Bush Urged to Press for Human Rights Reforms With Kyrgyz President
President George Bush should press for new political openings and greater respect for civil society and independent media in the Krygyz Republic during his meeting with Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev on Monday, September 23, Freedom House said today.
"Since September 11, 2001, and the launch of the war against terrorism, the United States has increased its engagement with the Kyrgyz government," said Freedom House President Adrian Karatnycky. "It is imperative that in addition to the strategic dimensions of this enhanced relationship, the United States make use of its leverage to encourage democratic reforms and respect for human rights," he said.
In its latest survey of the Kyrgyz Republic, Freedom House classifies the country as "Not Free."
Once regarded as Central Asia's most democratically minded leader and a self-professed admirer of Russian human rights advocate Dr. Andrei Sakharov, President Akayev now presides over a regime that has grown increasingly authoritarian. Feliks Kulov, a leading political rival to President Akayev, remains in prison on what are widely believed to be politically motivated charges. The arrest in January 2002 of Azimbek Beknazarov, an opposition member of parliament, sparked public demonstrations calling for his release. When police shot and killed five protestors during a pro-Beknazarov rally in March, it marked the first time that political protest in the Kyrgyz Republic had turned violent.
Absent firm commitments by Akayev to improve human rights and demands from President Bush and other Western leaders for visible results, the Kyrgyz Republic is likely to face upheaval and instability.
Although President Akayev has made a series of promises regarding government reforms and action against those responsible for the March shootings, he has failed to implement those promises. Freedom House urges President Bush to reinforce to President Akayev that progress toward democracy is an integral part of the war on terrorism and that the United States expects the Kyrgyz president to follow through with actions that confirm democratic practices and conform to basic rights standards.
Freedom House's Central Asia analyst, Aili Piano, is available for comment at 212-514-8040.