggest case involved fabricated materials about the death of Mrs. N who was allegedly killed as a result of torture by police officers admitted resident of the village of Bazar-Korgon. Stipulating about killing of Mrs. N by his son-in-law, who did not recognize the allegations against him. Askarov brought allegedly “killed” Mrs. N directly to the courtroom, disorganized version of the investigation about murder. The defendants were released in the courtroom.

As a result of disclosing and publishing these facts in the press, the police officers and prosecutors were under strict disciplinary measures, some of whom were relieved of their duties, and three cases against policemen in the criminal court were opened.

Those activities caused hostility and revenge by some law enforcement agencies towards Mr. Askarov. In 2005, after the Andijan events took place in Uzbekistan, Askarov actively worked with refugees to help them with paperwork and obtaining of political asylum in European countries and the United States.

Everyday Askarov received visitors seeking legal and human rights assistance at his office, which was later burnt down during the June chaos. Until his arrest, Askarov actively contributed to online version of the Voice of Freedom newspaper and Law for All human rights bulletin, where he reported about violations of the human rights. He wrote several articles and actively distributed these publications among the population. In 2012, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) awarded Azimjan Askarov with the International Prize for Freedom of the Press.

History of Askarov’s detention and torture can be found in the file attached below:

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