Fury about US award for Askarov in Kyrgyzstan: backlash or impact?

July 23, 2015
Awarding the State Department prize for human rights defenders to Azimzhan Askarov in Kyrgyzstan has led to a most interesting follow up. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/us-state-department-2014-human-rights-defender-award-to-azimjon-askarov-and-foro-penal/]In retaliation Kyrgyzstan has cancelled a coöperation treaty with the USA which has been in force since 1993.

The bilateral agreement that facilitated cooperation between the countries in certain areas was renounced by Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariev.As a result US aid to Kyrgyzstan will no longer be free of taxes and other custom duties as from August 20. US civil and military aid personnel, working in Kyrgyzstan will be deprived of their near diplomatic status. On Monday, the US warned Kyrgyzstan that if the accord got canceled, it would damage a range of its aid programs in the country.

On 23 July 2015 Tatyana Kudryavtseva of the 24.kg news agency collected a range of reaction from a variety of persons in Kyrgyzstan under the title “Very expensive Azimzhan Askarov“. Interesting to note that almost all ‘expert’ reactions assume that Askarov is guilty with the exception of the Chairwoman of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society. Still, there is almost unanimity that the move by the Kyrgyz Government was ‘unwise’ to say the least. Here follow some excerpts:

Giving the US State Department Award to the human rights activist Azimzhan Askarov has become a real time bomb. It would seem that nothing terrible has happened. But the news about the award was the trigger. It all ended in scandal – Kyrgyzstan’s government denounced the agreement with the USA on cooperation of 1993. Almost all the projects implemented in the country at the expense of American money turned out to be under threat.

Kairat Osmonoliev, the Doctor of Law:

Denunciation of the agreement – is one of the most extreme steps in international relations. I believe that it is inappropriate move. …It is no big deal that they awarded our citizen. That’s their problem. We have expressed the position that this is unreasonable and puzzling…. Denunciation of the agreement – ill-conceived move that will have far-reaching consequences. … We had to stay at note of protest of the Foreign Ministry regarding the awarding of Azimzhan Askarov the Prize of the State Department….Over the years of cooperation a lot was done. And it is incorrect to stop all this under the influence of emotions. … We behave like teenagers in puberty, when character isn’t formed yet.

Zamira Sydykova, the former Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic in the United States:

– It all sounds funny that Kyrgyzstan broke off relations with the United States. Of course, this is not an independent decision of the Prime Minister Temir Sariev. Decision was preceded by consultation with Russia. In addition, we do hereby worse for ourselves, because there won’t be any consequences for the other side, the US…..Of course, denunciation of the agreement with the United States – is a political decision. In political terms, rupture of the agreement is more important than denunciation of the agreement on Manas Transit Center. In fact, we rejected the assistance provided by people of the United States at no cost. This move doesn’t grace the country in the global space. We have nothing special to boast of, but now we show ourselves as wild, ignorant and narrow-minded people. The government of Temir Sariev put all the Kyrgyz people in a very ugly situation.

Kanatbek Murzakhalilov, expert:

– Azimzhan Askarov was found guilty of incriminated criminal case in accordance with the decisions of all three courts, including the Supreme Court, which decision is final. As people say, the law is harsh, but it’s the law. The State Department decided to award, at its discretion, unilaterally, without respecting the laws of sovereign Kyrgyzstan. Our republic wins absolutely nothing from rupture of relations with the United States, but on contrary, in political, economic plan we may suffer huge losses. All financial institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, in one way or another are connected with the United States.

Chinara Esengul, political scientist:

Giving the US State Department Award to Azimzhan Askarov – unexpected step for us. Therefore, denunciation of the agreement of 1993 has become a symmetrical response from the government on the events. Now we are waiting for the US response. We can not say how deliberate a move of the Cabinet was. After all, we did not know that exactly Azimzhan Askarov will be awarded. We have a lot of human rights defenders, who are also worthy of this award [SIC – emphasis added] . The judiciary is one of three branches of government, as a manifestation of our statehood, recognized Azimzhan Askarov guilty of inciting ethnic hatred and complicity in murder of a police officer. Therefore, this rewarding was, in some way, perceived as a provocation. But in any case we could not leave unanswered the awarding of Azimzhan Askarov. It hard to say who is to blame, who is thought out, conducted. I think the US side still initiated. US could choose another candidate in this difficult for the KR year of elections and not to provoke the situation. But, on the other hand, one can not talk that our government responded too asymmetrically. In any case, the extent of consequences of our steps will now be determined by the American government.

The consequences of denunciation of the agreement, of course, will not be very good. ..civil society will suffer.

Sheradil Baktygulov, a political scientist:

-Denunciation of the agreement with the United States – is quite correct response to the fact of giving the State Department Award to Azimzhan Askarov. The denunciation of the agreement does not mean severance of diplomatic relations. It only cancels the special relationship of friendship. Many consider the fact of awarding the prize to Azimzhan Askarov as an attempt, a warning about possible impact on situation in the country. This award is appointed on proposal. Probably the proposal was from the US Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic. Also the appointment of Richard Miles Charge d’Affaires in Kyrgyzstan should be treated with suspicion. If we have a look at warning shouts of the West on the draft law on foreign agents, a draft law banning gay propaganda, in principle, we have quite disturbing puzzle for Kyrgyzstan.

The United States controls the Asian Development Bank. … The same applies to the World Bank. There are the opinions that the decision of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic on denunciation of the agreement with the US could affect our country’s cooperation with these financial institutions. But if you look at help that was provided, the picture is quite different. …. If we look at investment, the United States is not in the top seven of investments in the Kyrgyz Republic. The lion’s share of the assistance provided, falls on support of non-profit organizations and various projects.

Kalicha Umuralieva, head of Our Right Public Association:

– I do not understand this decision and do not welcome it. Azimzhan Askarov was awarded as a human rights activist. He worked in this sphere till the events of 2010. He has this status now. The UN has a Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders. Of course, people who defend the rights of people, that involves fight against corruption, criticism of authorities are persecuted in all countries. Therefore, they are supported by the UN and other human rights institutions. Therefore, I do not understand the hysteria around it. Awarding Askarov – is one thing, but assistance to the country – another…You do not want assistance – refuse, don’t take it. But why do you need hysteria? ..

.And if the UN awards a human rights activist, then Kyrgyzstan will denounce all covenants and conventions of the United Nations? I do not understand such a foreign policy. And it’s very sad. We have to be more flexible and smarter in diplomacy.

Nurbek Toktakunov, lawyer:

-..What is the legitimacy of government decisions? This is when it is taken in accordance with the procedure and with the support of society. No one denies that the agreement was a matter of national significance, and, therefore, required public debate. The Prime Minister did not take into account this fact..

Dinara Oshurakhunova, the Chairwoman of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society:

Denunciation of the agreement caused a great reaction in society. If this is essential, then why not to initiate denunciation of the agreements with the countries that have sheltered runaway presidents. This is more noticeable for the country and its citizens than awarding of a citizen in another country. Another question – since when our country doesn’t welcome awarding citizens in other countries? Did representatives of the Foreign Ministry and the government are really not aware of the state of corruption in courts and law enforcement agencies? Do they believe that justice was applied in respect of Azimzhan Askarov?

All know that law enforcement officials apply tortures of Azimzhan Askarov and anyone who falls into their hands. Everybody knows about the state of judiciary and law enforcement system in Kyrgyzstan – the President and deputies talk about it at the highest level, as well as the latest polls show a distrust of the justice system on the part of citizens. And this distrust remains. Award of unjustly accused human rights defenders – is a worldwide practice.[emphasis added]




see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/draft-laws-on-civil-society-restrictions-also-pending-in-kyrgyzstan-and-cambodia/

4 Responses to “Fury about US award for Askarov in Kyrgyzstan: backlash or impact?”

  1. […] Lira recalls numerous occasions when she and her family had to temporarily leave Kyrgyzstan for safety reasons. Lira highlighted the restrictions imposed on Bir Duino’s operations and recalled that its Kyrgyzstan office has been burgled twice in connection with attacks on ‘nationalists’. Bir Duino’s activities were also ‘supervised’ by authorities during the trial of well-known human rights defender Azimzhan Askarov in 2013 who is currently serving a life sentence in a Kyrgyz prison [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/fury-about-us-award-for-askarov-in-kyrgyzstan-backlash-or-i…]. […]

  2. […] On 11 June 2019 NGOs wrote a joint Letter to High Representative Mogherini regarding detained Human Rights Defender Azimjon Askarov in Kyrgyzstan. His is a wellknown case, see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/23/fury-about-us-award-for-askarov-in-kyrgyzstan-backlash-… […]

  3. […] The charges he was convicted on in September 2010, which included incitement to ethnic hatred and complicity in the murder of a police officer, were described as being unfounded in 2016 by the UN Human Rights Committee. His case has led to the breakdown in relations between Kyrgyzstan and the US, where the State Department awarded him a prestigious human rights prize in 2015.  [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/23/fury-about-us-award-for-askarov-in-kyrgyzstan-backlash-…] […]

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