GENEVA (2 November 2021) – Kyrgyzstan must investigate death threats against human rights defender Kamilzhan Ruziev instead of harassing him for making complaints against the police, a UN human rights expert said today.
"It is extremely disturbing that authorities began laying criminal charges against Mr. Ruziev after he exposed police torture and ineffectiveness, when they should actually be investigating the death threats made against him," said Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
As director of the non-governmental human rights organisation Ventus, Ruziev defends victims of torture, domestic violence, and discrimination. In 2019, a police investigator, whom Ruziev exposed for committing torture, reportedly threatened to kill him. When the State Committee for National Security and the Prosecutor's Office failed to investigate the threats, Ruziev took them to court, only to find himself facing seven criminal charges.
"Kyrgyz authorities must give Mr. Ruziev a fair trial and effectively investigate all allegations of threats and ill-treatment against him and other human rights defenders," she said. The next hearing on Mr. Ruziev's case will be on 11 November 2021.
Lawlor said she was also disturbed by reports that Mr. Ruziev was ill-treated while held in detention for 48 hours in May 2020, and denied access to his lawyer.
"Now I hear that his health is deteriorating, and complaints to the authorities about violations committed against him continue to fall on deaf ears," she added.
In a report to the Human Rights Council earlier this year on threats and killings of human rights defenders, Lawlor warned: "when a human rights defender receives death threats, swift action must be taken to prevent the threats from escalating. Impunity fuels more murders."
Lawlor is in contact with the authorities of Kyrgyzstan on this issue, and stressed that "Kyrgyzstan must do better to safeguard the environment for human rights defenders to carry out their work."
Her call was endorsed by: Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health.
*Ms. Mary Lawlor is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. Ms. Lawlor is currently Associate Professor of Business and Human Rights at the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) at Trinity College Dublin Business School. In 2001 she founded Front Line Defenders - the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders to focus on human rights defenders at risk. As Executive Director between 2001 and 2016, Ms. Lawlor represented Front Line Defenders and played a key role in its development. Ms. Lawlor was previously Director of the Irish Office of Amnesty International from 1988 to 2000, after becoming a member of the Board of Directors in 1975 and being elected its President from 1983 to 1987.
Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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