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Kyrgyz Activists Name And Shame 'Corrupt' Judges

Activists rally in front of government headquarters in Bishkek on March 5 to demand reforms to the judicial system. 

A group of Kyrgyz activists have found a unique way to fight alleged corruption in the judicial system.

The group is compiling a blacklist of judges the activists believe are corrupt or known for bias and "unlawful rulings."

The group's members include lawyers, rights defenders, and political activists who often participate in open trials.

The blacklist so far consists of 23 judges of different levels from across Kyrgyzstan, and it will grow, says activist and former lawmaker Asiya Sasykbaeva.

"We must cleanse the court system of them," Sasykbaeva told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on March 7.

Rights activist Rita Karasartova says the list includes judges who "carry out political orders" and also those who target journalists.

Kyrgyz rights activist Rita Karasartova (file photo)
Kyrgyz rights activist Rita Karasartova (file photo)

Some judges, however, accuse the activists and their supporters of bias.

The plan to publicly name and shame allegedly corrupt judges was first announced during a rally the activists held in front of the government headquarters in Bishkek in which they demanded reforms to the judicial system.

The rally was held on March 5, the national day of judiciary employees.

'Fabricated Charges'

Activists were joined by several people who claim they have fallen victim to unfair rulings.

Bakhtybek Yusupov, a resident of the southern city of Osh, accuses a city judge of corruption.

"I fell victim to an illegal court ruling that favored a group close to a corrupt judge. I was sentenced … on fabricated charges because they wanted to take my house," Yusupov claimed.

The Osh city court, where Yusupov was tried some five years ago, said that the judge who oversaw the case was fired in 2016.

Among the "blacklisted" judges is Kymbat Arkharova, a district judge from the capital, Bishkek.

Arkharova is among those recently nominated to be a Supreme Court judge, but the activists are seeking to block her nomination.

The activists claim Arkharova is among the judges involved in politically motivated court rulings against journalists and rights defenders.

Arkharova, however, rejects the accusation and insists her nomination was based on merit.

"Envious people can say whatever they like. There are two sides in every process, and inevitably one of them will be left unhappy," Arkharova said.

Almazbek Abdyldaev, the head of the Osh Provincial Court, told RFE/RL that it's unacceptable to blacklist judges when their rulings aren't to someone's liking.

"Each verdict is based on legal norms," he said. "Judges can't issue a verdict as they please. It's impossible."

'Rampant Corruption'

The activists, meanwhile, are calling on President Sooronbai Jeenbekov not to allow judges whose reputations have been tarnished to find a place in the Supreme Court.

Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov
Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov

In February, Jeenbekov made accusations of rampant corruption in the country's criminal justice system.

"I don't have any intention of in interfering in the activities of judges," the president said on February 8. "However, if they release [someone involved in] a serious crime, or violate laws and citizens' rights, I would not stand by indifferently."

"I will get involved in every issue in which people's rights are violated and the interests of the state are undermined," the president added.

Activists say they are sending the blacklist to the president.

If corrupt judges end up taking high positions at the Supreme Court, activist Rita Karasartova said, "it would mean that the president's statement was just empty words."

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service correspondent Kubanychbek Zholdoshev.