9.2.16

Uzbekistan: Rights Defender’s Work Impeded

Uktam Pardaev
Lift Unlawful Restrictions on Rights Activist
                                           
(Brussels, February 9, 2016 Uzbek authorities should immediately stop harassing the human rights defender Uktam Pardaev and lift the unlawful restrictions on his fundamental rights imposed by police, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, International Partnership for Human Rights, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and Human Rights Watch said today.  Pardaev is the chairman of the Jizzakh branch of the Independent Human Rights Organization in Uzbekistan. 
                        
He was detained on November 16, 2015 to face trial on what are widely believed to be politically motivated grounds in retaliation for his human rights monitoring work and was severely beaten in pre-trial detention. On January 11, 2016, the Dustlik district court in Jizzakh region convicted Pardaev of three criminal offenses  (insult, fraud and taking a bribe, all of which he denies. The court imposed a three year conditional sentence  to be served in prison if he violates conditions of his release following a six-hour trial. The sentence stipulates that he must register monthly at the local police station.
                                                                      
Uktam Pardaev’s conditional sentence is proving a convenient tool to try to shut down his human rights work, said Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. “The unjustified intensive surveillance he is experiencing, as well as the ever-present threat of being thrown back in jail, is restricting his human rights, including his right to speak out on human rights violations.”
                                
Pardaev, 37, is known for his work uncovering local corruption and monitoring the forced labor of adults and children in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields. Authorities have persecuted him for his peaceful work for years, denying him an exit visa from Uzbekistan on political grounds. Prior to his arrest, Pardaev had told diplomats and international organizations that local authorities’ were increasing the pressure on him in the form of constant surveillance and harassment.
                        
In October, Pardaev reported to Human Rights Watch that he feared imminent arrest at the hands of the local branch of Uzbekistan’s feared National Security Services, known by the initials SNB. Pardaev also said that the security services had summoned his friends and colleagues, and other people he attempted to assist, for interrogation  threatening and in some cases beating them.
                     
On February 1, he was summoned to the Jizzakh department of the Interior Ministry for questioning by a local police inspector, Tulkin Dysmuradov. The inspector told Pardaev that in addition to the conditions stipulated in his sentence, the police were imposing travel restrictions on him and that he is not allowed to travel outside Jizzakh nor to leave his house after 10 p.m. He would also not be allowed visit his family members without obtaining prior written permission from the local police.
          
While a court may impose conditions on a sentence it hands down, the police have no legal authority to impose such restrictions. Nevertheless Pardaev was told to sign a paper agreeing to these conditions, which he felt he had no choice but to do as the inspector threatened him with re-arrest if he didn’t comply with the conditions. 
                
Uktam Pardaev is under surveillance and his movements are being controlled by the authorities simply in retribution for his human rights work  he does not present any danger to society whatsoever,” said Brigitte Dufour, director of International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR). “It is imperative that the Uzbek authorities investigate allegations of ill-treatment in Khavast detention facility and put a stop to these practices.”
            
Since his release in January Pardaev has been under constant surveillance by law enforcement officials, who follow him everywhere and park their car outside his house when he is at home, he told the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. Pardaev’s brothers, Utkir and Sharif, have also come under pressure. After Pardaev was released from detention, officials from the political investigations division visited the Pardaev brothers’ neighbors, friends, and acquaintances, questioned them and pressured them to provide incriminating information about the brothers, Pardaev reported.  
             
The enduring pressure on Uktam Pardaev and his family is a violation of Uzbekistan’s international commitments, and is evidently intended to silence one of Uzbekistan’s few remaining human rights activists,” said Marius Fossum, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee regional representative in Central Asia. “Tashkent should cease the harassment of Pardaev and ensure all human rights defenders the freedom and safety to carry out their work without hindrance, in accordance with international human rights standards and Uzbekistan’s international commitments.”
                            
For his first 40 days in detention, Pardaev was held in Dustlik pre-trial detention facility, then transferred on December 26 to Khavast detention facility in the Syrdaryo region. There, he said, he was severely beaten on one occasion when he did not get dressed quickly enough.
                                             
Pardaev said he intends to appeal his conviction. 
                  
In Uzbekistan even if a malicious prosecution does not result in a jail sentence, it will be used to justify persecution, prevent the exercise of basic human rights and shut down human rights work,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia Researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Rather than get justice for the pain and suffering authorities caused him in detention, Uktam Pardaev is still being targeted.” 
                            




8.2.16

Trial against 13 members of the Islamic Renaissance Party begins in Tajikistan


On 9 February 2016, Tajikistan’s Supreme Court begins hearing the cases of 13 leading members of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT). The trial will be held behind the closed doors since it has been “classified”.

The relatives of the defendants have been invited to court on 8 February, one day before the start of the process.

All 13 leading IRPT member were arrested on 16-18 September 2015, after the conclusion of the special security operation initiated against the armed group of Abduhalim Nazarzoda over two armed attacks that took place in Tajikistan at the beginning of September. The Tajikistani authorities have accused IRPT leader Muhiddin Kabiri (who is in exile) and the whole party of involvement in these armed attacks. On 29 September 2015, Tajikistan’s Supreme Court declared the IRPT a “terrorist” and “extremist” organization.
  
Immediately after the arrests of IRPT members, there were reports of the confiscation of property of party members, as well as pressure on their relatives, including under-age children. Many relatives of arrested IRPT members were dismissed from their jobs on the basis of what appears to have been unofficial orders by the Tajikistani authorities. IRPT members are subjected to widespread discrimination.

The charges against arrested IRPT members are largely based on confessions believed to have been obtained under duress. The prosecutor signed off on the indictment and the case was handed over to court. As the trial will be held behind the closed doors, procedural violations will not be disclosed to the public, and the proceedings are likely to be only formal in nature.

The defendants in the trial include:

Saidumar Husayni (born 1961), first deputy chair of the IRPT, member of the political council and presidium of the party, previous MP, has a PhD degree in philosophy.

Muhammadali Hajit (born 20 October 1957), deputy chair of the IRPT, member of the political council and presidium of the party, former officer of the military intelligence service of the Soviet Union, holder of the Soviet Red Star order.

Abdukahhori Davlat (born on 5 August 1975), member of the political council and presidium of the IRPT, head of the department of external relations of the IRPT.

Rahmatulloi Radzhab (born on 5 June 1958), member of the highest political council of the IRPT, chair of the IRPT department for district branches and head of the election department.

Zubajdulloi Rozik (born 1946), member of the political council and presidium of the IRPT, head of the IRPT department for science, former imam at a mosque in the Gozmalik district, former chief editor of the IRPT publication “Nazhot”.

Muhammadali Fajzmuhammad (born 1959), member of the political council and presidium of the IRPT, head of the religious committee of the IRPT, previous member of the committee for national reconciliation, former imam in the Pyandzhskij district, Muslim scholar.

Hikmatullo Sajfullozoda (born on 1 March 1950), member of the political council and presidium of the IRPT, chief editor of the IRPT publication “Nazhot”, former press secretary of IRPT, former member of the Central Election Committee, journalist and political scientist.

Kijomiddin Avazov (born on 24 June 1973), member of the political council and presidium of the IRPT, head of the IRPT branch in Dushanbe, previous chair of the party department for youth and sports, previous party functionary and expert on the Arabic language.

Zarafo Rahmoni (born on 23 February 1972), member of the political council and presidium of the IRPT, lawyer and journalist.

Muhammadsharif Nabiyev, member of the highest political council if the IRPT and head of the IRPT branch in the city of Kulyab.

Abdusamad Gayratov (born 1962), member of the highest political council of the IRPT.

Sattar Karimov (born 1959), member of the highest political council of the IRPT.

Vohidhon Kosidinov (born 1969), member of the highest political council of the IRPT, head of the elections department of the party, previous deputy chair of the party, previous head of the party organization in the city of Isfara.

Among the defendants is one woman, Zarafo Rahmoni:

Zarafo Rahmoni has four children, the youngest of whom is not yet seven years old. She has serious health problems and suffers from heart and kidney pain, nervous exhaustion and severe depression.

Throughout the investigation, neither Zarafo’s sister nor representatives of the Red Cross have been allowed to visit her in the pre-trial detention facility where she has been held in Dushanbe.

Her two lawyers, Sitor Azizov and Zaydullo Davlatov have, however, been allowed to visit her and have also brought her medicine and food. They saw her the last time on 15 January 2016, when she familiarized herself with case materials. On 18 January, the case was handed over to court. The lawyers have not told Zarafo’s relatives any details, out of fear of losing their lawyer’s licenses. 

Zarafo’s relatives are allowed to pass on medicine and food to her once a week. On 20 January 2016, her oldest and youngest son were able to meet her for the first time since her arrest.

IRPT members who have already been sentenced to imprisonment:

  • Hasan Rahimov, head of the IRPT branch in the Farhor district. On 27 November 2015, the Supreme Court of Tajikistan sentenced him to nine years in prison after finding him guilty of calling for terrorist activities, establishing an extremist organization, unlawfully possessing weapons and inciting national and religious hatred. 
  • The following individuals have also been convicted on similar charges and sentenced to prison: Zainidin Yusupov (10 years in prison), Asomiddin Abdurahmonov (10 years in prison), Tavakkal Boboev (18 years in prison), Rustam Emomov (17 years in prison), Umarsho Davlatov (15 years in prison), Mahmadali Islomov (5 years in prison) and Zavkibekov Rakhmonov (4 years in prison).
IRPT members who have had their passports confiscated and who have been ordered not to travel anywhere:

  • Abbos Radjabov, Mirzo Cool Toshmatov, Sherali Saidov, Nodir Abdulloeva, Saidmahmud Saidov and Oisha Bobochonova.
IRPT members who have been declared wanted:

  • Muhiddin Kabiri, Nazar Sayidibrohimi Karim Shohnaimi, Afzali Kamariddin, Khayrinisso Saidov, Ilhom Ekubov, Nematullo Amonbekov, Gulbarga Sayfova, Sharofat Sharofiddinova and others.

The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) has received information about the arrest of 93 IRPT representatives. However, this is not exhaustive information. The scope of the repression against party members is much wider. Many are intimidated and afraid to provide information about such repression.
*  *  *
The ACHRA considers that the IRPT was declared a “terrorist” and “extremist” organization on politically motivated grounds.

The organization calls on the EU, the OSCE, the United States and other international partners of Tajikistan to demand that the authorities of the country respect their international human rights obligations. The authorities of the country should ensure the right to freedom of association, assembly, expression and religion, as well as impartial and fair trials, where the principle of equality of arms is upheld. Those who are guilty of torture and ill-treatment should be held accountable.






15.1.16

US: Press Uzbekistan on Political Prisoners, Prison Death

In Washington Talks, Raise Enforced Disappearances

Akram Yuldashev, 2005
(Washington, DC) – United States officials should publicly press Uzbekistan to free political prisoners during Annual Bilateral Consultations on January 19, 2016, Human Rights Watch and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia said today. The Uzbek foreign minister, Abdulaziz Komilov, is scheduled to meet with high-level officials at the US Department of State at a time of continuing US military engagement with Uzbekistan over its role in a global coalition to fight the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and ongoing US military operations in Afghanistan.

Human Rights Watch learned on January 11 that a prominent religious figure, 52-year-old Akram Yuldashev, one of Uzbekistan’s longest held political prisoners, died in prison in 2010 of tuberculosis. He had been due for release in February 2016, but no one knew of his fate because the authorities forcibly disappeared him in prison, denying anyone information about his whereabouts or fate since 2009.

“Akram Yuldashev should have walked out of prison next month a free man but instead he died over five years ago in a cell, hidden from his loved ones and the entire world,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The terrible end met by of one of Uzbekistan’s most prominent and longest held religious figures demands a strong, public response from US officials.”

Despite numerous calls by Human Rights Watch and other organizations to confirm Yuldashev’s fate, authorities refused to reveal his whereabouts or allow him any contact with his family since 2009. The refusal to provide, or concealment of, information on the fate or whereabouts of a person deprived of their liberty constitutes an enforced disappearance, a crime under international law, and is prohibited in all circumstances.

Yuldashev, a former mathematics teacher turned religious philosopher, gained a large following in Uzbekistan’s Fergana Valley in the 1990s after publishing a tract about how to live a moral life under Islam. Many of his followers started small businesses, operating them in accordance with his teachings. The authorities repeatedly interrogated him, and imprisoned him on an apparently trumped-up drug charge in 1998 and then again following a series of bombings in Tashkent in 1999 that the government attributed to Islamic “extremists.” While imprisoned in 2005, authorities accused him of being the mastermind behind an extremist group Akromiya, which authorities said was responsible for extremist attacks in Andijan, although there was no evidence linking him to any crimes.

The annual bilateral consultations are one of the most prominent meetings between the two governments. While human rights issues are regularly raised by some US officials, the quiet approach has done nothing to give Uzbekistan an incentive to address its woeful record on torture, the ongoing imprisonment of government critics and religious believers, and the widespread use of forced labor, the groups said.

The US administration should make clear during next week’s bilateral meetings that if there isn’t an improvement in the status quo they will be prepared to impose targeted restrictive measures such as visa bans and asset freezes on officials found responsible for egregious human rights abuses, including in detention. The US should also consider re-implementing the restrictions on military assistance that were in place until 2009.

In the Yuldashev case, the US administration should publicly press the Uzbek authorities to carry out a meaningful investigation and bring those responsible for his imprisonment and the concealment of his whereabouts to justice. The Uzbek government should inform Yuldashev’s family about the circumstances of his death and previous custody and allow them access to his remains.

There was no discernible improvement in Uzbekistan’s rights record in 2015. The Uzbek government, led by authoritarian president Islam Karimov, has imprisoned thousands of people on politically motivated charges, including human rights and opposition activists, journalists, religious believers, artists, and other perceived critics. Many are in serious ill-health and have been tortured, and their sentences have been arbitrarily extended in prison.

Among those imprisoned for no reason other than peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression are 14 human rights activists: Azam Farmonov, Mehriniso Hamdamova, Zulhumor Hamdamova, Isroiljon Kholdorov, Gaybullo Jalilov, Nuriddin Jumaniyazov, Matluba Kamilova, Ganikhon Mamatkhanov, Chuyan Mamatkulov, Zafarjon Rahimov, Yuldash Rasulov, Bobomurod Razzokov, Fahriddin Tillaev, and Akzam Turgunov.

The Uzbek government has refused to disclose the whereabouts of Nuriddin Jumaniyazov or provide his lawyer with access to him since October 2014.

Five more prisoners are journalists: Solijon Abdurakhmanov, Muhammad Bekjanov, Gayrat Mikhliboev, Yusuf Ruzimuradov, and Dilmurod Saidov. Three are opposition activists: Samandar Kukanov, Kudratbek Rasulov, and Rustam Usmanov. Seven others are independent religious figures and perceived government critics: Ruhiddin Fahriddinov, Botirbek Eshkuziev, Bahrom Ibragimov, Davron Kabilov, Erkin Musaev, Davron Tojiev, and Ravshanbek Vafoev, and one, Dilorom Abdukodirova, was a witness to the May 13, 2005 Andijan massacre, when Uzbek government forces shot and killed hundreds of mainly peaceful protesters.

The US State Department’s annual country report on Uzbekistan recognizes a wide spectrum of human rights abuses by the government. But the US administration has preferred a policy of private dialogue, without any serious policy consequences for the abuses.

For a decade, the State Department has designated Uzbekistan a “country of particular concern” due to its crackdown on religious freedom. But the White House has not imposed sanctions, citing national security grounds. While the designation itself is significant, it has not kept pace with the scope and severity of the abuses in Uzbekistan. Nor has the full spectrum of diplomatic opportunities and tools been tapped to raise concerns or press for redress.

“US officials should make clear to the Uzbek Foreign Minister that his government’s continuing repression will result in meaningful, and if need be, punitive policy consequences,” said Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. “Knowing they’ll be held to account for abusive conduct might make Uzbek authorities think twice.”

The US should also seek to establish a special rapporteur devoted to Uzbekistan’s human rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council, the groups said.

The US should press Uzbekistan to:
  • Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, journalists, political opponents, and other activists held on politically motivated charges;
  • End the crackdown on activists and allow domestic and international human rights organizations to operate without government interference, including promptly re-registering international human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch that have been forced to cease operating in Uzbekistan;
  • Take meaningful measures to end torture and ill-treatment and the accompanying culture of impunity, including by implementing in full the recommendations of the UN special rapporteur on torture, the Committee Against Torture, and the Human Rights Committee;
  • Ensure genuine media freedom, stop harassment of journalists, and allow domestic and international media outlets, including those that have been forced to stop operating to resume their work; grant accreditation to foreign journalists;
  • Allow unhindered access for independent monitors, including 13 UN monitors who have been refused permission to visit, and implement recommendations by independent UN monitoring bodies;
  • End forced labor in the cotton sector, and allow independent organizations and activists to conduct their own monitoring without harassment;
  • End religious persecution, including decriminalizing peaceful religious activity, and ending the imprisonment of thousands of people for their nonviolent religious expression.





13.1.16

Complaint to U.N. Human Rights Council Against BBG EXCLUSIVE Text

BBG Watch Commentary EXCLUSIVE

This article covers legal issues. Please read our Disclaimers and Terms of Use.

BBG Watch has tracked down copies of two recent legal complaints against the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

Today we post the Complaint submitted by two former Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) employees to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. According to United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994, BBG acts as exclusive Board of Directors for RFE/RL and makes “all major policy determinations governing the operations of RFE/RL,” the Complaint dated June 15, 2015, states.

Last week, we posted the $400 million Class Action Complaint which was filed on December 21, 2015 in the United States Court of Federal Claims against the U.S. Government over personnel and contracting practices overseen by top officials of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
SEE: BBG Contract Employees $400M Class Action Complaint EXCLUSIVE, BBG Watch, January 8, 2016
Both complaints allege that BBG officials have denied equal rights, mistreated and exploited contract employee-journalists whom they nevertheless expect to advance the agency’s journalistic mission of expanding and protecting human and labor rights in other countries. As the Complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Council points out, these BBG and RFE/RL practices have been soundly condemned by foreign politicians in countries friendly to the United States and by human rights organizations.

Actions and the management culture which generated these complaints and record low employee morale ratings for many years, as measured by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) at the federal part of the agency, are attributed to a small number of longtime senior Broadcasting Board of Governors executives. Since last September, BBG has new CEO John Lansing. He apparently learned about some of these issues first hand and perhaps for the first time several weeks ago while he and one of BBG’s top executives Jeff Trimble, who had been previously also an RFE/RL executive and Acting President, were at the Prague airport waiting for a flight home after Mr. Lansing’s first visit to the RFE/RL headquarters in the Czech Republic.

Anna Karapetian, one of the two women who sent the complaint to the U.N. Human Rights Council, was by chance at the airport at the same time. She reportedly recognized Mr. Lansing and approached him while he was momentarily alone. According to our sources in Prague, she was able to tell him how she and her colleague, Snjezana Pelivan, had been arbitrarily fired (Anna Karapetian was fired in 2006) after years of exemplary service and denied any formal process to challenge their dismissal. According to Anna Karapetian’s account, she wrote to the then Acting President of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, asking to meet to discuss her dismissal. She said that he didn’t meet her despite knowing her personally for 12 years and as a professional broadcaster with experience in war coverage for UPI, but told her that the then HR chief would meet with her instead.

According to our sources who spoke with Ms. Karapetian, Mr. Lansing appeared to listen intently and reportedly acknowledged in general that the BBG has an employee morale problem. But being very new to his job at that time, he did not make any concrete promises, our sources said.

Mr. Lansing has said on other occasions that respectful treatment of all employees is one of his highest priorities.
SEE: $400M class action suit may signal more trouble ahead for new BBG CEO, BBG Watch, December 28, 2015
C O M P L A I N T
(sections are titled and numbered according to suggested Complaint Procedure Form)

National Discrimination of Hundreds Foreign Employees of American Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in Prague Practiced by U.S. Federal Government Agency Broadcasting Board of Governors Serving as RFE/RL’s Board of Directors

June 15, 2015

I. To:
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights 
Human Rights Council Branch
Complaint Procedure Unit
OHCHR - Palais Wilson
United Nations Office at Geneva 
CH-1211 Geneva 10, 
Switzerland

II. Submitted:
on our own behalf, in accordance with United Nations Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 of 18 June 2007, “Institution-Building of United Nations Human Rights Council,” by
         — Karapetian Anna, Armenian citizen, Tibetska 2/806, 160 00 Prague 6, Czech Republic, Tel (+420) 775 581 100, Email: annaka@volny.cz 
         — Pelivan Snjezana, Croatian citizen, Trojska 181-B, 171 00 Prague 7, Czech Republic, Tel (+420) 724 938 783, Email: pelivans@gmail.com

Supported by protests to Broadcasting Board of Governors by international NGOs:
Information Centre CAUCASUS – EASTERN EUROPE (Prague, Czech Republic)
Czech Helsinki Committee (Prague, Czech Republic)
American Platform for Human Rights, Democracy and Development (Quito, Ecuador)
Association of Human Rights in Central Asia (Le Mans, France)
Moscow Helsinki Group (Moscow, Russia)
Foundation Open Dialog Poland-Ukraine (Warsaw, Poland)
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo, BiH)
Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (Dublin, Ireland)
Institute for Peace and Democracy (Baku, Azerbaijan)
International Society “Memorial” (Moscow, Russia)
International Association of Democrats against Authoritarian Regimes (Toronto, Canada) International Labor Rights Forum (Washington, USA)
III. State concerned:
United States of America

IV. Public authority responsible for human rights violations:
Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), 330 Independence Ave., SW Washington, DC, 20237, USA.

BBG is the independent Federal government agency that oversees all U.S. civilian international media including Voice of America, Office of Cuba Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks, and the headquartered in Prague since 1995 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Eight members of BBG are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. The ninth, the Secretary of State, serves ex officio.

According to “United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994, ”BBG acts as exclusive Board of Directors for RFE/RL and makes “all major policy determinations governing the operations of RFE/RL.”

Anna Sabatova, former Head of Czech Helsinki Committee, presently the Parliament-elected Human Rights Defender (ombudsman) of the Czech Republic, defined RFE/RL labor policies and actions toward its foreign employees as “immoral,” being “an act of fraud.” Former Czech Senator Jaromir Stetina, now the deputy of European Parliament, branded RFE/RL labor policies of national discrimination as “patiently indecent, unfair, cynical and hypocritical.”

V. Facts of the complaint and nature of violations


RFE/RL is the largest overseas institution of American public diplomacy financed by U.S. Congress via Broadcasting Board of Governors. Since 1995 when RFE/RL moved from Munich, Germany, to Prague, it received well over 1,5 billion dollars for its operations. From Prague, RFE/RL broadcasts in 28 languages to 21 countries – of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, to Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It employs hundreds of non-Czechs and non-Americans. Foreigners deprived by BBG-RFE/RL labor policies of both American and Czech legal protections, form the bulk of RFE/RL’s editorial staff.

Unlike their Czech colleagues protected by Czech legislation and employment contracts negotiated with Czech trade unions, third-country nationals working for RFE/RL in Prague can be — and often are – fired without any provided reason, without previous warning, without any preliminary corrective measures if deserved, without severance compensations earned during years of service, unless they sign the obligation not to question unmotivated terminations (ENCLOSURE 1).

We, the undersigned Anna Karapetian and Snjezana Pelivan, were fired precisely in such a mode — without any provided reason or cause, after years of impeccable service with “very good” and/or “excellent” regular performance reviews. However, we did not accept the (earned earlier!) severance compensations offered as “shut up” money for abrogation of inalienable in any civilized society human right of court appeal, and turned to Czech courts.

U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors knowingly violates American laws abroad

RFE/RL declares itself an “equal opportunity employer.” However, unlike their American colleagues covered by American laws, foreigners could not use the free of charge services of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC (ENCLOSURE 2, rejection Letter by EEOC to Snjezana Pelivan as a foreigner). American courts were also off limits to us, foreign nationals working for RFE/RL in Prague — American employer abroad (ENCLOSURE 3, sworn Affidavit by qualified American lawyer Talin V. Yacoubian).

At that, the uniform employment agreements provided by RFE/RL-BBG to foreign employees in Prague misleadingly state:

“The parties understand that the laws of the United States govern this agreement. Furthermore, all conditions of employment are governed by the applicable laws of the United States, laws of the District of Columbia or the policies of the Company.”

In fact, as Talin V. Yacoubian notes in in her Affidavit presented to Czech courts, not a single U.S. and the District of Columbia labor or human rights law is applicable to foreigners employed outside the United States by American companies – by expressed will of American Congress dictated by respect to legal sovereignty of foreign countries.

By the reference to “applicable” American laws in employment contracts with legally uninformed foreign personnel, the RFE/RL’s Board of Directors, i.e. Broadcasting Board of Governors, knowingly and intentionally commits “an act of fraud” (Anna Sabatova) and violates the will of U.S. Congress. The only applicable to foreign employees regulations used by RFE/RL, instead of American and/or Czech labor laws, are “the policies of the Company” (ENCLOSURE 4), “lex BBG,” stipulating that

“either party may terminate an agreement at any time for any reason” .

U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors intentionally disregards international laws

In RFE/RL-BBG practice it means also without any provided reason, as was in our cases. It is a flagrant violation of the International Labor Organization Recommendation R166, “Termination of Employment at the Initiative of the Employer”, Paragraph 13(1):

“A worker who has been notified of termination of employment or whose employment has been terminated should be entitled to receive, on request, a written statement from his employer of the reasons for termination”.

The reasons for our arbitrary terminations were not disclosed by RFE/RL even to inquiring Czech courts.

At the time of hiring foreign employees, RFE/RL never acquaints them with the arbitrary “employment at will” regulation hidden in Company’s Policy Manual. Protesting the BBG’s labor policies and actions, the legendary Russian human rights defender Sergey Kovalev wrote on July 7, 2014, to BBG Chairman Jeffrey Shell:

“It is not appropriate when hiring someone to provide this person with the labour agreement for signing, which contains the indubitable discrimination on the basis of one’s citizenship.”

We were neither the first nor the last foreign employees of RFE/RL to be terminated without any provided motivation. But Snjezana Pelivan was the first to bring her case to Czech courts. After four hearings, her appeal was rejected on the ground that she voluntarily accepted the choice of American laws — to her inapplicable and unknown. On the same ground — after protracted, pro and contra, seven back and forth hearings across the national court system — Czech courts rejected the anti-discrimination claim by Anna Karapetian, mother of three minors. Czech Constitutional Court agreed that RFE/RL’s foreign employees have unequal status but ruled that it is not for Czech courts to judge if American RFE/RL acts against American laws, for the discussion of American laws, i.e. the will of U.S. Congress, is outside the “optic” of Czech courts.

However, outside the “optic” of Czech Constitutional Court remained the fact that personnel policies maintained in Czech Republic by RFE/RL’s Board of Directors, U.S. Federal agency Broadcasting Board of Governors, violate also international human rights norms, particularly Article 14 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which prohibits discrimination on such grounds as language, national origin, birth, “or other status.” It is a classic discriminative violation of human rights to assign different levels of legal and subsequent court protection to different groups of employees – who perform in the same workplace the same duties — exclusively on the basis of employees’ citizenship, without any formulated objective, reasonable, professional, or business justification.

Similarly, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by the United States and Czech Republic, formulates the general principle of equality that underlies international human rights law as it relates to non-citizens. According to its Article 2 (1), each State party:

“undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion,national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

Article 26 of the Covenant states:

“All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, … national or social origin… or other status.”

Equally, Article 2 (2) of the binding for Czech Republic International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights declares that States parties guarantee the rights enunciated in that Covenant

“without discrimination of any kind as to …national or social origin… or other status.”

Moreover, there is nothing in the Constitution of Czech Republic and in its Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms that would permit the inferior treatment of non- citizens in labor relations at the Czech territory. Quite the opposite is true. The same Czech Constitutional Court which provided the U.S. governmental agency BBG with singularly exclusive right to discriminate its foreign employees (no other foreign enterprise has such a privilege in this country), stated in its Finding of 14.4.2008 concerning Czech Labor Code:

“Fundamental constitutional principle of equality stipulates that differentiation in access to the rights cannot be arbitrary, and first of all, different persons in the same or comparable situation cannot be differently treated unless there are objective and reasonable grounds for it”.

Clearly, no such grounds exist also for different standards of legal protection established by Broadcasting Board of Governors for employees of American RFE/RL with different citizenship.

The bottom line of Czech court decisions in our cases: Hundreds of RFE/RL foreign employees are cemented in total legal vacuum without any potential protection either by American or Czech courts against arbitrary actions of RFE/RL’s Board of Directors – the BBG. There is little wonder that RFE/RL’s foreign staffers call their workplace “our little Guantanamo” (ENCLOSURE 5, in Russian), thus echoing the title of an article published by respectable Czech newspaper Lidove noviny, “Radio Free Europe – Guantanamo in Prague.”

The inevitable question is: Are the discriminative and deceptive employment policies and actions by RFE/RL’s American management dictated by some hidden political expediency? That question was raised in the Pelivan’s “Petition to Call the Witness” addressed to Czech Constitutional Court on March 10, 2009. Her main claim was submitted to that Court five days earlier, on March 5. While RFE/RL, according to the “United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994,” is part of the “United States international broadcasting”, which “shall be consistent with the broad foreign policies objectives of the United States,” the witness suggested to Constitutional Court by Snjezana Pelivan was U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as an

ex officio member of BBG and of RFE/RL Board of Directors. Hillary Clinton who was expected to visit Prague in the beginning of April 2009 (she did), should clarify whether

“discriminative employment policies of RFE/RL, which violate labor (employment protection) and human rights (national equality) of RFE/RL foreign workers in the Czech Republic and, thus, contradict the Czech labor laws, are dictated by the ‘broad foreign policies objectives of the United States.’ ”

On March 11, 2009, the leading Czech news agency CTK and major Czech newspapers reported the Pelivan’s request to call Hillary Clinton as a witness. As soon as March 16, Czech Constitutional Court rejected the Pelivan’s main claim without even mentioning her request to invite Hillary Clinton as a witness.

In newspaper article titled “Free Europe with Its Own Laws in Colonial Czech Republic?” (Halo noviny, 14.4. 2009), the then Chairman of the Czech Parliamentary Subcommittee on foreign relations Vaclav Exner wrote :

“In this matter, the Constitutional Court indeed reached a record known to me speed of entering decision – the unheard of 11 days: the claim was submitted on March 5th,and decision to reject it , with detailed five- page long justification, has the date March 16th.”

Anna Karapetian’s claim was submitted to Czech Constitutional Court by David Uhlir, our mutual lawyer, on May 30, 2013. This time, the decision was not reached with a lightning speed, it came July 9, 2014. Evidently, the Court had a very difficult task of formulating negative to Anna Karapetian ruling, even having the precedent of Pelivan’s case solved with political urgency. Astonishing is that our lawyer, who formally “lost” our cases (finally, in the Czech Constitutional Court), was recommended to Czech President Milos Zeman by the Head of that Court, Pavel Rychetsky, for nomination to Constitutional Court. He was nominated October 7, 2014, and on December 3rd approved by the Senate of Czech Parliament. In all probability, his legal argumentation on our behalf was sufficiently impressive to become a judge of Czech Constitutional Court but not for that Court to rule against policies of national discrimination practiced by the Federal government agency of the United States running RFE/RL in Prague…

VI. Domestic remedies exhausted. Precondition for Complaint to UN HRC fulfilled

Snjezana Pelivan was hired by RFE/RL on February 5, 2001, as marketing manager. On June 2, 2004, her employment was terminated with immediate effect as of that date. On March 25, 2005, she appealed against her termination to District Court for Prague-1; the claim was rejected July 12, 2006. The Decision of District Court was supported by Prague City Court (November 22, 2006); by Czech Supreme Court (December 8, 2008); finally, by Czech Constitutional Court (March 16, 2009).

Anna Karapetian, a journalist, started her work at RFE/RL in February 1995, still in Munich. Her employment was terminated as of 31 December 2006. Her claim against termination submitted to District Court for Prague-1 on 26 February 2007, was rejected June 6, 2008. On November 16, 2008, Prague City Court rejected her appeal against decision of District Court. On 22 June, 2010, Czech Supreme Court cancelled the decisions of lower courts and sent the case for new consideration to District Court for Prague-1. On November 30, 2010, District Court ruled in favor of Anna Karapetian and reinstated her at RFE/RL. On May 11, 2011, Prague City Court cancelled the decision of District Court and ruled in favor of RFE/RL. Decision of City Court was left in force by Czech Supreme Court on May 19, 2013. Finally, Czech Constitutional Court on June 7, 2014, rejected Karapetian’s claim against RFE/RL.

U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors is deaf to international protests

Already three times – on June 11, 2009, February 4, 2010, June 7, 2012 – Czech Parliament discussed the deputies’ interpellations concerning RFE/RL’s discriminative labor policies. The parliamentarians inquired why Czech government(s) would not raise the RFE/RL matter with American administration in Washington. The evasive reaction of consecutive Czech prime ministers to deputies’ inquiries (regardless of PM’s different political affiliations) was invariably offensive to common sense: RFE/RL is not governmental but a private organization, let the courts decide private disputes.

Czech and foreign media – in Russia, Armenia, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Slovakia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Arab countries, USA, etc. — extremely negative, often sarcastically react to national discrimination at American RFE/RL, which solemnly proclaims as its Mission

“to promote democratic values and institutions,.. strengthen civil societies by projecting democratic values,.. provide a model for local media…”


The negative publicity was triggered due, in particular, to our cases:


”Give Human Face to Janus-faced Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague,” “Not Liberty but Free Fall in Legal Vacuum at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,” “Radio Free Europe/Liberty: ‘Immoral,’ Indecent,’ ‘Unfair,’ ‘Cynical,’ ‘Hypocritical,’“ “Stripped of Rights Journalists Herald about Human Rights on Liberty Airwaves,” “At BBG and RFE/RL– Public Diplomacy is Public Scandal at Public Expense,” “Free Europe With Its Own Laws in Colonial Czech Republic?” ”News Flashes from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The Face of America Abroad,” “BBG-RFE: Lies Should Have Short Legs. But They Have Airwaves, Internet and Bureaucrats …”

The list of similar headlines is virtually endless (ENCLOSURE 6).

It is a striking moral hypocrisy that the Broadcasting Board of Governors representing the RFE/RL’s Board of Directors, pretends

“to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”


Reacting to the avalanche of fact-based condemning letters by international NGO’s, BBG sent them a uniform misleading answer signed by the BBG Chairman Geffrey Shell in his capacity of the Chairman of RFE/RL Board of Directors. To illustrate: the International Labor Rights Forum received the letter dated June 26, 2014, stating, in particular (ENCLOSURE 7):

“Employment at RFE/RL is terminated only for valid reasons such as corporate restructurings, poor performance, violations of company policy, or budget cuts.” That statement made by the head of U.S. governmental institution financed by American Congress is patently untruthful.

At the open BBG meeting held August 13, 2014, in Washington, BBG Chairman publicly called the international protests a “noise” :

“There’s been noise about us not treating people the same ways, you know, whether they are US citizens or not US citizens.”

Responding to Jeffrey Shell’s remarks, the Association of Human Rights in Central Asia listed some of the “noisemakers” (in addition to already mentioned to above Anna Sabatova and Jaromir Stetina), who dared to question BBG-RFE/RL labor policies:

         “– Lyudmila Alexeeva, Head and founding member of the first in the world Helsinki organization, the Moscow Helsinki Group;

          – Dr. Leyla Yunus, politically persecuted Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy in Baku, Azerbaijan – laureate of the International Theodor-Haecker-Prize;

          – Lyudmyla Kozlovska, President of the Open Dialog Foundation, Warsaw, that devotes special attention to protection of human rights in three RFE/RL’s target countries – Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan;

          – Russian human rights defender Sergei Kovalev — Chairman of Andrei Sakharov Foundation, president of NGO Institute of Human Rights in Moscow, the first Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation (1994 – 1995), twice, in 1995 and 1996, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize;

         – Czech filmmaker Martin Mahdal, Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour, who specializes in social, moral, labor-related, human rights, and political topics.”

VII. Submission of communication to other human rights bodies

The matter of this Complaint was not previously submitted to any special procedure, a treaty body or other United Nations or similar regional complaint procedures in the field of human rights.

VIII. Confidentiality is not requested

We intend to provide the facts presented in this Complaint to American congressmen; American and Czech government officials; American, Czech and foreign media; users of social networks; international NGOs, in addition to the listed to above, inviting them to join the Complaint.


In accordance with the UN Human Rights Council resolution 5/1, we kindly ask the appropriate structural body of the Council to initiate special investigative procedure and to obtain the views of American government (Department of State) and relevant Congressional committees (the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate) concerning human rights violations by the Broadcasting Board of Governors – U.S. Federal government agency that oversees all U.S. civilian international media and serves as exclusive Board of Directors for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty .


In our opinion, the question why American Congress tolerates manifested disregard of its legislative will by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, is of especial importance.

Sincerely,
Anna Karapetian

Snjezana Pelivan

Enclosures 1 — 7 (to UN HRC): as stated




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15.12.15

Uzbekistan: Defender of farmers' rights Azam Formonov spends 10th birthday behind bars

Azam Formonov
Brussels-Dublin-Paris-Geneva - December 15, 2015 - The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT), FIDH member organisation "Fiery Hearts Club", the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, Front Line Defenders and the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) join Azam Formonov's family in wishing Azam strength for his 37th birthday which he spent locked up in prison. The health of Uzbek human rights defender has degraded remarkably during the ten years he has spent behind bars. Unless the international and business communities dealing with Uzbekistan make a decisive breakthrough in urging the government to stop maltreating its citizens and liberate Azam Formonov along with dozens of prisoners of conscience, he will languish in prison for at least another four years. His only crime is his activism in the association Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU).
Head of the regional branch of the HRSU, Mr. Azam Formonov has worked to defend farmers' rights. A few days before his arrest in April 2006, he intended to help two farmers defend their rights against a state-owned petrol company. Once detained, Azam Formonov was held incommunicado for weeks and tortured to confess to charges of extortion. Investigators suffocated him with gas masks, and beat him repeatedly with clubs for over a week. Stripped of the right to legal defense of his choice, he was sentenced to nine years in prison in June 2006.
We reiterate our urgent call to countries and corporations dealing with Uzbekistan to use their leverage in order to liberate Azam Formonov and all those who languish in prisons for having stood up for citizen's rights", insisted FIDH President Karim Lahidji.
A few days ahead of his due release in April 2015, he was tried without legal representation for allegedly violating detention facility rules and sentenced to another five years and 26 days on fabricated charges. Azam Formonov thus joined other Uzbek prisoners of conscience, whose prison sentences have been arbitrarily extended on the basis of vague accusations of “violating prison rules”. The sentences of some human rights defenders have been prolonged so many times that their prison terms have become de facto life imprisonment. 
"The practice of extending sentences for alleged violation of prison rules is a severe breach of human rights. The relevant article of the Criminal Code must be repealed as a matter of urgency", stressed Mutabar Tadjibaeva, President of "Fiery Hearts Club".
Detained in a detention facility in Jaslyk known as the "death zone" for its extremely harsh climate and severe detention conditions, Azam Formonov has reported being tortured, beaten and often placed in solitary confinement with no heating. He suffers from severe kidney pains, that are exacerbated by the harsh, cold weather, and poor heating in cells in winter, while in summer the temperature can go up to 40 degrees, unbearable in tiny, overcrowded and poorly ventilated cells.
During his nine-years' imprisonment, Mr. Formonov has been spreading the information about the ill-treatment in his jail without possibility to appeal to any authority. In a letter written in May 2015, he described the terrifying conditions of detention and tortures he endured. We are extremely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Azam Formonov and other human rights defenders in jail”, said Mary Lawlor, director of Front Line Defenders.
The lack of any sort of investigation into the ill-treatment of Mr. Formonov is completely unacceptable and evidences the catastrophic situation of human rights in the country”, declared Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.
Azam Formonov is not receiving the necessary medical treatment. His wife, caring for their two children alone, is permitted to visit her husband less often than specified in the prison rules. She spends days in the prison zone before being allowed to see her husband.
The situation in Uzbekistan remains perilous for human rights defenders who are constantly persecuted, denied their right to a fair trial and imprisoned on fabricated charges. The authorities’ fierce grip on society eliminates any critical voices that could expose the country's violations of human rights: forced labour and continued child slavery in cotton fields, forced sterilisation of women, the absence of independent media and political participation, arbitrary detentions, and torture. The Russian human rights watchdog Human Rights Center "Memorial" puts the figure at 10,000, while Uzbek human rights organisations report more than 12,000 people detained on politically motivated charges.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy to situations of repression against human rights defenders.