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Kyrgyzstan: Serious Rights Problems Remain Despite Some Improvements

Washington, 26 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department says 1998 saw an improvement in the Kyrgyz government's respect for human rights, but adds serious problems remain.

The assessment is contained in the State Department's annual review for the U.S. Congress on human rights practices around the world.

The report says the Kyrgyz government limits its citizens' ability to change their government, and noted serious irregularities in the October constitutional referendum.

Police abuse and brutality continued with cases of arbitrary arrest and detention says the report. Prison conditions are very poor. Executive domination of the judicial branch limited citizens' rights to due process, adds the report, although it is positively noted that the government is attempting to reform the judiciary.

The report says the government at times infringed on freedom of speech and the press, and sometimes pressured journalists who criticized the government. While the government did not use libel laws against the press in 1998, the report says that officials did use tax laws and registration requirements to intimidate the opposition press or suspend newspapers. The report also criticized the government for de-registering the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights prior to the October referendum.

According to the report, discrimination against ethnic minorities, violence against women and children, and trafficking in women are serious problems. The report also noted a rise in the number of street children in Kyrgyzstan.