Massive hunger-strike continues in Kyrgyz prisons
Hunger-strike in prisons and pre-trial detention facilities in Kyrgyzstan continues since March 25.
As reported by 24.kg (online information agency), the hunger-strike was initiated on the March 25 by inmates held in the maximum security prisons, while during the second half of the same day they were joined by all of the 11 prisons as well as 6 pre-trial jails across the country.
Meanwhile, on the 28 of March, the deputy chairman of the State service of corrections under the Government K. Kachkynbaev has reported no infringement of the prison rules committed by inmates in the previous two days. They at the State service of corrections are confident that protests have been organized by disobedient inmates in defense of the criminal ‘boss” (conventionally referred to as a “thief in law” in Russian) Kamchi Kol’baev and in protest against the ‘war on organized crime” recently proclaimed by the government.
Prisoners’ families’ members have been organizing pickets since March 26th in front of the most of jails and prisons throughout the country in fear of a violent crackdown on the part of the State service of corrections. They claim that prisoners have resorted to the hunger-strike as a matter of protest against “unbearable conditions of detention”.
“Prisoners are treated and fed worse than dogs. Whereas food that we provide for the most part is seized by prison staff. We are tired of bribing policemen so that they take proper care of prisoners” - claimed friends and relatives of prisoners at a demonstration in front of the House of Government in Bishkek on March 28, where about 70 people gathered demanding another amnesty in conjunction with the anniversary of the “April revolution”.
According to 24.kg, citing certain unidentified officials of the State service of corrections, the situation within the penitentiary of the Kyrgyz Republic “gets out of hand” after at least 5 consecutive high-profile incidents that have occurred in the Kyrgyz prisons in March alone, including an attempt of a prison break, a homicide and finally the massive hunger-strike.
A prominent human rights advocate and the leader of the human right center “Citizens against corruption” Tolekan Inmailova insists that the authorities should engage in negotiations with prisoners to address the situation. She underlines that “[inmates’] families’ members are afraid that protests may escalate to open riots and authorities will have to resort to violence to crackdown. This should never be accepted. They [the authorities] must refrain from violent response and proceed in accordance with international commitments and the country’s legislation.”
Another human rights advocate Toktayim Umetalieva is confident that the prisoners’ hunger-strike has resulted from “mass reprisals and empty declarations instead of a true war on crime”. According to this human right defender, “prisons are full of innocent people who were simply framed-up with drugs or ammunition planted by police.”
Meanwhile, the parliament has refused to discuss the issue of the mass hunger strike in the country’s prisons, according to the deputy chair of the relevant parliament’s committee on law enforcement, rule of law and counter-corruption Anarbek Kalmatov, who believes that the only reason for a strike is the criminals’ response to the war on crime, started by the authorities.
Later yesterday, the human rights activists who monitor the situation in prisons have announced that prisoners demand the following:
1. to terminate illegal arrests of people under pretext of the “war on the organized crime”, since membership in an organized crime group has to be established by court, not by police;
2. to address the issue of tortures while under investigation and in detention, as well as extortion of bribes for letting a visit by family members, probation or hospitalization;
3. to improve the conditions for incarceration, to meet the minimal standards;
4. to review cases of life sentenced prisoners;
5. to focus on violations particularly in cases of illegal possession of drugs or ammunition;
6. to select carefully personnel for the police and correction services;
7. to provide proper health care for prisoners.
Civil society leaders insist that in addition to engaging in talks with prisoners, the state service of corrections under the government should convene a coordination council and develop an action plan for normalization of the situation in the country’s penitentiary.