WASHINGTON – Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Ranking Member Rep. Steny H. Hoyer have written a letter to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, urging her to rescind the invitation to Kyrgyzstan to attend a Community of Democracies Ministerial Meeting in Warsaw June 25 – 27, 2000. The event, a joint effort of the governments of Poland, the Czech Republic, Chile, the Republic of Korea, India, Mali and the United States, will bring together representatives of many countries to discuss ways of expanding international cooperation to strengthen democratic governance.
“In light of a series of anti-democratic actions by the government of Kyrgyzstan, it would be highly inappropriate for Bishkek to be invited to such a forum,” said Smith. The OSCE’s Warsaw-based Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights assessment of Kyrgyzstan’s February-March parliamentary election was extremely negative, specifically questioning the results of the election in the district where Felix Kulov, a leading opposition figure ran and — according to the Central Election Commission — lost to a government-backed candidate. The ODIHR election observation mission concluded that Kyrgyzstan’s authorities had deliberately manipulated the process to keep opposition activists, especially Kulov, from winning. After the election, Kulov was arrested and Kyrgyz officials plan to try him in a closed court.
“The conduct of the election would have been reason enough to disinvite Kyrgyzstan,” said Smith. “But the arrest of Kulov, along with the subsequent sentence handed down to another opposition leader, Danyar Usenov, demonstrates clearly that president Askar Akaev is determined to remain in power indefinitely by excluding credible opposition contenders from October’s presidential election.”
Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Steny H. Hoyer concurred: “Though Kyrgyzstan has been the most liberal and open of the Central Asian states, the February-March election marked a serious step towards authoritarianism. In aligning himself with the dictatorial practices of his neighbors, President Akaev is stifling hopes for democracy not only in Kyrgyzstan but in the entire region.”
Smith and Hoyer concluded: “it is our strong conviction that allowing Kyrgyzstan to attend the Community of Democracies Ministerial while Felix Kulov is in jail and Danyar Usenov has been convicted and barred from participating in the election would be a serious mistake. If Bishkek is not disinvited, President Akaev will conclude that he can engage in such dictatorial behavior without losing his standing — no longer appropriate, in any case — as a leader committed to democracy. Opposition groups in Kyrgyzstan will despair of receiving help from the international community if Akaev’s flagrant campaign to remain in power at all costs continues without repercussions. Finally, the credibility of the Community of Democracies Ministerial will be tainted by the inclusion of a leader whose own democratic credentials have steadily deteriorated.”
Smith and Hoyer have sent simultaneous letters to President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic and Bronislaw Geremek, Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, urging them to rescind Kyrgyzstan’s invitation to attend the meeting in Warsaw.