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Treatment of Former Mongolian President Raises International Concerns

  • Ira Mellman

Former Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar (file)
A former president of Mongolia is now in a hospital, recovering from the effects of a hunger strike he staged while imprisoned by the government that replaced his.

The situation in Mongolia was brought to international attention when Senator Dianne Feinstein from the U.S. state of California stood before the U.S. Senate in Washington Monday describing the case of Nambaryn Enkhbayar, the president of Mongolia from 2005 until 2009.

The Senator, referring to the former president as a distinguished international statesman, said he is now facing “so-called allegations” of corruption in the country he led “so well and so long.”

Mr. Enkhbayar was forcibly arrested by Mongolian SWAT teams on April 13th after what the Mongolian government said was his failure to appear for questioning on charges dealing with instances of corruption.

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Enkhbayar, who was defeated for Mongolia’s presidency by current president Elbegdorj, had been making an attempt at a political comeback. He had formed a third party in anticipation of Mongolia’s next national election in June and had proclaimed himself a candidate for the Parliament.

Senator Feinstein said the corruption charges brought against the former president were brought by Mongolia’s anti-corruption agency, an organization that Mr. Enkhbayar had established while he was president. While applauding vigorous efforts to fight corruption, the Senator added “it is equally important that those fighting corruption avoid a sense of involvement in such practices themselves.” Senator Feinstein continued, “to say the least, the bringing of charges against the political leader in the midst of an important election campaign is, to say the least, unusual.”

While incarcerated, Mr. Enkhbayar, according to the Senator, was not permitted adequate access to family and to counsel and reportedly received abusive verbal treatment.

The former Mongolian president then initiated a dry hunger strike to protest those circumstances, he was denied adequate medical treatment. The Senator said it was only when his health started to fail that he was released on bail. The charges remain.

The California Senator says the promise of Mongolia “can be negatively impacted by the practices we have seen in the case of Mr. Enkhbayar.”

Mark Minton, the U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia from 2006 to 2009, tells VOA that the growth of the rule of law and democratic institutions in Mongolia over the last two decades has been “phenomenal.” He adds none of those who he calls the “friends of Mongolia” want to see a “backsliding on the progress that has been made.” He says the treatment of former president Enkhbayar contained enough irregularities that questions arising from the treatment need to be answered.

Ambassador Minton said Mongolia’s success in instituting democratic processes and the rule of law brings this case to the forefront of international concern. Also, says the former ambassador, there is a great deal of interest being shown by international investors into Mongolia’s rich trove of natural resources. Minton says those investors need to believe that Mongolia is a place where the rule of law is maintained and that the country is politically stable. He says the U.S. has both political and economic interest in Mongolia.

He adds that what is needed in the case of Mr. Enghbayar in addition to his receiving effective medical treatment is the application of a credible due process with full rights of the defendant observed carried out in a “timely and transparent way.” That, he says, would reaffirm Mongolia’s status as a country where the rule of law prevails.

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