The Battle Continues

It is bad enough that former Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar was unfairly convicted and jailed last summer for four years after being charged with misusing property and government power. And that prior to his conviction he was imprisoned so as to prevent him from standing in last June’s parliamentary elections.

Today, Enkhbayar faces an even greater challenge than ever before – his health is deteriorating at a rapid rate and shows no sign of improving. Much like when President Elbegdorj stood in the way of Enkhbayar receiving adequate treatment when he was imprisoned before his conviction over the summer, Enkhbayar is once again suffering further pain at the hands of the Mongolian administration.

It is clear that unless immediate action is taken Enkhbayar will not survive. The Director of the hospital where he is being treated certified to the Director of the Detention Centre that, upon extensive medical examination, Enkhbayar meets the conditions for the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Justice’s 2002 decree that a convicted individual with life-endangering conditions can be released on medical grounds. Indeed, Prime Minister Norovyn Altankhuyag has also concluded that the only way for Enkhbayar to survive is for him to be sent to a hospital abroad. Altankhuyag has appointed a medical commission to complete all the necessary paperwork to this end, but this takes time – valuable time that Enkhbayar does not have.

The decision to move Enkhbayar to a hospital abroad so that he can receive proper medical treatment is not just one for the medical commission. Like so many matters in Mongolia, the process must go through the courts which, unfortunately for Enkhbayar, are controlled by President Elbegdorj. Over the past year, we have seen how little concern Elbegdorj has for the rule of law in Mongolia and certainly how little he values Enkhbayar’s health and wellbeing.

There is a deep concern, which I share, that Elbegdorj will drag this process out longer than necessary thereby further endangering Enkhbayar’s chances at receiving the medical attention he needs. What’s more, the Seventh Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies is now underway in Mongolia – the perfect delaying tactic for Elbegdorj. He has already refused to meet to discuss Enkhbayar’s condition.

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns is participating in the conference as the US representative. Mr. Burns is well aware of Enkhbayar’s situation: California Senator Dianne Feinstein wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry last week, cc’ing Mr. Burns, asking him to intervene and do everything in his power to ensure that Enkhbayar receives the treatment he needs.

To be sure, it would be a great tragedy if a man like Enkhbayar, who dedicated his life to building a free and democratic Mongolia, died on the very week that Mongolia hosts an international conference on democracy.

Once again, it falls on the shoulders of the international community to voice concern over Enkhbayar’s treatment. We are now facing the imminent prospect of losing a great figure of democracy, a fate that may be avoided if we can draw enough attention to his condition and level of care. The stakes could not be any higher.