October 30, 2022
Authorities in Kyrgyzstan must stop the detentions of critics, civil activists and members of the committee to protect the Kempirabad reservoir, cease the searches of homes and seizures of property, and immediately release everyone arrested in connection to the criticism of the authorities, including the members of that committee who were taken into custody during morning raids on October 23 and in the days that followed.
Kamchybek Tashiev, the head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security, which also includes the border guard service, announced on October 10 that that an agreement in negotiations with Uzbekistan on the border demarcation would see Kyrgyzstan receive more than 18,000 hectares of land added to the Osh and Jalal-Abad Provinces, but as part of concessions the Kempirabad reservoir would become part of Uzbek territory. Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov later said that use and maintenance of the reservoir would be “50-50” and the two countries would manage the reservoir together. However, the terms of the agreement between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan was kept secret with authorities rushing the approval processes behind closed doors and away from the public.
Many Kyrgyz residents of the area where the Kempirabad reservoir is located did not agree with the terms of the deal authorities reached with Uzbekistan. On October 15, some 1,000 people gathered for a kurultai in the Uzgen district of Osh Oblast and denounced the plan to give the reservoir to Uzbekistan. The kurultai called for the establishment of a committee to protect the Kempirabad reservoir. On October 21, residents of several villages in the area of the reservoir marched in protest at the agreement demanding the reservoir not be given to Uzbekistan.
Former member of parliament Ravshan Jeyenbekov published a post on his Facebook page on October 22 that the Committee on protection of Kempir Abad has been formed. The list of committee members was published by Kloop. Within 24 hours of announcement about creation of the Committee authorities opened a criminal case, conducted unprecedented mass raids and arrests detaining 22 civil society and political activists.
President Japarov said on an October 22 interview that “provocateurs” were behind the demonstrations against the government’s border deal with Uzbekistan and that protesters were paid by these unnamed provocateurs to publicly oppose the agreement. Japarov also connected the protests with plans to “destabilize the situation in the country” and vowed authorities would not permit that to happen.
On the morning of October 23, security forces in Bishkek were urgently assembled in large numbers, reportedly leading some members of the force to believe that a conflict had broken out. Instead, they were sent to stage raids on more than 20 homes in the Bishkek area where members of the committee to protect the Kempirabad reservoir and other critics resided. The raids included seizing computers and mobile phones, some of which belonged to the children of those being detained.
Among more than two dozen detained are:
Asya Sasykbayeva, 71-year-old founder and ex director of human rights center Interbilim, ex speaker of parliament
Rita Karasartova, Human Rights Defender, head of NGO Institute of Civic Analysis,
Klara Sooronkulova, Human rights defender, head of NGO Shkola Prava, ex judge of Constitutional Court
Gulnara Jurabaeva, ex Project Coordinator of International human rights Center “Interbilim”, Ex Deputy Chairman of Central Commission for Elections & Referendums
Perizat Suranova, member of the Women’s Democratic Network of Kyrgyzstan
Aydanbek Akmatov, journalist, внештатный корреспондент Азаттык 1999-2017
Ulukbek Mamatayev, Civil society activist
Jenish Moldokmatov, Civil society activist
Ali Shabdan, Civil society activist
Nurlan Asanbekov, Civil society activist
Taalay Mademinov, Civil society activist,
Erlan Bekchoro, Civil society activist
Atai Beishenbek, Civil society activist
Chyngyz Kaparov, Civil society activist
Talant Eshaliev, Civil society activist
Aibek Busurmankulov, Civil society activist
Marat Bayazov, Civil society activist
Orozaim Narmatova, Civil society activist
Ilgiz Shamenov, Civil society activist
The Ministry of the Interior said it is investigating whether those detained had violated Article 36-278 of Kyrgyzstan’s Criminal Code – planning to organize mass unrest. They could face up to 10 years in jail.
Well-known rights activist Rita Karasartova said police in plain clothes did not immediately identify themselves or show any proof they were police when they came to her door, and when she refused to let them enter, they forced their way into her home. A video of Karasartova trying to prevent police from entering her flat without identifying themselves and presenting a warrant was posted on Kyrgyz media outlets. Karasartova was taken to the Sverdlovsk police station. Video showed Karasartova being brought to the Pervomai regional court on the evening of October 24.
Activist Ali Shabdan was detained and brought to the Pervomai police station. In a video of an argument between Shabdan and one of the policemen present the police station, the policeman is heard threatening Shabdan with death, saying, “You are going to die now boy. You will fall and not get back up.”
By initiating these criminal cases and arrests against its critics Kyrgyz authorities violated fundamental human rights norms stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Kyrgyz Constitution, such as right to liberty, right to inviolability of the home, freedom of association, right to free speech and free expression, right to physical integrity, right to privacy.
Despite numerous egregious violations of the Code of Criminal Procedure, during a series of trials that ran throughout the night on October 24-25, a Kyrgyz district court ordered 2 months detention for all of the detained civil society leaders and politicians with 1 forced into house arrest due to heart attack in court.
We condemn the raids and detentions in Bishkek carried out with gross procedural violations and urge the Kyrgyz authorities to drop all charges immediately, free those in custody without delay and establish a dialogue with its society. Given the importance of border demarcation and access to water issues we remind the Kyrgyz government that accountability and transparency are its duties before the society.мRights to access the information, to protest and to express critical opinion are rights protected by the Kyrgyz constitution and international treaties to which Kyrgyz Republic is a party.