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Germany's Merkel Urged To Tackle Rights Situation In Talks With Kyrgyz President

President Sooronbay Jeenbekov arrived in Germany on April 15.
President Sooronbay Jeenbekov arrived in Germany on April 15.

Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov is due to hold talks in Berlin on April 16 with Chancellor Angela Merkel amid calls by activists for the German leader to press for improvement in the Central Asian country's human rights situation.

Jeenbekov's visit is his first to Germany since becoming president in 2017, and is aimed at garnering more German support for Kyrgyzstan's social and economic development.

In an April 12 statement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Merkel to bring up the human rights situation in Kyrgyzstan during her talks with Jeenbekov.

"German leaders need to keep up the pressure on Jeenbekov to tackle other entrenched human rights issues," the statement says after acknowledging some "positive steps" such as the Kyrgyz parliament's rejection of a "foreign agents" law that would have threatened freedom of expression.

HRW highlighted the case of human rights activist Azimjon Askarov, who it said was wrongfully sentenced to life in prison after the June 2010 ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, although the UN Human Rights Committee established in 2016 that he had been arbitrarily detained and tortured.

"His continued imprisonment tarnishes any recent progress Kyrgyzstan has made," HRW says, noting that Askarov, now 70, had been subjected to torture.

It also brings to the attention of German officials what it says is the "widespread use of torture and ill-treatment of detainees" -- crimes for which "impunity remains the norm."

"German leaders should remind [Jeenbekov] that just as human rights are interdependent and interrelated, respect for rights and the rule of law is indivisible from sustained bilateral cooperation," HRW concluded.

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