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Kyrgyzstan Humiliates Latvia. Minister Rinkevic adopts a wait-and-see approach...

Māris Krautmanis, Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze

In May, the news came from Kyrgyzstan stating that four Latvian citizens were sentenced to 20 years each in prison. Such a tough punishment was also determined for Valeri Belokon. It should be immediately emphasized that the Latvian citizens are not actually imprisoned. The court issued the default judgment (a judgment given in default of appearance in a civil action linked to criminal proceedings). What this all is about? And how does this story has emerged?

Mr Belokon has at the time found a niche for his business in Kyrgyzstan and established Manas Bank. The bank successfully operated in the financial services market. But in April 2010, a coup (a forcible overthrow of the government) triggered by popular discontent unveiled in Kyrgyzstan. Nearly 200 people died during a bloody public revolt, Kyrgyzstan‘s premier resigned, the Parliament was dissolved, and the president Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted from office and fled into exile.

The new political regime expropriated Manas Bank owned by Mr Belokon and also seized the bank’s property and money. And the property is still not returned to the owner under various absurd pretexts.

The International Court of Arbitration (headquartered in Paris) adopted an order which cannot be challenged. The International Court of Arbitration ordered Kyrgyzstan to pay US$16.5 million as compensation in favour of a Latvian citizen Valeri Belokon. But Kyrgyzstan is actually ignoring this particular court order. And, there’s something worse than that. In May 2017, in Kyrgyzstan, without giving prior notice to the lawyers, a court hearing was convened secretly and under pressure of time. During a few hours, the default judgment (a judgment given in default of appearance in a civil action linked to criminal proceedings) was given and conviction was handed down against the citizens of the Republic of Latvia, the former executives of Manas Bank and its shareholder V. Belokon. The court sentenced them to 20 years each in jail. Indeed, it is felt that the court made its judgment in revenge for the unfavourable ruling received in Paris. It is unambiguously clear that Kyrgyzstan has crucially violated the fundamental principles of criminal justice and has committed breaches of international law and of intergovernmental treaties. The judgment therefore will not be recognised and will not be enforced in Republic of Latvia, the European Union and other civilized countries.

The Kyrgyz Government still continues to violate the intergovernmental Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic for the Promotion and Protection of Investments. Under the Agreement, all investment-related disputes should be resolved amicably through good faith negotiations and within maximally short timeframes, and court rulings are binding upon the parties, mandatory and enforceable.

Internationally renowned non-governmental organizations and governments around the world voiced their criticism of Kyrgyzstan. According to the information derived from Investment Climate Statements (a data service provided by the U.S. Department of State), “since most of these disputes are between foreign investors and the Kyrgyz Government, local courts serve as an executor of the authorities’ political agenda”.

In 2011, the Kyrgyz Financial Intelligence Service (FIS) officially acknowledged that no patterns of infringement were found at Manas Bank and there were no grounds to impose sanctions on the bank. But later, the acknowledgement was somehow not taken into account.

Inese Laizāne, the Chairperson of the Saeima’s (Parliament’s) Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee, gave her view of what had happened and referred to the situation as being “a manifest human rights violation, a manifest violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, and all this was done in a spirit of the evil totalitarian regime of Joseph Stalin”.

Mr Belokon has not participated in a robbery. On the contrary: he himself has been robbed. And just Mr Belokon is unlawfully prosecuted. As for the evidence submitted by Kyrgyzstan to the International Court of Arbitration, the Court described it as merely anecdotal evidence. Under these circumstances, the national authorities in Latvia should ensure an appropriate response and call on Kyrgyzstan to respect international law and engage in law–abiding behaviour.

Kyrgyzstan likes to flirt with the EU, pretends to be a progressive country which moves towards democracy and respects western values, especially when the values take shape of any benefits and assistance provided by the Western world. Latvia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Edgars Rinkevic could mobilise diplomacy, dispatch a diplomatic notes, name and shame Kyrgyzstan at various international forums, or send a strong signal that Latvia’s will use all available tools to achieve that awesome benefits slip out of Kyrgyzstan’s hands. The officials who participated in the arbitrary act against Manas Bank may be blacklisted. Kyrgyzstan’s property located in Europe may be lawfully seized or otherwise enforced or other tools may be used to recover the debt and to request that the inadequate judgment be reversed.

Countries have a duty to protect and defend their citizens if they get into trouble abroad. In some situations, Latvia sees obvious efforts of foreign countries to lobby their businesspeople. Norway arrested the Latvian crabber on suspicion of illegal catch of snow crabs; the Foreign Investors’ Council in Latvia (FICIL) and the U.S. Embassy in Latvia exert, without any uneasiness at all, pressure on Latvia’s institutions any time they intend to lobby support for American entrepreneurs.

Latvia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs possesses quite a broad arsenal of tools, and he must have the courage to stand up and protect the country’s citizens. But he maintains a largely indifferent attitude towards the situation and always prefers to deal with other matters. When it comes to Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan is not prioritised over other aspects. Kyrgyzstan has gone too far and should be brought to its senses. So it is high time to prove that Mr Rinkevic is actually the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Latvia. He often zealously represents U.S. interests, for example, in the conflict over Nord Stream II (Germany and Austria strongly objected to a key provision in the Senate's legislation, saying it could hurt European businesses involved in a project to bring Russian natural-gas supplies to Europe). Rinkevic excessively welcomes the United States’ stance. But Latvia also should be represented, at least sometimes.

When Mr Belokon receives US$ 16.5 million, he will pay one million in taxes. Thus, he will contribute to Latvia’s budget. But what is more important is the country’s self-respect. It is unacceptable that Latvia is publicly insulted. 

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Skolnieciņš 09.07.2017
Capitalism. Will always be both rich people and both poor people. What will happen, if poor peole riot up? Events in Kyrgyzstan show the consequences. Sad.
Cieņā, Skolnieciņš
©Skolnieciņš 1999-bezgalība :-(