Mr. Akhmatbek Keldibekovich Keldibekov
Speaker, Parliament of Kyrgyzstan
Zhogorku Kenesh
Pr. Chui 205
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan  


Dear Mr. Speaker,

I am writing to express our concern about two recent resolutions passed by the Kyrgyz parliament and to draw your attention to the negative effects that the resolutions could have on freedom of expression in Kyrgyzstan.

Human Rights Watch is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights worldwide. We have monitored the human rights situation in Kyrgyzstan for more than two decades and we have published findings and recommendations on a wide range of topics. In our work we have also engaged in a productive dialogue with key Kyrgyz government institutions.

Since the overthrow of the Bakiev government in April 2010 and the inter-ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010, Kyrgyz authorities have initiated, facilitated and supported several investigations and inquiries that have shed light on the causes and effects of these events. We have commended the authorities for this openness, and the government has claimed credit for this in international fora, most recently during the debate at the 17th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

It has therefore been disturbing to read the resolutions that parliament passed on May 26 and on June 16. In the May 26 resolution, parliament gave instructions to bar Kimmo Kiljunen, chairman of the international Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission, from entering the country. The resolution alleged that Kiljunen had provided the international community with unconfirmed and partial information about the June events. It further instructed the prosecutor general to prevent circulation of unconfirmed information that could provoke a new conflict and to take measures to hold to account people who produce and distribute such information.

In the June 16 resolution, parliament instructed the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Justice and the prosecutor general to "take measures to block the site Ferghana.ru in the informational space in the republic."

Freedom of expression is a basic human right. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantees all individuals the "freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media." Article 31 of the Kyrgyz Constitution also guarantees "freedom of expression, freedom of speech and print." These provisions are also included in article 114 of the rules of the parliament, which says that the parliament should not adopt laws that limit freedom of speech and press. 

Any restriction of freedom of expression must be strictly provided for in law, necessary for the respect of the rights or reputation of others or for the protection of national security, public order, or of public health or morals and proportionate to achieving that aim. The resolutions passed by parliament do not meet these criteria. Instead, parliamentary debates and the text of the resolution give raise to concern that a main motivation for these resolutions has been to silence those who disagree with the majority version of the June events.  

Regardless of whether these provisions will be implemented, the resolutions will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Kyrgyzstan. A vibrant media reflecting a wide range of opinions is the cornerstone of a functioning democracy. We urge you to rescind these resolutions to ensure that Mr. Kiljunen is allowed to enter the country and that Fergananews.com remains accessible to Kyrgyz citizens, and we urge you to ensure that future laws and resolutions adopted by parliament do not place restrictions on freedom of expression.

Yours sincerely,

Hugh Williamson
Executive Director
Europe and Central Asia Division

CC:
Mr. Chinibai Akunovich Tursunbekov, leader of the SDPK party

Mr. Omurbek Chirkeshovich Tekebaev, leader of the Ata-Meken party

Mr. Kamchibek Kidirshaevich Tashiev, leader of the Ata-Jurt pary

Ar-Namys Party

Respublika Party