On April 26, a court case opened in the southern Kyrgyzstani city of Osh in which several members of an opposition part, Hizb ut-Tahrir, faced charges of inciting interethnic hatred. The trial marked the latest stage of the Kyrgyz government's intense campaign against its political opponents.
Torture is the western world's dirty little secret. In a new report, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) identified torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as one of the OSCE region's most wide-spread problems.
After years of engaging in increasingly blatant human rights violations, President Askar Akayev's administration has launched a full-fledged campaign to neutralize political opposition. In the days before and after run-off parliamentary elections March 12, the government arrested, or otherwise stripped of political potential, virtually all of the country's opposition leaders.
The US State Department evaluates human rights conditions of the eight nations of the Caucasus and Central in its twenty-second Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The country reports, released on February 25, describe conditions as "uneven" in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan; "poor" in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; and "extremely poor" in Turkmenistan.
Since the outbreak of civil war in 1992 and subsequent economic collapse, the government of Tajikistan has faced the challenge of combating a robust and growing illegal narcotics trade. The UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention reports that during 1997about 4,500 kilograms of raw opium, heroin, and hashish were seized in Tajikistan alone.
One of the human rights that has seen significant improvement since the fall of the Soviet Union is the right to free speech. Today, all but two CIS states --Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan -- have abolished state censorship. (Azerbaijan joined those ranks only last year, as a precondition for accession to the Council of Europe.)
Two astonishing and conflicting changes in leadership rang in the millennium in the CIS. On New Year's Eve, the Russian Federation's Boris Yeltsin voluntarily resigned his democratically-elected presidency six months before his term was due to expire.
Recently, this column examined some of the human rights problems that lawyers face in Azerbaijan, notably the likely damage to the legal profession from the imminent passage of a retrograde draft law on the advokatura. In addition, the Azerbaijan government has denied registration to some lawyers advocacy groups, thereby seriously damaging their ability to function and fund-raise.