BISHKEK / GENEVA (17 December 2019) – Despite some progress, Kyrgyzstan needs further measures to guarantee the human rights of minorities, strengthen its democratic institutions and ensure a more inclusive society, if it is to deliver peace and prosperity, said a UN human rights expert on minorities after visiting the country.
Special Rapporteur Fernand de Varennes welcomed Kyrgyzstan’s continued engagement with international human rights bodies and the adoption of a new human rights action plan, but urged it to put forward comprehensive human rights legislation and in particular new anti-discrimination laws.
He also highlighted the country’s significant strides towards ending statelessness, which mainly affects minorities, and especially minority women and children.
“This year, Kyrgyzstan became the first country to end statelessness to all intents and purposes,” he said, presenting a preliminary statement after his visit.
“I commend the Government’s efforts, which, in coordination with civil society, have supported community outreach campaigns to identify unregistered people, particularly from the most vulnerable communities, such as the Mugat minority.
“Nonetheless, discrimination against minorities is persistent in some areas, including with regard to minority political representation and participation in public life, access to employment in the country’s civil service, including the police and judiciary, administration of justice, and access to education, especially education in minority languages.”
The Special Rapporteur highlighted a decrease in the number of schools teaching in minority languages, especially for the Uzbek minority. He also raised concerns over state policies that provided for the exclusive use of the national Kyrgyz and the official Russian languages in the provision of public services in regions with significant minority presence.
More action was needed to ensure that sign language users had full access to education in their language, and effective access to public services, he added.
“I am concerned at the reported discrimination, harassment, stigmatisation and intimidation suffered by religious and other minorities in different regions of the country. In the case of religious minorities, this can occur in the exercise of their right to freely express and practise their beliefs and in their efforts to establish and officially register their organisations,” he said.
De Varennes expressed concern at reported hostility against human rights defenders and journalists who monitor and report on the situation of minorities in the country, and the use of legal provisions on incitement to hatred and extremism to suppress and criminalise their work.
“I call on the Government of Kyrgyzstan to take resolute action to protect civil society organisations, human rights defenders and journalists, including those working on the rights of minorities, to create a safe and enabling environment for them to carry out their important and legitimate work without fear of reprisals,” he said.
“In the area of conflict prevention and the mitigation of inter-communal tensions, while I commend the Government of Kyrgyzstan for recognising the importance of community empowerment and participation in the prevention and mitigation of inter-ethnic tensions in the country, more needs to be done in terms of enhanced institutional support and coordination, to heal the wounds of the 2010 violent conflict through a process of restorative justice, and for the society to recover from the significant human losses and destruction. All victims and their relatives must have access to effective remedies and redress.”
The Special Rapporteur also expressed concern about the concept of citizenship reflected a new policy document, which appears to be centred around Kyrgyz ethnicity rather than a national citizenship of all Kyrgyzstanis.
During his 12-day mission, Mr. de Varennes met high-level officials, civil society and minority communities, including members of the deaf community, in the capital Bishkek, and in Osh, Jalal-Abad and Batken regions.
The Special Rapporteur will present a detailed report on his visit to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March 2021.
Mr. Fernand de Varennes was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues by the Human Rights Council in June 2017. He is tasked by the UN Human Rights Council, to promote the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, among other things.
The 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 organisation and serve in their individual capacity.
Read the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.
UN Human Rights country page: Kyrgyzstan
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Source: UN Human Rights