(New York) - Those exercising control in Kyrgyzstan should remember their responsibility to respect human rights as they restore order after two days of violent unrest in the country, Human Rights Watch said today. The violent protests unfolded after several months of rising tension between the political opposition and the government and increased government repression.
According to the Kyrgyz Ministry of Health, at least 41 people have been killed in violent clashes between protesters and government forces in Bishkek, the capital.
Following today's resignation of the prime minister and his government, the Kyrgyz political opposition formed an interim government; President Kurmanbek Bakiev is believed to be in an undisclosed location in southern Kyrgyzstan.
"Even in times of chaos and upheaval, those who are in control have a duty to uphold fundamental rights," said Andrea Berg, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Most important, they have the obligation to uphold the right to life."
Kyrgyzstan's political opposition had planned a day of national protest for April 7, 2010. Protests broke out yesterday in Talas, in northwest Kyrgyzstan, when police arrested an opposition leader there. The protests grew violent, with protesters seizing control of the main government building. At least 11 political opposition leaders were detained last night, which contributed to violent clashes between protesters and police in Bishkek today, including shootings with live ammunition. The political leaders have all since been released.
The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials requires law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, to, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. Whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials are required to use restraint and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offense. The legitimate objective should be achieved with minimal damage and injury, and with preservation of human life respected.
Human Rights Watch said that as soon as it is feasible, there should be an investigation into the circumstances that led to the 41 deaths, whether they were result of criminal acts by protesters, legitimate use of force, or excessive force by security forces.
Before it resigned, the government declared a state of emergency in Kyrgyzstan, although it is not clear whether it is still in effect.
"Even in a state of emergency - indeed, especially in a state of emergency - those in control of a country need to guarantee basic rights," Berg said. These include the right to life, the prohibition on torture, the right to liberty and security of persons, and the right to a fair trial.
Yesterday internet and other communications were interrupted, and communications were difficult today. Human Rights Watch called on the authorities not to use the state of emergency to restrict freedom of information unnecessarily or access to the country by independent observers.