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Kyrgyz police idle as lawyer repeatedly attacked

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Summary of story from Human Rights Watch, remedy August 3, treatment 2011

Human Rights Watch called on the Kyrgyz authorities last week to immediately open a criminal investigation into repeated violent attacks against Tatyana Tomina, a lawyer defending an ethnic Uzbek during the 2010 ethnic violence.

The Krgyz government has a duty, it says, to adequately ensure the safety of lawyers if their security is compromised as a result of doing their legitimate job.

In the most recent incident (on August 2), four women physically attacked Tomina at the Osh City Court. It was the fourth time in just 10 months that she had been violently assaulted for representing clients in relation to the 2010 violence.

Tomina told Human Rights Watch that the women attacked her just before she was due to leave the court building following the rescheduling of her client’s hearing, and assaulted her in the presence of court employees, visitors and several convoy police officers.

One of the women hit her forcefully with a heavy bag whilst the others punched and kicked her. A judge saw the attack, but instead of intervening he swiftly retreated into his office whilst court clerks equally made no attempts to stop the violence.

One of Tomina’s colleagues attempted to protect her, but was unable to overpower her assailants. The women hurled verbal abuse at her, declaring she was a “defender of murderers,” “sell-out,” and “prostitute,” and threatened her with more physical violence.

It was only when a police officer eventually intervened that the women left the building, but not before hurling several stones in Tomina’s direction.

Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch said

“We are profoundly concerned for Tomina’s safety…This attack recalls last year’s string of assaults on lawyers, and the government’s consistent failure to investigate and punish those responsible has only emboldened the attackers.”

In another incident when she attended a police line up on 3 August in which her client featured,  the victim’s relatives began verbally attacking Tomina, saying: “You will not live to see this case to go to court” and “I will kill you!”

When Tomina tried to get the attention of an investigator who was a witness to the threats, he told her: “It’s not our [police] problem.”

“The attacks on lawyers began last year in the context of the June violence, but now they’ve spread to other cases,” Williamson said. “It is a shocking catalogue of unpunished violence.”

The authorities have made no provisions to ensure Tomina’s security, and she has continued to work in constant anticipation of further attacks.

Under the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, the Kyrgyz government has a duty to ensure that lawyers can carry out their work without intimidation, hindrance, or harassment and take immediate action to provide protection if a lawyer’s security is threatened as a result of professional activities.

Human Rights Watch said Kyrgyz authorities should investigate the attacks, see that those responsible are held accountable, and provide effective protection for Tomina and other lawyers when their safety is jeopardized as a result of their work.

“The law enforcement authorities’ neglect of their duty makes these lawyers an easy target.” Williamson said, “Law enforcement needs to do its job, stop the attacks, and investigate and punish those responsible.”

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