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Human Rights in Republic of Uzbekistan
Amnesty International Report 2007
The authorities continued to reject calls for an independent, international investigation into the killing of hundreds of unarmed people in May 2005 in Andizhan. Freedom of expression and access to information became increasingly restricted. Human rights activists and local independent journalists continued to face threats, harassment and imprisonment on apparently fabricated criminal charges. Many were reportedly tortured or ill-treated in detention.
Scores of people were sentenced to long prison terms for alleged involvement in the Andizhan events, including several prominent human rights defenders, most after closed or secret trials. Suspected members of banned Islamic movements forcibly returned from other countries were held in incommunicado detention, and several were sentenced to long prison terms after unfair trials.
In March the World Bank announced that it was suspending new lending to Uzbekistan. President
Islam Karimov accused the Bank of taking part in a "shameless information war" against Uzbekistan.
In March the authorities ordered the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to leave the country within four weeks. In April UNHCR complied, expressing serious concern about some 2,000 refugees from Afghanistan whom it had been assisting.
In the build-up to the anniversary of the May 2005 Andizhan killings, when hundreds of people were killed when security forces fired on mainly peaceful demonstrators, the authorities sought to ensure that only the official version of events would be heard.
The authorities continued to refuse to allow an independent international investigation into the Andizhan events. However, they apparently addressed some of the concerns of the European Union (EU) in bilateral discussions in the second half of the year. The EU reviewed the 2005 visa and arms bans imposed on Uzbekistan in November and extended them by six and 12 months respectively. The EU resumed bilateral meetings with Uzbekistan under the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and held an expert meeting on the Andizhan killings in Uzbekistan in December. In October President Karimov conceded publicly that failures by local and regional authorities in Andizhan might have contributed to the Andizhan events. He dismissed the regional governor of Andizhan over his failure to stop the unrest in Andizhan.
Pressure on international media and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) increased throughout 2006. Several mostly US-based or US-funded organizations had their accreditation withdrawn and were forced to close their operations in Uzbekistan.
In November Uzbekistan protested at the US State Department's decision to add Uzbekistan to its list of "countries of particular concern" for violating religious freedom.
In its September session the UN Human Rights Council reviewed Uzbekistan under a confidential procedure and decided to keep Uzbekistan under review. The UN General Assembly, however, voted not to adopt a country resolution on Uzbekistan. In its response to the UN's concerns at grave human rights violations published in August, the Uzbekistani authorities denied any grave and systematic human rights violations. They rejected claims by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture that torture was still systematic and reports that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had been denied access to places of detention. In November the ICRC stated that it had not had access for two years and that negotiations with the authorities to resume visits were difficult.
Human rights defenders
The situation for human rights defenders continued to deteriorate. Threats, house arrest and detention by police prevented six of 11 human rights defenders reaching a meeting at the German embassy in Tashkent in September. In November human rights defenders were detained and placed under house arrest when they demonstrated outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs calling for dialogue with the authorities.
Restrictions on freedom of expression
Tolib Yakubov, head of the independent Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU), and Abduzhalil Boimatov, his deputy, left the country in August after repeated threats. In August Bakhtior Khamroev, head of the HRSU Dzhizzakh section, was attacked by a group of about 20 women who burst into his apartment, called him a traitor and beat him. Two British diplomats were visiting Bakhtior Khamroev at the time. Nevertheless, police officers intervened only after he had been hit on the head. He was reportedly refused medical assistance at the local hospital. Bakhtior Khamroev's 21-year-old son was detained in August on reportedly fabricated charges of hooliganism. He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment after an unfair trial in September. Saidzhakhon Zainabitdinov, chairperson of the independent Andizhan-based human rights group Appeal, was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment by a court in Tashkent in January, after a closed trial. Reports in December indicated that he was being held incommunicado in Tashkent prison. In January Dilmurod Muhiddinov, a human rights activist from Andizhan, was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for being in possession of a statement on the Andizhan events published by the secular opposition party Birlik. Mutabar Tadzhibaeva, chairwoman of the human rights organization Fiery Hearts Club and a founder of the national movement Civil Society, was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment by a court in Tashkent in March. Her appeal was turned down in May. She was held in the Women's Prison in Tashkent. She was transferred to the psychiatric wing of the prison in July for 10 days, allegedly to punish her for speaking out from prison. One of her lawyers said in August that she could not represent Mutabar Tadzhibaeva any more after repeated threats against herself and her family. Family members and lawyers stated that their visits were obstructed, that Mutabar Tadzhibaeva was regularly placed in punishment cells for up to 10 days and that her health was deteriorating. Azam Farmonov and Alisher Karamatov, two HRSU members from Sirdaria region, were arbitrarily detained in April in the city of Gulistan. Both men had been defending the rights of local farmers who had accused district officials of extortion and corruption. Azam Farmonov and Alisher Karamatov were taken to the pre-trial detention centre in the town of Khavast. They were held incommunicado for at least a week and alleged that they were tortured during that time, including by suffocation and beatings on their legs and heels with truncheons. They were sentenced in June to nine years' imprisonment for extortion after a trial in which they had no legal representation.
New regulations adopted at the end of February made it illegal for Uzbekistani citizens to work for or contribute to foreign-owned media unless they were accredited journalists. Foreign journalists would have their accreditation withdrawn if their reporting was found to be "interfering in domestic affairs". In March the Ministry of Foreign Affairs revoked the accreditation of a local correspondent of the German radio station Deutsche Welle for allegedly filing a false report about a fatal bus accident in Bukhara region.
Forcible returns of terrorism suspects
In September Ulugbek Khaidarov, an independent journalist, was arbitrarily detained at a bus stop in Dzhizzakh and charged with extortion. A woman had reportedly brushed past him and put US$400 into his pocket. He immediately dropped the money to the ground, but law enforcement officers appeared and detained him. In October he was sentenced to six years' imprisonment after an unfair trial. He was released on appeal in November. Two days before Ulugbek Khaidarov's detention, his colleague, journalist Dzhamshed Karimov, disappeared in Dzhizzakh after visiting his mother in hospital. His family believed that his enforced disappearance was linked to his journalistic activities. In October sources reported that he had been forcibly confined to a psychiatric hospital. Local authorities continued to deny any knowledge of his whereabouts. His family were intimidated by local officials and their phone was cut off after they alerted international organizations. Both Dzhamshed Karimov and Ulugbek Khaidarov had expressed fears for their safety and were preparing to leave the country. On 8 September Dadakhon Khasanov, a well-known singer and songwriter, was given a suspended three-year prison sentence for writing and performing a song about the Andizhan events. The trial, although announced as open to the public, was in fact closed. Earlier in the year, two men who had listened to recordings of Dadakhon Khasanov's songs received long prison sentences for being in possession of subversive materials.
The authorities continued to seek the extradition of suspected members of banned Islamic parties or movements, such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir and Akramia, from neighbouring countries as well as Russia and Ukraine. Most of the men forcibly returned to Uzbekistan were held in incommunicado detention. The governments of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan apparently co-operated with Uzbekistan in the name of regional security and the "war on terror", in disregard of their obligations under international human rights and refugee law not to return anyone to a country where they would be at risk of serious human rights violations.
In August the General Procuracy of the Russian Federation suspended the extradition order of 13 Uzbeks detained in Ivanovo, pending a review of the men's appeals by the European Court of Human Rights.
Rukhiddin Fakhruddinov, an imam (religious teacher), was sentenced to 17 years' imprisonment in September following a closed trial in Tashkent. He had been forcibly returned from Kazakstan in November 2005 and held incommunicado until March 2006.
A group of 12 people who fled the country after the Andizhan events returned from the USA in mid-July. Forty-one Andizhan refugees evacuated by UNHCR first to Romania and then to the USA returned home in August. A third group of refugees resettled to Idaho, USA, were reportedly preparing to return but had not done so by the end of the year. Two refugees who had resettled in Idaho died in August and September in mysterious circumstances. Some of the refugees were reportedly pressured into returning to Uzbekistan, where their movements were closely monitored and they had to report regularly to the local law enforcement agencies. UNHCR and other agencies and diplomats had not been granted access to them by the end of the year. In November reports emerged that two returnees had been detained.
Arbitrary detentions and unfair trials
Arbitrary detentions and unfair trials of suspected members of banned Islamic organizations continued. In many cases, there were credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment.
There were dozens of trials of multiple defendants in Tashkent and Tashkent Region alone in 2006. At least 257 people were sentenced to long prison terms for their alleged involvement in the Andizhan events, the vast majority after closed or secret trials. Several thousand people convicted of involvement with banned Islamic organizations continued to serve long prison terms in conditions which amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
In March a court in Tashkent sentenced Sanzhar Umarov, the leader of the secular opposition political coalition Sunshine Uzbekistan, to ten and a half years' imprisonment for fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and tax evasion. He had been detained in October 2005 upon his return from a trip to the USA. Sanzhar Umarov alleged that the case against him had been fabricated by business rivals, and coalition supporters claimed that the charges were politically motivated. Human rights observers at the trial asserted that the prosecution failed to prove the charges. In April an appeal court in Tashkent reduced his sentence by three years. At the appeal hearing, his health appeared to have greatly deteriorated. In May he was transferred to a prison colony in Bukhara, where he was confined in a punishment cell for 16 days in June. His family and lawyers complained that they had not been able to visit him and that he continued to be confined to punishment cells. An appeal was pending before the Supreme Court.
In May the coordinator of Sunshine Uzbekistan, Nodira Khidoiatova, was released after an appeal hearing commuted her 10-year prison sentence to a seven-year suspended sentence. Friends and relatives had reportedly paid 120 million soms (approximately US$100,000) in compensation to the Uzbekistani state to secure her release. Nodira Khidoiatova had been sentenced on 1 March for tax fraud, embezzlement and participation in a criminal group.
Although the President issued a decree in August 2005 abolishing the death penalty from January 2008, there were no moves to introduce a moratorium on executions or death sentences. The authorities insisted that no death sentences had been passed in Uzbekistan over the previous couple of years. NGOs, however, reported that at least eight death sentences were passed.
In March Aleksei Buriachek, a prisoner on death row in Tashkent prison, died from tuberculosis (TB), raising fears for the health of fellow death row inmates and prison staff. Iskandar Khudaiberganov, for example, was diagnosed with TB in 2004 and reportedly was receiving inadequate treatment.