Human rights advocate, Azimzhan Askarov, passed away age 69

Amy Langley, Chief International Officer

Ethnic Uzbek rights activist, Azimzhan Askarov, died in a prison clinic on 25 July 2020 after he was hospitalized due to pneumonia. Askarov was serving a highly-criticised life sentence for his involvement in the interethnic violence that occurred in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010 – despite only documenting the violence and looting that occurred during the clash between the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks.

Askarov led the human rights organization, Vozduh ("Air"), in Kyrgyzstan from 2002, focusing on police treatment of detainees and prison conditions. He was charged with participating in riots, enciting hatred and abetting the death of a police officer during the deadly conflict in June 2015, during which over 470 people were killed. Human rights groups and the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) have criticized these charged as ‘trumped up’ and politically motivated. Mr Askarov repeatedly appealed his convictions to no avail.

Additionally, it was confirmed by the HRC in 2016 that Askarov’s detainment and treatment was rife with violations of human rights. These included arbitrary detention, mistreatment, torture and being held in inhumane conditions.

Following his deteriorating health and the injustice of his convictions, the HRC and Human Rights Watch have urged for Askarov’s release for many years. Most recently, it was noted on 22 July by his lawyer, Valeryan Vakhitov, that Mr Askarov’s health had declined significantly and that he required medical attention. He was moved to a hospital unit in the prison a day before he passed away. Mr Askarov also suffered from a heart condition and other chronic illnesses.

HRW spokesperson, Mihra Rittmann, stated that “Kyrgyzstan’s authorities bear full responsibility for Askarov’s death”.

Read the Human Rights Watch article here: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/25/kyrgyzstan-human-rights-defender-dies-prison.
For more, check out this Bloomberg article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-25/kyrgyzstan-s-rights-activist-azimzhan-askarov-dies-at-69.

Read more about the life and work of Azimzhan Askarov here: https://thediplomat.com/2020/07/the-tragedy-of-azimjon-askarov/.

For further information regarding the interethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, visit this Human Rights Watch page: https://www.hrw.org/report/2010/08/16/where-justice/interethnic-violence-southern-kyrgyzstan-and-its-aftermath.