Kyrgyzstan: Kamilzhan Ruziev allegedly detained, ill-treated and threatened with death by police officers (joint communication)

BACKGROUND

On 4 October 2021, I wrote a letter jointly with other UN experts to the Government of Kyrgyzstan concerning the alleged death threats against human rights defender and lawyer Mr. Kamilzhan Ruziev, who appears to be targeted for his legitimate human rights work and the exercise of the freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the allegations of his arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and prosecution.

Mr. Kamilzhan Ruziev is a human rights defender and lawyer from Karakol and director of the non-governmental human rights organisation Ventus. He defends the rights of victims of torture, domestic violence and discrimination.

This is a shorter version of the original communication. A press release was also issued on this same case on 2 November 2021. No reply was received fromt eh Governemnt were received within the first 60 days, though any replies will be available on the Special Procedures database, once received.

Read the full communication View the Press Release

ALLEGATIONS

In 2017-2018, Mr. Kamilzhan Ruziev provided legal assistance to a victim of torture and widely publicised the case in the media. However, the purported perpetrator was reportedly not held accountable.

On 10 June 2019, Mr. Ruziev reportedly went to the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) of Karakol City in connection with another case. The police investigator, who had allegedly committed acts of torture in the case mentioned, was reportedly on duty that day. He allegedly pointed his service pistol at Mr. Ruziev’s head and threatened to kill him for exposing publicly the case of torture. On 12 June, 14 June and 4 November 2019, the police investigator and his colleagues again reportedly threatened to kill Mr. Ruziev, confronting him at the DIA of Karakol City.

On 12 and 14 June 2019, Mr. Ruziev reportedly complained to the Prosecutor’s Office of Karakol City and on 4 November 2019 – to the State Committee for National Security of the Issyk-Kul Region (SCNS), asking them to investigate the threats. However, neither the SCNS nor the Prosecutor’s Office reportedly initiated an investigation. Consequently, he appealed about their inaction to the Karakol City Court and the Issyk-Kul Regional Court.

On 3 March 2020, the Issyk-Kul Regional Court considered the appeal after Mr. Ruziev provided a medical certificate on acute bronchitis to the court to justify the delay in submitting the appeal.

On 11 March 2020, the SCNS reportedly initiated a criminal case against Mr. Ruziev under Article 359 (2) of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic (“use of a knowingly false official document”) because the nurse issued the medical certificate without the doctor’s signature. Mr. Ruziev was reportedly unaware of the formal requirements.

On 28 May 2020, the SCNS officers reportedly invited Mr. Ruziev to the SCNS to receive responses to his motions concerning the threats. At 4:30 pm, they took him to one of the rooms and held him there against his will. The head of the SCNS reportedly forced him to testify about the falsity of the medical certificate. One of the SCNS officers allegedly said that he would “tear apart” anyone who complained about torture. Mr. Ruziev was not informed of the criminal case against him nor provided with any documents. Around 5:30 pm, he was released and told to come back with a lawyer. He could not find a lawyer, felt unwell and called an ambulance.

On 29 May 2020, Mr. Ruziev reportedly came to the Karakol City Court to attend a hearing on non-investigation of the threats against him. At the court’s exit, he was allegedly detained by the SCNS officer. The officer reportedly said that the detention was because Mr. Ruziev did not have an identity document and failed to appear for interrogation.

The night of 29-30 May 2020, the SCNS officers reportedly brought handcuffed Mr. Ruziev to the ambulance to check his state of health and the presence of alcohol in his blood. The ambulance doctor reportedly examined him and concluded that he could not be detained due to his health condition. However, the SCNS officials reportedly disregarded the doctor’s opinion and placed Mr. Ruziev in a temporary detention facility for 48 hours, reportedly telling him he was a witness in an unspecified criminal case.

While at the temporary detention facility, Mr. Ruziev was reportedly not permitted to meet with a lawyer of his choice. He was also allegedly denied the medication and medical assistance he needed. In addition, he was reportedly not given a blanket despite the cold temperature nor toilet paper. He wrote a complaint to the Ombudsperson for the Issyk-Kul region, but the temporary detention facility officer allegedly did not send it. He also reportedly asked for paper to write a complaint to the National Centre for the Prevention of Torture, but the temporary detention facility officer refused to provide it. Mr. Ruziev reportedly began a hunger strike protesting against violations of his rights.

On 30 May 2020, his complaint was accepted and the officers of the Prosecutor’s Office of Karakol City visited the temporary detention facility. However, they allegedly took no action on his complaints. On the same day, officers of the National Centre for the Prevention of Torture visited Mr. Ruziev. They reportedly called an ambulance, whose staff allegedly refused to examine him in accordance with the Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Istanbul Protocol). In total, on 30 and 31 May 2020, ambulance reportedly visited Mr. Ruziev four times due to his ill health and lack of medications.

In the morning of 31 May 2020, the SCNS officials reportedly transported Mr. Ruziev to the SCNS, held him there until the evening and interrogated him in the absence of the lawyer of his choice. The investigator allegedly told Mr. Ruziev that the lawyer did not answer the phone. The lawyer was reportedly standing in front of the building but was not allowed inside and not informed of the interrogation. Mr. Ruziev was then reportedly first informed of being accused under Article 359 of the Criminal Code but not provided relevant documents.

On the evening of 31 May 2020, the Karakol City Court found his detention lawful and imposed a two-month house arrest in connection with the criminal case. Mr. Ruziev reportedly complained about this decision, but the judge did not consider the complaint.

On 1 June 2020, Mr. Ruziev’s health condition reportedly worsened and he was hospitalised at the Issyk-Kul Regional Hospital for ten days. On 8 June 2020, the SCNS officers reportedly interrogated Mr. Ruziev at the hospital without the lawyer and despite his objections and the doctors’ opinion.

As a result of the SCNS’s actions, Mr. Ruziev’s health reportedly further deteriorated and in September 2020, he was hospitalised at the Clinical Hospital of the Presidential Administration in Bishkek. He also underwent rehabilitation for torture victims at the non-governmental organisation Voice of Freedom Foundation, where he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The SCNS officers reportedly allowed Mr. Ruziev to be hospitalised only if he signed documents confirming that he had reviewed the criminal case materials. In pressing need of medical treatment, he reportedly agreed even though some documents (such as the indictment) were not provided and the pages of the case file were not bound and numbered, meaning that the documents could be subsequently supplemented and amended without his knowledge.

On 18 September 2020, the criminal case was reportedly sent to the Karakol City Court without Mr. Ruziev’s actual knowledge of the indictment and other case materials. The criminal case is now reportedly at the trial stage. If found guilty, Mr. Ruziev could face up to five years of imprisonment.

In addition, on 29-31 May 2020, while Mr. Ruziev was in the temporary detention facility, six more criminal cases were reportedly initiated against him under Article 204 of the Criminal Code (“fraud”). The SCNS officers reportedly made people whose rights he had defended write crime incident reports. According to the accusations, he allegedly took money from them and did not help. Four of these cases have reportedly been dismissed. The status of the remaining two cases is unknown.

On 1 March 2021 and 8 April 2021, the Military Prosecutor’s Office and the Balykchy City Court rejected all five of Mr. Ruziev’s complaints alleging arbitrary detention and ill-treatment in the temporary detention facility. On 23 June 2021, the Issyk-Kul Regional Court rejected his appeals.

Dozens of his complaints to the Kyrgyz Republic authorities (including, but not limited to, the Government, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Parliament, the President, the Security Council, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the DIA of the Issyk-Kul region, the Prosecutor General, the Issyk-Kul Region Prosecutor’s Office, the Military Prosecutor’s Office, the National Centre for the Prevention of Torture, the Ombudsman of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Ombudsman’s Commissioner for the Issyk-Kul region) about violations of his rights were also reportedly rejected or not responded to. In some cases, the complaints were reportedly sent for consideration to the officials whose inaction he complained about. No one has allegedly been held accountable.

CONCERNS

In the communications, we expressed concern about the allegations of death threats, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and prosecution of Mr. Kamilzhan Ruziev, which appear to be linked to his legitimate human rights work, in particular his work as a lawyer defending victims of torture, domestic violence and discrimination.

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