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Rights groups urge Kyrgyzstan to improve judicial system

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy websites] on Wednesday criticized [HRW report; AI report, text] Kyrgyzstan's lack of judicial progress, marking the one-year anniversary of the June 2010 ethnic violence [Guardian backgrounder] that resulted in more than 300 deaths and 2,000 injuries. Both reports alleged [HRW press release] that investigations have been conducted through torture, and that typically, only confessions given through torture have been recognized as evidence while other, legitimate evidence has been ignored. Further, court officials have not acknowledged physical attacks on defendants and their lawyers. HRW recommended various reforms, including: the state committing to impartial and thorough investigations, both of torture during criminal proceedings and the violence from last year; asking the international community for aid in the investigations and trials; incorporating international human rights law into legislation; and submitting to a visit from the UN special rapporteur on torture. Both groups warned that Kyrgyzstan could face a resurgence of violence if these reforms are not made. The Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission (KIC) [official website], established [JURIST report] by Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva [BBC backgrounder], released [JURIST report] their final report [text, PDF] in May, and also recognized that there "has been and still is selective prosecution targeting the Uzbek minority in regards to the June events," as well as "a seeming inequity in charges proffered against and sentences given to Uzbeks and Kyrgyz for comparable incidents." In response to the KIC report, the Kyrgyz government admitted [reply, PDF] that there have been problems with the judicial system and they have made steps toward improving the process.

Earlier this year, the US Department of State (DOS) [official website] also criticized Kyrgyzstan [JURIST report] in its 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [materials], stating Kyrgyzstan [materials] still faced significant rights issues and ethnic violence despite the overthrow of an authoritarian government and the passage of a new constitution [JURIST reports]. In November, a court in Kyrgyzstan sentenced 19 ethnic Uzbeks [JURIST report] for their involvement in the June 2010 ethnic violence. The first convictions [JURIST report] were issued in September, handing down prison terms for eight ethnic Uzbeks in a case stemming from the murder of a Kyrgyz police officer during the violence. The convictions were later described as politically motivated. In July, the Kyrgyz government announced that it had opened more than 1,000 criminal cases [JURIST report] stemming from the violence, and that 106 individuals had been detained, with 97 in custody.

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