37 human rights organizations from 18 countries protest Kyrgyzstan entry denial to Memorial staff

The July 9 decision of the government of Kyrgyzstan to deny Vitaliy Ponomarev, Central Asia Programme Director for Human Rights Center Memorial, entry to the country was wrong and raises deep concern as to its motivation, members of the Civic Solidarity Platform said in a statement.

Arriving to Kyrgyzstan via the land border from Kazakhstan on 9 July, Ponomarev was informed by the border service that he had been denied entry to the country. He was not informed about the reason for the ban, or for how long it is valid. Ponomarev later learned through his own inquiries and those of his lawyer that the decision was made by the security services of Kyrgyzstan, GKNB.

Members of the Civic Solidarity Platform consider this return to barring foreign human rights defenders from entering Kyrgyzstan, as well as the recently increased pressure on civil society and journalists in Kyrgyzstan in general, to be an extremely worrisome development. On 2 December 2015, Kyrgyz authorities refused to allow Human Rights Watch (HRW) office director in Kyrgyzstan Mihra Rittmann entry to Kyrgyzstan upon her arrival to the country, informing her that she had been banned.

Members of the Civic Solidarity Platform consider moves like the denial of entry to Ponomarev, and that of Rittmann, to be a betrayal of the country’s renewed commitment to democratic values following the 2010 revolution, in which at least 90 people lost their lives. It also violates a number ofobligations and commitments that the government of Kyrgyzstan has voluntarily signed up to as a member of the UN and the OSCE.

We urge the government of Kyrgyzstan to immediately lift the entry ban on Vitaliy Ponomarev of Human Rights Center Memorial, as well as the ban previously imposed on Rittmann from Human Rights Watch, and to respect the rights of human rights defenders to carry out their important and legitimate work freely and without hindrance.

Read the complete statement in english here and russian here.

The episode has also sparked attention in national and regional media and Radio Free Europe.