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Demonstrations and arrests:
This last weekend, 25. – 26. March, peaceful protest actions took place across Russia, Belarus and in Kyrgyzstan, which were met with heavy police forces, mass arrests and violence from the authorities. Although they did not seem to have been coordinated in any way, the protests have in common that they were supported by citizens fed up with corruption and oppression. Governments of the three countries seem to know only one way of reacting: Interdiction, violence and detentions. Still, citizens for the first time in a very long time, defied fears and participated. The participation across Russia, not limited to big cities, had not been seen for years.
Den norske Helsingforskomiteen har overvåket og rapportert om situasjonen i Kirgisistan siden 1998. I 2006 åpnet Helsingforskomiteen et representasjonskontor for Sentral-Asia i den kirgisiske hovedstaden Bisjkek. Kontoret har senere flyttet til nabobyen Almaty i Kasakhstan. Etter Kirgisistans andre revolusjon i 2010 brøt det ut voldelige sammenstøt mellom etniske kirgisere og usbekere sør i landet. Samtidig er Kirgisistan det land i regionen som har kommet lengst med hensyn til demokratisk reform. Helsingforskomiteen er bredt engasjert i landet, blant annet gjennom vårt småpottfond for lokale organisasjoner siden 2007. Vi har vært særlig engasjert i rettssikkerhet, religionsfrihet og kvinners rettigheter.
Together with our partners in the Civic Solidarity Platform (CSP), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee is seriously concerned about threats received by leading Kyrgyz human rights defenders Tolekan Ismailova and Aziza Abdurasulova in relation to their participation in the 2016 OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) and call for immediate and effective measures to ensure their safety.
Do you want to join a small team in NHCs active office in Kazakhstan? NHC has a vacancy for an Administrative Officer at our Central Asia Office in Almaty. Deadline for applications is 24 June 2016.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is deeply disappointed to learn of the decision by Kyrgyzstan to declare Mihra Rittmann, researcher for Human Rights Watch in Central Asia, persona non grata in the country. Rittmann was deported from Kyrgyzstan upon her arrival to Manas International Airport in Bishkek on 2 December, after living and working for several years in the country.
-The elections in Kyrgyzstan 4 October highlight the country's uniquely democratic position in Central Asia, says Marius Fossum, Norwegian Helsinki Committee Regional Representative in Central Asia, who was present in the capital Bishkek on election day and during the last days of campaigning.
In connection with the examination of Kyrgyzstan in the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva, 1 and 2 June, NHC local partner Open Viewpoint made an alternative report urging Kyrgyzstan to ensure citizens' access to objective information on religion.
The EU leaders should prominently address human rights issues with Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev, who is in Brussels for meetings on 26-27 March, and insist that he use his powers to ensure compliance with the country’s international human rights obligations.
On 15 October 2014, a bill which proposes criminal and administrative liability for «formation of a positive attitude to non-traditional forms of sexual relations» passed its first reading in the Kyrgyz Parliament. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is concerned about the consequences that this bill may have for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans persons (LGBT) in the Kyrgyz Republic, if adopted.
OSCE meeting in Warzaw:
NHC is active at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2014 which is currently taking place in Warsaw.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is concerned after learning that the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) of Kyrgyzstan has sued an independent journalist based in Osh, Shokhrukh Saipov, following an article he published with the Ferghana News Agency in May 2014.
On 17 June 2014, the Human Rights Committee of the Kyrgyz Parliament Zhogorku Kenesh approved a draft law that, if passed, will make the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual (LGBT) people and activists more difficult.
In our report to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee recommends that the government of Kyrgyzstan investigates and brings to justice perpetrators of violence against civilians among government forces during the June 2010 events in the south of the country, and in the period following the violence. The Human Rights Council will review the situation for human rights in Kyrgyzstan at their 21st session set to January 2015. Read NHC report in full below.
This week, the Kyrgyz Parliament Zhogorku Kenesh started initial discussions on a new draft law on “amendments to some legislative acts of the Kyrgyz Republic”, introduced by two parliamentarians. – The title of the draft law can be a cause for confusion, but the intent is quite clear, says Lene Wetteland, Central Asia advisor in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – The draft law follows the Russian example of a ban on propaganda of so-called non-traditional sexual relations, making it prohibited to talk “openly or covertly” about any topic that in one way or another touch upon LGBTI issues in a positive or neutral way.
As a result of long-term work on freedom of religion or belief in Central Asia the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights were invited to conduct a workshop with Kyrgyz parliamentarians discussing how to ensure that national legislation is line with international human rights. The workshop took place in Bishkek on 10-11 February 2014.
The Freedom of Religion or Belief in Central Asia Project is part of NHC’s larger Human Rights in Central Asia program, and focuses in particular on Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Oslo 3 July 2013: – The open discussions in this seminar demonstrate that the various stakeholders were willing to exchange opinions and learn from each other, says Central Asia Advisor in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Lene Wetteland. – Over three days, 25-28 June, at the shore of Issyk-Kul lake, representatives of religious communities, NGOs, experts and state authorities in charge of questions on religion have discussed core questions of legislation and practice regarding freedom of religion or belief in Kyrgyzstan.
On 7 May, the Kyrgyzstani NGO Bir Duino ("One World") presented the results of their analysis of the problems of early marriages and early pregnancy in Kyrgyzstan at a press conference in Bishkek. Photo: Kloop.kg
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is pleased to announce the continuation of our small grants fund for Central Asia. All organizations with project proposals related to human rights, democratization or strengthening of civil society may apply. While we are open to all good proposals, we encourage projects in Kazakhstan related to the outlying regions of the country. In Kyrgyzstan, we are particularly interested in projects addressing the basic human rights of vulnerable groups as well as legal initiatives. In Tajikistan, strengthening of the media and the rights of children is important. However, we are open to original and innovative ideas.
Following her detention upon arrival to Tashkent International Airport from Bishkek at 7:20 PM on Monday 24 June, prominent Kyrgyzstani human rights activist Tolekan Ismailova was deported to Almaty, Kazakhstan in the afternoon of 25 June.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is pleased to announce that the following projects have been selected to receive support from its annual Small Grants Fund.
The human rights organization Spravedlivost' has produced a video encouraging peace between ethnic groups in the South of Kyrgyzstan.
In a statement supported by other Civic Solidarity Platform members, the NHC expresses regret that Baroness Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, did not use her recent visit to Central Asia to raise the human rights challenges in the region. This is particularly disappointing as the EU is about to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for its "advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights".
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was distressed to learn of serious, anonymous threats made against the Central Asia Program Director of Human Rights Center Memorial, Vitaliy Ponomarev, on 12 January 2012 and urges Russian and Uzbekistani authorities to open an investigation.
On Sunday 25 November 2012, Kyrgyzstan held local elections for 25 city councils and 416 village councils around the country. International observers paid particular attention to the elections in Kyrgyzstan’s largest city, the capital Bishkek, and large urban centers such as Jalalabad in the southern part of the country. Kyrgyzstan has traditionally seen a political division between north and south, where different groups tend to hold influence. Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s Central Asia representative Ivar Dale visited the capital during the elections.
Five Year Anniversary of EU Central Asia Strategy:
- Five years on, there is broad consensus that the human rights dialogues established with the Central Asian governments and other measures taken to implement the Strategy’s human rights objectives have not been as effective as desired. The overall human rights situation in Central Asia has not improved in any substantial way and, in some respects, human rights protection has even deteriorated in the countries of the region. NHC is among the signatories of an appeal to the European Union in occation of the five year anniversary of the EU Central Asia strategy.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is pleased to announce the continuation of our small grants fund for Central Asia. All organizations with project proposals related to human rights, democratization or strengthening of civil society may apply. While we are open to all good proposals, we encourage projects in Kazakhstan related to the outlying regions of the country. In Kyrgyzstan, we are particularly interested in projects addressing the basic human rights of vulnerable groups as well as legal initiatives. In Tajikistan, strengthening of the media and the rights of children is important. In addition to our regular program, we are glad to announce that additional grants have been allocated for smaller projects in Kazakhstan. These grants may be up to 9,999 USD, and are intended to support projects in more outlying regions of the country. The deadline and other requirements are the same.
The report “A Chronicle of Violence: The events in the south of Kyrgyzstan in June 2010 (Osh Region)”, published today, gives a detailed chronology of the events in the Osh Province in the period 29 April to 15 June 2010, as well as an analysis of available information and statistics related to the violence in the south of Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. The 200-page report was prepared by Memorial Human Rights Center (Russia), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (Norway) and Freedom House (USA).
On 22 and 23 May, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Coalition for the International Criminal Court organized a seminar in Almaty, Kazakhstan with participants from civil society in all five Central Asian republics.
Authorities should take steps to initiate an open and inclusive process of revising the Bakiyev-era Religion Law, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – The 2009 Religion Law fails to comply with the Constitution and with international human rights standards. It severely restricts religious freedoms, including imposing registration requirements that in effect ban registration of new religious communities other than the Orthodox Church and the Spiritual Board of Moslems.
-Norge kan gjøre en forskjell i den postsovjetiske regionen, sier generalsekretær Bjørn Engesland.
Nylig deltok Engesland i et møte sammen med andre menneskerettighetsorganisasjoner og ga innspill til utenriksminister Jonas Gahr Støre for strategier for Russland, Hviterussland og Kasakhstan.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is disappointed to learn that authorities in Kyrgyzstan have moved to block access to a highly
respected news agency covering the Central Asian region, Ferghana.ru.
The decision is not only in breach of the country’s international obligations with respect to media freedoms, but stands in contrast to the positive level of openness which has characterized Kyrgyzstan in recent years.
In Kyrgyzstan, the previous Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev has received approximately 63% of the votes in Presidential Elections that were found mostly free and fair by the observers. Violations in the electoral process were mainly related to the voter’s lists, where a significant number of the voters could not find their name and thus could not vote.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is actively and well represented at this years' OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw. In our interventions at the meeting we will focus on freedom of religion in Central Asia, rule of law in Azerbaijan, Belarus and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and freedom of expression in Macedonia, Bosnia and Serbia. We are organising a side-event on lack of justice after major human rights violations in Russia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Additionally we organise a side-event on strikers' rights in Kazakhstan and we are also co-organising a side-event with particular focus on Ales Bialiatski and the release of political prisoners in Belarus. Below you will find links to the HDIM webpage, all documents from our side-events and interventions and other relevant links.
The NHC is pleased to announce a contest for project proposals aiming at improving the situation regarding human rights, democratization or civil society in Central Asia. All organizations in the region with project proposals related to human rights, democratization or strengthening of civil society may apply. At the same time, we encourage projects targeting political rights in Kazakhstan, minority rights in Tajikistan, and reconciliation and protection of basic human rights after the Osh events in Kyrgyzstan.
The general impressions from observing the parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan are positive, NHC election observer Parvina Abduvakhobova in Bishkek concludes. Even though security and stability in the country remains a major concern, election day was peaceful and the election campaign period was active.