Asian Centre for Human Rights

Dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia

 

ACHR REVIEW
[ Special Issues for the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights]

Embargoed for 23 March 2005
Review: CHR61/65/05
Kyrgyzstan: Ruling by rigging
Opposition protests against election fraud

As the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights starts debates on Item 9 on country situations on 23 March 2005, the democratic protests in Kyrgyzstan is unlikely to find any echo at the Palais des Nations. The Commission on Human Rights has increasingly turned into a forum for self-defence by States with bad human rights record rather than an institution censuring gross human rights violations.

As we upload the latest issue of ACHR REVIEW, Kyrgyzstan's President, Askar Akayev sacked his Interior Minister and Prosecutor General for their “poor work” in dealing with democratic protests, termed as “coup plotted by the criminals” by the President. On 21 March 2005, President

Askar Akayev ordered a review of some parliamentary poll results to address growing protests over alleged irregularities by the opposition protesters. But, it failed to address the concerns of the opposition parties. About 1,000 opposition activists reportedly seized the regional governmental building in Kyrgyzstan's second largest city, Osh, and forced police to flee on 21 March 2005. Earlier, the opposition activists had seized parts of the nearby town of Jalal-Abad on 20 March. About 10,000 people besieged and then burnt down the police station in Jalal-Abad and blocked the airport's runway to prevent the government flying in re-enforcements. According to the police, four officers were killed in the protests. They are demanding resignation of President Askar Akayev.

Protests have been gathering momentum in the south of Kyrgyzstan since run-off elections on 13 March 2005 when opposition parties won only a handful of seats in parliament. President Askar Akayev adopted illegal measures contrary to Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to consolidate his rule.

On 24 January 2004, President Askar Akayev established a residency requirement of five years for would-be parliamentary candidates after amending article 69-1 of the Election Code. This was specifically enacted to exclude opposition candidates who have served in government posts abroad. The amended provision requires that the aspiring contestant must prove residency in Kyrgyzstan for the five years leading up to elections; six months of each year can be spent abroad. Election officials have cited the new residence requirement in denying the nomination of several would-be candidates from the political opposition who had been serving as ambassadors abroad.

Invoking the residency requirement the government barred the nomination of several aspiring opposition candidates for the parliamentary elections allegedly to secure win of either the relatives or close aides of the president. In January 2005, Roza Otunbaeva co-chair of the Ata-Zhurt (Fatherland) political movement, Usen Sydykov, a leading member of the Kyrgyzstan People’s Movement, and another opposition candidate Sherimkulov were denied registration as candidates for parliament on the ground that they allegedly were not permanent residents of Kyrgyzstan for five years leading up to the election. All the three leaders served as ambassadors of Kyrgyzstan to different countries including UK and US. In the case of Roza Otunbaeva, both the Lenin District Court and the Supreme Court rejected her argument that the Kyrgzstan embassies and diplomatic space abroad should be considered as part of the country with respect to the amended electoral provision.

The government was aware that the opposition parties would protest against the outcome of the recently concluded parliamentary elections and the forthcoming Presidential election in October 2005. It has, therefore, proposed a new legislation on demonstrations and it is presently pending before the Krygyz Parliament. Earlier on 13 January 2005, the Bishkek City Council issued a decree requiring organizers of all public gatherings to “notify” the city administration at least ten days prior to an event. To register, one has to provide a written request listing the name of the
organization, names, home addresses, work addresses of the group’s representatives, a map of any march route, the date and time of the event, and the approximate number of participants. These orders of the government violate the right to freedom of assembly and association.

However, it is not the first time that the government led by president Askar Akayev has been accused of election fraud. In October 2000, President Akayev was elected to his third term. Although the 1993 Constitution only allows an individual to serve two presidential terms, the Constitutional Court ruled that Akayev could serve a third term because he had been elected to his first Term Under the old Soviet-era constitution. The Government disqualified otherwise qualified candidates through conviction on questionable criminal charges. Observers reported instances of ballot box stuffing, voter intimidation, discrepancies in vote counts, and the presence of a large number of local and regional administration officials in and around the polling stations. The government also allegedly used judicial proceedings in numerous instances to prevent prominent political opposition candidates from participating in or winning office in the parliamentary and presidential elections Parliamentary elections that were held in February and March 2000.

On 25 January 2000, the Government began criminal proceedings against People's Party opposition leader and registered parliamentary candidate Daniyar Usenov based on 4-year-old assault charges that had been withdrawn long before by the person allegedly assaulted. Another opposition party Ar-Namys activist Emil Aliyev was arrested on 9 March 2000, 3 days before the second round of the parliamentary elections on charges related to alleged fraud in a 1994 loan transaction. Also on the same day, the Government declared the Issyk-Kul election invalid. The Government subsequently charged Omurbek Suvanaliyev, a leader of the Ar-Namys party and candidate in that election, with fraud, which made him ineligible to run in the repeat election. On 22 March 2000, the government arrested opposition political leader Feliks Kulov at a hospital where he was
receiving treatment for cardiac problems. The arrest followed his defeat in a parliamentary election and the announcement of his intention to run in the presidential election. On 5 April 2005, the Government terminated People's Party leader Daniyar Usenov's conditional release and took him into custody, despite no violation of the terms of his conditional release.

Serious irregularities also marred a national constitutional referendum in February 2003 that resulted in further control by the President and weakened the Parliament and the Constitutional Court. The referendum involved the amendment to the 1993 constitution allowing him to run for another term in presidency. There has been widespread criticism of the new constitution and the timing of the referendum.

Kyrgyzstan is a case of tragedy of democracy in Central Asia. President Akaev won a tough fight for the presidency in 1990 against a communist party boss. After a popular-election victory in 1991 he introduced multi-party democracy. But since then, he has become intolerant, hell-bent on ruling the country forever. President Askar Akayev has been allegedly trying to build a monarchic dynasty by putting one of his family members as his successor. Roza Otunbaeva, who was considered as a threat to the electoral prospects of the president’s daughter Bermet Akaeva, was denied registration as a candidate for the recently concluded parliamentary election on the ground that she allegedly was not a permanent resident of for the five years leading up to the election. President Askar Akayev needs to realise that any further oppression on the opposition political party activists, albeit even with the help of the judiciary, will not keep his boat floating for long unless he practices the democratic norms for which he was praised.

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