Kyrgyzstan has extradited a Kazakhstan activist back to his country – even though he faces politically-motivated criminal charges and is at risk of being tortured.
It is utterly outrageous.
Kyrgyz officers took Murat Tungishbaev away late on Tuesday night, a day after a Bishkek court upheld an extradition order issued by Kyrgyzstan’s prosecutor general. They did it without allowing him any time to appeal, as he has the right to do under Kyrgyz law.
It is also bitterly ironic. They bundled Tungishbaev off on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Yet Tungishbaev is in now custody of Kazakhstan’s law-enforcement, where he is at real risk of torture and ill-treatment. The UN has previously expressed “particular concern” about “persistent allegations of torture and ill-treatment committed by law enforcement officials” in Kazakhstan.
Tungishbaev had a pending asylum claim in Kyrgyzstan. But Kyrgyz officials prevented migration officers from interviewing Tungishbaev – who was in a holding cell – to begin processing his claim.
Tungishbaev should never have been sent back to Kazakhstan while his asylum claim was pending.
Tungishbaev fled Kazakhstan in 2012, after security services summoned him for reporting on the oil workers’ strike and an outbreak of violence in the town of Zhanaozen in 2011. For two years after he fled, Tungishbaev worked for the opposition online television channel 16/12. Kazakhstan authorities have accused Tungishbaev of supporting the activities of an unregistered opposition movement, the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK), that a Kazakh court in March found “extremist” and banned.
Tungishbaev is one of many critical voices Kazakh authorities have tried to silence through politically-motivated criminal charges.
Kyrgyzstan’s international partners – the United States; Germany; the United Kingdom; and the European Union, which is currently considering upgrading relations with Kyrgyzstan – should take serious note of Kyrgyzstan’s abject failure to respect their international obligations to protect Tungishbaev and uphold his rights.
Extraditing an activist to risk of torture, keeping a human rights defender locked up for life, banning rights defenders and journalists from Kyrgyzstan, restricting media freedoms, bride kidnapping, domestic violence – these and other rights abuses persist in the face of Kyrgyzstan leadership’s claims to “create a state where human rights are respected, on democratic principles.”
Tungishbaev’s extradition is a stark reminder just how much work there is still to do to ensure basic rights protections for people in Kyrgyzstan.