July 8, 2016
Her Excellency Dr. Angela Merkel
Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
10557 Berlin, Germany
Via facsimile: +49.30.184.002605
Dear Chancellor Merkel,
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent international press freedom organization, is writing to request that you use your upcoming visit to Kyrgyzstan to put press freedom on the agenda during meetings with government officials. Specifically, we ask that you publicly urge Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev to abide by the U.N. Human Rights Committee decision that Azimjon Askarov, a journalist and human rights defender who was sentenced to life in prison in September 2010, be released immediately.
CPJ, along with other press freedom and human rights groups, has thoroughly reported on Askarov's case, documenting numerous procedural violations, including a judicial process marred by torture, lack of evidence, an unfair trial, and the retaliatory nature of the charges used to imprison him. Askarov, who had been investigating claims of police misconduct, was convicted on charges including incitement to ethnic hatred and complicity in the killing of a local policeman. He was denied an appeal. The journalist's lawyers sought redress from the U.N. Human Rights Committee. In April 2016, following a three-and-a-half year review of the case, the U.N. committee concurred with our findings and ruled that Kyrgyzstan should immediately release Askarov, quash his conviction, and provide him with adequate compensation.
According to the U.N. committee's ruling and CPJ research, Askarov's release would be in line with Kyrgyzstan's commitments under Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 41.2 of the Kyrgyz constitution, and its obligations before the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in which Germany currently holds the chairmanship.
Madam Chancellor, CPJ values your previous discussion of Askarov's case with the Kyrgyz officials, and we ask that you use all the resources available to your office, both within the German government and the OSCE chairmanship, to seek his immediate and unconditional release.
We look forward to your response.
CPJ Executive Director
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Germany
Erlan Abdyldaev, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic
Peter Rudolf Scholz, German Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic
Michael Brand, Chairman of the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, German Bundestag
Kubatbek Otorbaev, Ombudsman of the Kyrgyz Republic
Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media