All participating states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, have committed themselves to upholding the principles of justice, democratic lawmaking, and independence of the judiciary. "But the policies and practices of some participating states," said Brian Atwood, head of the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE’s human rights meeting in Warsaw, "raise serious questions about their commitment to the rule of law."
Atwood publicly raised some of the most egregious of these cases at the OSCE’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, known as the HDIM.
In Turkmenistan, more than 60 people have disappeared into prisons, including former OSCE official Batyr Berdiev. The United Stated urges the government of Turkmenistan to provide immediate access to all prisoners who have disappeared.
Civil society organizations have documented at least 98 political prisoners or detainees in Azerbaijan. Tragically, several activists who developed this list have seen their own names added to it, including Leyla and Arif Yunus, Intigam Aliyev, and Rasul Jafarov. In many instances, political activists have faced questionable drug, weapons, or public disorder charges.
In Russia there have been numerous prosecutions of activists, journalists, and opposition politicians since 2012, including the case of environmental activist Yevgeniy Vitishko. He was sentenced to three years in jail for allegedly spray-painting a fence. The U.S. is also concerned about the continued prosecutions of Bolotnaya Square demonstrators.
While the U.S. welcomes the release in Belarus of activist Ales Byalyatski, that government needs to release all remaining political prisoners.
In Kyrgyzstan, the U.S. continues to be concerned about human rights activist Azimzhan Askarov, who has been in prison since he was accused of involvement in the inter-ethnic violence in 2010. The government needs to re-examine the validity of Askarov's detention.
The U.S. is also concerned about the case of jailed Tajikistani businessman Zaid Saidov, who was arrested after setting up a new opposition political party before the 2013 presidential election. Saidov was sentenced to 26 years in prison. The U.S. urges the government of Tajikistan to release Mr. Saidov, to conduct an independent review of his case, and to allow him access to legal counsel of his choosing.
It is critical that all OSCE states adhere to the principles of justice – they are essential to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and to securing foundations of democracy.