DUSHANBE, April 17, 2008 (Human
Rights Watch) – Bishkek police have carried out a warrantless raid on the
community centre of an organisation in Kyrgyzstan working for the rights of
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in violation of the
right to freedom of association, Human Rights Watch said yesterday.
On the evening of April 8, three
police officers forced their way into a building housing the group Labrys,
which at the time was hosting a dinner for local and international LGBT
Police threatened to arrest anyone
who did not produce identification and searched private files at the social
center, which also serves as a shelter for transgender people and women who
are victims of violence.
“It’s an outrage that police can
barge into a building for no reason, threaten people, and search private
files,” said Scott Long, director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights
“Police should protect
organizations defending human rights, not use their power to harass and
intimidate them. The raid sends a chilling message to anyone marginalized or
This is the second time police have
raided Labrys without a warrant.
On June 4, 2006, police forced
their way into the group’s office after verbally threatening that they would
rape everyone inside. The police came in and searched the place. Members
of Labrys started to film to halt the anticipated violence.
According to a Labrys spokesperson,
police demanded to see the organisation’s registration documents, statutes,
and rent statements.
After threats of arrest, the police
gained entry to a locked private office and went through desks and files. A
short time later, the district police chief arrived and said the officers
would leave only if Labrys promised to submit its administrative and
financial documents to the police station the following day.
Labrys complied with the request.
The raid was carried out on the
night Labrys was hosting a dinner for groups from the Anti AIDS Association
and Tais Plus, as well as for international partner organizations – COC (Cultuur
en Outspannings-Centrum) and HIVOS (Humanist Institute for Cooperation with
Developing Countries) from the Netherlands, and Gender Doc-M from Moldova.
Kyrgyz law does not require
citizens to carry a passport or an identity card. Nevertheless, the police
often use ID checks to humiliate and arbitrarily arrest people.
The warrantless raid on the Labrys
office violated the right to freedom of association as set out under the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Kyrgyzstan
ratified in 1995.
Labrys was founded in April 2004 to
assist and advocate for lesbian and bisexual women, gay men, and transgender
people. It has been a legally registered nongovernmental organization since
February 14, 2006.
The Labrys community centre opened
in February 2008 and serves as a place for meeting and discussion, as well
as shelter for victims of violence. It was created as a safe space for
lesbian and transgender people in Kyrgyzstan to meet, free from the threats
and stigma they often face outside. Activists fear that the police raid
will discourage many LGBT persons from accessing the centre’s services.
“The Kyrgyz government can’t ignore
the serious problem of violence against women,” said Long. “Instead of
carrying out raids, police should protect safe places that are there to help
and support victims of violence.”
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Posted: 17 April 2008 at
21:30 (UK time)