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Kyrgyzstan: Increased Repression Ahead of Election

Kyrgyzstan: Increased Repression Ahead of Elections

Government Restricts Rights to Avoid ‘Ukraine Scenario’

The Kyrgyz government is stepping up repression in advance of this month’s parliamentary elections to forestall a repeat of the ‘Ukraine scenario,’ Human Rights Watch said today.

In a letter to President Askar Akaev, Human Rights Watch warned that the clampdown could compromise the fairness of the election when citizens go to the polls on February 27. The group urged the government to take specific steps to ensure respect for fundamental rights.

“These elections will test the Kyrgyz government’s commitment to democracy and human rights,” said Rachel Denber, acting executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch. “The question is whether the Kyrgyz government will meet public demands for responsive government and fair elections, or resort to violating fundamental rights to avoid a repeat of Ukraine’s ‘Orange Revolution.’”

Human Rights Watch’s 12-page letter details how the Kyrgyz authorities unfairly excluded opposition candidates from running for office, launched new restrictions on freedom of assembly and harassed opposition supporters and civil society activists. The letter said that a series of public statements by senior government officials who, warning against the ‘Ukraine scenario,’ attempted to equate political opposition with subversion.

In an appendix to the letter, Human Rights Watch lists some of these statements, which it says appear designed to impugn and intimidate the political opposition and civil society groups. “These statements have poisoned the pre-election environment,” Denber said.

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