8.10.18

Visit of Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Paris. What is the state of freedoms in Uzbekistan ?


The President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev will visit Paris on October 8-9

This is the first summit that the two leaders will hold after the EU sanctions against Uzbekistan, which lasted from 2005 to 2009. As is well known, the previous President and dictator Islam Karimov became a de facto persona non grata in Europe, after the Uzbekistani authorities refused to conduct an independent international investigation into the Andijan tragedy in May 2005, when thousands of peaceful demonstrators were shot by government forces. In subsequent years, distrust of Karimov intensified, also because his daughter Gulnara Karimova turned out to be a defendant in criminal proceedings in twelve countries of the world facing charges of corruption and money laundering.

In September 2016, after the death of Islam Karimov, Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power in Uzbekistan. After his election as president in December 2016, he referred to himself as the son of Islam Karimov and began to perpetuate his memory.

In the first two years of his presidency, several processes can be noted. On the one hand:
  29 activists were released;
 The country began to accept visits by international human rights organizations;
 During their speeches, representatives of the authorities began to more often criticize systemic state abuses.

However
  The trials of officials involved in torture and corruption are closed;
  None of the released prisoners of conscience has received full rehabilitation and compensation for the years spent in prison cells and damaged health;
 Rustam Inoyatov - the former head of the National Security Service of Uzbekistan and the executioner of Andijan remains among the closest state advisers to the President;
 the executive branch still controls all branches of government, and parliament and the justice system are deprived of independence from administrative bodies;
 the government has not made significant progress and transparency for society in the creation of anti-corruption mechanisms;
 mass violations of the rights to housing of citizens who are illegally evicted from their homes under the pretext of building projects, which are carried out without open tenders;
 Many political refugees who were forced to leave their homeland because of repression were deprived of Uzbek citizenship and some of their property has been illegally confiscated.

We, citizens of Uzbekistan, living in different countries, will demonstrate on 9 October 2018, on the streets of Paris with banners and political posters, along the route on which the French President Emanuel Macron will pass. We will be wearing masks of people from his inner circle who influence his policies as we protest against human rights violations and large-scale corruption in Uzbekistan.

We intend to draw the attention of President Emanuel Macron to significant shortcomings in the domestic policy of the Uzbek President. We hope President Macron will call on his Uzbek counterpart for real and consistent reforms.


Open letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of President Mirziyoyev’s visit to France


M. Emmanuel MACRON
Président de la République française
Palais de l'Elysée
55 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008 Paris¨

Paris, Brussels
5 October 2018


Dear President Macron,
International Partnership for Human Rights based in Belgium and Association for Human Rights in Central Asia an organization set up by political émigrés in France, appeal to you to use the occasion of the first state visit to France of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan on 8 October 2018 to call for concrete improvements in the area of fundamental rights to build on the process of opening witnessed in Uzbekistan over the past two years. 

Since coming to power in 2016, President Mirziyoyev has taken some steps to address Uzbekistan’s dismal human rights record. For example, at least 29 civil society activists, independent journalists and political opposition activists were released from prison; at least ten perpetrators of torture have been brought to justice; and several international human rights groups have been invited to the country in a demonstration of Uzbekistan’s new penness to discuss human rights concerns.

However, more is needed to ensure that these initial steps are sustainable, that human rights are truly protected in Uzbekistan, and that the principles of the rule of law are respected and implemented. The authorities continue to persecute actual and perceived government critics for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and torture and ill-treatment continue to be reported. President Mirziyoyev’s government should implement the following recommendations as a matter of urgency:

1. Ensure justice for those convicted in unfair trials, and ensure accountability for past abuses

Thousands of prisoners are serving prison sentences imposed under the previous and the current regime after being convicted in unfair trials for "violating the constitutional order" (Article 159 of the Criminal Code), “producing or distributing materials that threaten public security and order” (Article 244-1) or “establishing, leading or participating in religious extremist, separatist, fundamentalist or other prohibited organizations” (Article 244-2). These articles allow for vague interpretation by the authorities and have in many cases been misused against critics or perceived government critics and religious believers who worship outside state-sanctioned places of worship. Many people have been targeted for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.

To date no effective investigation has been carried out into the tragic events in Andijan in 2005, when security forces killed hundreds of largely peaceful demonstrators, including women and children.

Under the new President, over two dozen civil society activists and political dissidents have been released from unjust imprisonment, but they remain under close surveillance. Not one of them has been fully rehabilitated and those responsible for their persecution have not been brought to justice. Many suffered torture and other ill-treatment in detention to force them to provide false confessions, but the perpetrators of torture have escaped justice and the victims have not received compensation and full redress. Many lawyers are afraid to take up their cases for fear of reprisals.

The Uzbekistani authorities under President Mirziyoyev continue to restrict freedom of movement preventing people from travelling abroad, specifically targeting government critics. Space for civil society and human rights groups and activists in Uzbekistan remains severely limited. In addition, political émigrés have had their Uzbekistani citizenship withdrawn and their property in the country confiscated.

2. Endow the judiciary with full independence and ensure transparent court Proceedings

Judicial reform announced by President Mirziyoyev in February 2017 will only be effective if the judiciary becomes fully independent, if fair trial standards are scrupulously observed and reforms are transparent and accompanied by open public discussion.

Under the rule of President Mirziyoyev many state officials accused of serious crimes have been held behind closed doors. Some officials have been accused of torture or illtreatment, but little information is publicly available. The Uzbekistani authorities have also blocked information about the detention and criminal investigation ongoing against the eldest daughter of former President Islam Karimov, Gulnara Karimova. Although in 2017 the Prosecutor General finally clarified the charges against her they process has been kept out of the public eye. In these cases, it is believed that the authorities have refrained from ensuring transparency in order to prevent information from emerging that would incriminate members of the current government.

3. End widespread torture and other ill-treatment

President Mirziyoyev’s government has taken steps to address widespread torture including. At least ten police officers implicated in torture as well as a number of prisoners who were found guilty of torturing detainees on behalf of police officers have been brought to justice; legislation has been adopted that prohibits the use in court of evidence obtained through torture and of using torture against relatives of detainees and suspects; the Criminal Code has been amended to strengthen punishments for torture; and Uzbekistan accepted recommendations issued during the United Nations Periodic Review to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

However, human rights groups continue to receive credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment indicating that the practice continues and that systematic reforms are necessary.  Rerpetrators are punished only in exceptional cases. There is no system for confidential complaints and no independent investigatory mechanisms for allegations of torture; and there are no known cases where victims have received compensation for moral damages. It is also important that officials found guilty of torture and ill-treatment receive punishments which are commensurate with the gravity of the crime.

4. Improve prison conditions and give independent experts access to etention facilities for human rights monitoring

In Uzbekistan independent monitors do not have access to detention facilities and prisons for the purpose of monitoring. According to former prisoners and prisoners’ relatives, living conditions in detention facilities and prisons continue to be extremely poor and access to medical care is restricted. Statistics on the number of prisoners in Uzbekistan are classified as confidential and no details are published about the high mortality rate among the prison population.

5. De-criminalize homosexuality

Article 120 of the Criminal Code punishes consensual sex between adults and legalizes discrimination against LGBTI people. The article has also frequently been used to discredit and punish government critics. 

We ask you to raise these issues during your discussions with President Mirziyoyev.

Yours faithfully

Brigitte Dufour                                                                  Nadejda Atayeva
Directrice International Partnership                                    President of the Association for Human Rights for Human Rights                                                                     in Central Asia





18.9.18

Uzbekistan : Human Rights Defender Agzam Turgunov give permission to leave the country

The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Restoration of Justice and International Partnership for Human Rights are pleased to report that on 18 September 2018 Agzam Turgunov was finally given permission to leave the country from the Ministry of Internal Affairs Passport and Visa office of Almazarsky district in Tashkent. He had applied for permission to leave the country (also known as an “exit visa”) on 16 August 2018 but on 31 August he was informed by a representative of OVIR that he had been refused. He was told that he would receive a written reply stipulating the grounds for the refusal within a month. See: "Uzbekistan – human rights defender Agzam Turgunov fined and refused an exit visa".

Instead of the written reply, he was given permission to leave on 18 September.  Unfortunately this was too late to allow him to attend the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting organized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in Warsaw, where he was due to speak.

In Uzbekistan, former prisoners are sometimes required to register weekly with the local police station for a maximum of one year after they are released from detention and during this time they are not allowed to travel abroad. However, Agzam Turgunov was not asked to do this. He was released from detention in July 2017.

13.9.18

Uzbekistan: Facebook users detained and questioned

The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA), International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and Amnesty International are concerned about a recent wave of detentions and interrogations of dozens of users of the social media platform Facebook in Uzbekistan.

From 24 August to date sources in Uzbekistan have informed our organizations that dozens of people have been arbitrarily detained throughout the country and held on administrative charges after they posted comments on their Facebook accounts or 'liked' and shared posts of other social media users.

All the comments appear to relate to cultural and religious issues that the authorities in Uzbekistan consider particularly sensitive, such as the wearing of hijabs (Islamic headscarves), which is prohibited in places of work or schools in Uzbekistan.  We are concerned that the authorities in Uzbekistan are trying to clamp down on any discussions on social media critical of the government's cultural and religious policies and legislative initiatives.

Nine of those who were detained are known to be Adham Olimov; Otabek Usmanov; Miraziz AhmedovZiyovuddin Rakhim; Tulkin AstanovTurabek BaimirzaevDilshod Khalilov; Khurshidbek Mukhammadrozykovand Erkin Sulaimon. Police also briefly detained and questioned three people for four to five hours: Shokir Sharipov (uses name of Muhammad Shakur on the internet); Iskander Sadirov and Malokhat Anvarova (uses name of Ummu Abbos on the internet). According to media reports, of the Facebook users detained were released from custody on 11 September, including Miraziz Ahmedov, Adham Olimov and Dilshod Khalilov, although their computers and telephones were not returned to them.

Several of those detained signed statements undertaking not to participate in any further “suspicious” activities - but without receiving an explanation from law enforcement officials as to what qualifies as “suspicious”.  In addition, “suspicious” is not a legally defined term and does not refer to any internationally recognised offence; hence the demand is an arbitrary restriction of the right to freedom of expression.

According to our information, the authorities tracked Facebook users by their IP addresses and then dispatched police officers from the regional anti-terrorism units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to detain them, search their homes and confiscate computer and technical equipment, in most cases without presenting arrest or search warrants. In the cases we are aware of, interrogations at police stations lasted for four hours or more without any legal representatives present and relatives of those detained were not informed of their whereabouts. The charges were often excessive in terms of the alleged offence – for example, someone trying to organize a small-scale protest (picket) was charged with calling for mass unrest.

According to information we have received from sources who cannot be identified because of security concerns, law enforcement officials have arbitrarily charged some detainees with  'failure to comply with the lawful demands of a police officer' under Article 194 of the Code of Administrative Offences. In some of these cases the officers themselves had exceeded their authority and verbally insulted and physically assaulted detainees and subjected them to ill-treatment.

The cases highlighted below show to what extent the Uzbekistani authorities closely monitor social media networks and react to critical posts by private individuals concerning, for example, the prohibition of wearing a hijab or initiatives to hold small scale protests.

Shokir Sharipov – (pseudonym Muhammad Shakur) was arrested on 25 August 2018. He lives in Tashkent region and has 4,879 “friends” on Facebook and 753 followers. He is a wheelchair user.  Eight officers from the Department of Internal Affairs of Kibraisky District, Tashkent came to his home to arrest him and take him to the police station. During detention he was reportedly ill-treated, threatened and insulted. His computer, phone and other equipment were confiscated without any warrant or him being given a receipt. Several hours later he was taken back home. According to media reports[11] he was accused of “inciting mass unrest” and “residing without a residence permit”.

Shortly before he was arrested the following post in Uzbek appeared on Muhammad Shakur’s  
Facebook page:  
Central to a democratic state are - peaceful demonstrations -pickets. A picket is the expression of any protest by a small group of persons. Four people needed. I am the fifth. We will hold a picket. A peaceful picket. The banners will read: "A headscarf is not a weapon!", "A headscarf is a requirement of our faith!", "Do not trample on our souls!"

Nearly 200 Facebook users ‘liked’ this post and discussions and began sharing it. Legislation in Uzbekistan does not prohibit calling people to attend a picket, which may be the reason that Shokir Sharipov was charged with calling for mass disorder.  

Adham Olimov, (internet name Musanif Adham), has 5,601 subscribers to his personal page. He writes about socio-political problems as well as issues of a spiritual and moral character and comments on changes in society. He was arrested by one police officer and eight officials from the Olmazar District Department of Internal Affairs on 28 August at 6:40 pm at his home in the Almazar district of Tashkent.  On 29 August he was sentenced to 15 days’ detention by Almazar Administrative Court for the administrative offences of "failure to comply with the lawful requirement of a police officer" and "obstructing the work of police officers". Adham Olimov is currently in custody.

Otabek Usmanov is from Andijan. He came to the attention of the authorities because of his posts on spiritual and moral issues, such as government-imposed restrictions on children being allowed to attend the mosque. According to Fergana News, he was detained at his work at General Motors in Andijan region by representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and held in a cell with a group of women who started an argument with him and lodged a complaint against him with the regional prosecutor’s office.  Following the complaint, on 29 August law enforcement officials in Andijan charged him with petty hooliganism and detained him for 15 days.

Ziyovuddin Rahim:  Ziyovuddin Kabirov 
writes under the name Ziyovuddin Rahim and is a theological scholar and author of over 20 religious books. He has 4,975 "friends" and 3,260 followers on Facebook. In his posts he writes about spiritual and moral issues. Little information is available about his detention although it is known that his house was searched when he was arrested and that he is still under arrest at the time of writing.

Additionally Facebook user Tulkin Astanov is known to have been arrested on 24 August and held for ten days in administrative detention.

The whereabouts of Miraziz Ahmedov were unknown for ten days. On 2 September, he wrote on his Facebook page “I've been summoned to the police. Pray for me." The same day he complied with a summons to the district police office and was not seen until he was released on 11 September.  News agency Ferghana.Ru quotes sources as saying he is being held at the Department of Internal Affairs in Tashkent. For more than 15 years, Miraziz Ahmedov worked as an interior designer and founded the Miraziz Design Group. In the autumn, this studio planned to open design schools in several cities in Uzbekistan.

He repeatedly spoke about religious topics on Facebook. For example, in response to a government resolution on the introduction of a standard countrywide school uniform, he wrote that if his daughter was forbidden to wear a headscarf to school, she might not attend. He repeatedly condemned what he regarded as the hypocrisy of religious debates and called on users to join a group to defend the rights of Muslims in Uzbekistan.

Although information about the detentions of these users of social networks continues to arrive from Uzbekistan, it has proved difficult to follow up the current situation of those in detention and even of those briefly detained, as they decline to comment. Their families have likewise declined to speak about the detentions. We are concerned that this indicates that they have been put under pressure by the authorities not to speak to media or human rights observers.

On 5 September the Ministry of Justice issued a press release outlining the establishment of a register of banned sites to include those which publish information calling for violent overthrow of the constitutional system; propagate violence, terrorism and religious extremism, provide confidential information on state secrets or laws; and which incite national, ethnic or religious hatred or harm the honour or dignity or citizens. Given the restrictive context for freedom of expression in Uzbekistan, we are concerned that this and other recently announced measures  regulating and restricting access to internet sites which are considered to distribute such types of  information could lead to more violations of human rights and further arbitrary detentions  of users who visit such sites.

We call on the Uzbekistani authorities to:

— Immediately and unconditionally release from detention all those who are detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression;

— Investigate reports that police officers ill-treated internet users during arrest and administrative detention;

 Bring national legislation governing online as well as printed and broadcast media fully into compliance with Uzbekistan’s international human rights obligations and ensure full respect for the right to freedom of expression in law and in practice;

 Ensure unrestricted access to online information resources, including national and international news sites, social networks and CSO websites.

 Ensure that there are no restrictions on social networks, the media and literature except those which are demonstrably necessary and proportionate for protection of the rights of others or specified public interests as set out in international law.

 Ensure that journalists, writers and individuals can work freely without fear of retribution for expressing critical opinions or covering topics that the government deems sensitive.



OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

Torture and ill-treatment in Central Asia (Working Session 5, Rule of Law II, 12 September 2018)

Torture and ill-treatment continue to be widely used in all five Central Asian states. Statistics testify to this: in Kazakhstan the Prosecutor General’s Office reported 98 cases filed under criminal proceedings for the crime of torture from January to August 2018, and the Coalition against Torture registers about 200 cases annually; in Kyrgyzstan the Prosecutor General’s Office received 435 complaints of torture or ill-treatment in 2017; in Tajikistan the NGO Coalition against Torture and Impunity registered 66 new cases of torture and other ill-treatment in 2017 (a significant increase in comparison with previous years). Due to the highly repressive nature of the regimes in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and a lack of transparency NGOs are unable to keep meaningful statistics, but activists continue to receive credible reports of torture.

Positive measures

In recent months Central Asian governments have taken some positive steps, but more needs to be done. For instance, the Prosecutor General's Office of Kazakhstan adopted a Plan of Comprehensive Measures to Counter Torture in early 2017 for the period until December 2018; in Kyrgyzstan as part of ongoing legal reforms, procedures were adopted to improve documentation of torture in line with the Istanbul Protocol; in Tajikistan civil society is included in discussions about a National Human Rights Protection Strategy until 2025; in Turkmenistan the National Plan of Action on Human Rights for 2016-2020 foresees inviting the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, thus potentially providing opportunities to conduct independent investigations into the use of torture and ill-treatment; and in Uzbekistan President Mirziyoyev signed legislation prohibiting the use in court of evidence obtained through torture and strengthening punishments for torture in November 2017 and April 2018 respectively.

Pressing concerns

However, some of these measures have yet to be implemented in practice and other major challenges remain. The following critical issues need to be addressed urgently to ensure that torture becomes a thing of the past:

In Kazakhstan, like in all Central Asian states, impunity is the norm. According to statistics issued by the Kazakhstani authorities, between January and April 2018, 382 cases involving allegations of torture or other forms of ill-treatment were closed including from previous years, and only 16 reached court. The state fails to ensure the safety of detainees and prisoners who lodge complaints about torture, and victims of torture are warned that they will be held criminally liable for a false denunciation, which discourages many from lodging complaints.

Perpetrators of torture are punished only in exceptional cases.

Valery Chupin died in March 2017 in prison colony AK-159/7 after being punished for verbally insulting a teacher in the prison. He was subjected to torture by six other prisoners at the instigation of a senior official of the prison administration and a member of staff. Witnesses complained of pressure and blackmail from the prison administration in Karaganda, where they were transferred after the investigation began. In August 2018, Shakhtinsk City Court convicted all eight perpetrators of aggravated torture and convicted them to between seven and ten years of imprisonment.

The Kazakhstani authorities should: 

       • register all complaints of torture or ill-treatment where there are reasonable grounds to believe abuse could have occurred; 
       • cease threatening people lodging complaints of torture or ill-treatment with criminal prosecution if their complaint fails to be substantiated; and
       • ensure investigations into torture complaints are carried out in an unbiased, professional manner and that the security of victims and witnesses of torture is assured. 

Kyrgyzstan has failed to put crucial safeguards against torture in place for those in pre-trial detention. For example, domestic legislation does not provide for a Habeas Corpus procedure. The lack of effective investigatory mechanisms continues to obstruct justice for torture victims. Only a few police officers have been convicted for the crime of torture (Article 305-1) since it was introduced in 2003. Kyrgyzstan has failed to fully implement any of the rulings by the UN Human Rights Committee in relation to victims of torture and other ill-treatment. 

On 17 July 2018 co-defendants Azat Omuraliyev, Omurbek Kadyrkulov, Ravil Ziyazetdinov and Bakhtiyar Musuraliyev were transferred to the courthouse for their trial from the Investigation-Isolation Facility No.1 in the capital Bishkek. They allege that on the way police officers of the Alamudunsky District Department of Internal Affairs and two masked special police officers severely beat all of them. Reportedly, when they arrived in court the lawyer requested the prosecutor to have their injuries recorded, but the prosecutor declined saying that “they will be convicted today and even if they cut open their veins, we would not call an ambulance”. The judge did not take any steps either to ascertain the origin of the injuries. Because Azat Omuraliyev was covered in blood the trial was postponed and the defendants were taken to Chui Regional Hospital to treat their injuries. On 24 July the lawyer sent a complaint to the State Committee for National Security calling for a prompt investigation and requested forensic medical and psychiatric examinations. At the time of writing no criminal case had been opened and no forensic examinations conducted. 

The Kyrgyzstani authorities should:

       • create and fund an independent body endowed with sufficient authority and competence to conduct prompt, thorough and independent investigations into allegations of torture or other ill-treatment
       • promptly implement all rulings by the UN Human Rights Committee issued under the individual complaint procedure. 

In Tajikistan legislation providing for safeguards against torture in pre-trial detention needs to be consistently implemented in practice as the risk of torture and ill-treatment remains particularly high in the early stages of detention. Investigations into allegations of torture and ill-treatment are rarely conducted effectively and there are no mechanisms in place to ensure prompt, thorough, impartial and fully independent investigations. This issue, combined with the fact that penalties under Article 143-1 (“torture”) of the Criminal Code of Tajikistan are not commensurate with the gravity of the crimes committed and perpetrators of torture often benefit from amnesties, serves to further perpetuate the problem of impunity. Compensation awarded for moral damages sustained through torture in recent rulings has been neither fair nor adequate, and domestic legislation does not provide victims with opportunities for rehabilitation, satisfaction or guarantees of non-repetition. 

On 28 March 2018, Rasulchon Nazarov was detained by police in relation to suspicions of drug trafficking. Early the next morning, Rasulchon’s wife learned that her husband had been transferred from Sino-2 police station in Dushanbe to Karabolo hospital. The next day the family were informed that Rasulchon had died. Rasulchon’s body was released to the family for burial - photos and video recordings of Rasulchon’s body show clear signs of beating including bruising and grazes on the face; knees, genitals and abdomen, as well as two identical round marks 0.5 cm in size 6cm apart on his right elbow which appear to be marks from a machine used to administer electric shocks. A lawyer from the Coalition against Torture and Impunity in Tajikistan took up the case in April 2018 and lodged complaints with the Dushanbe Prosecutor’s office and the office of the Prosecutor General. The lawyer has faced persistent obstructions from the authorities in the course of her work on this case. She has not been allowed to see procedural documents in the case materials, and has not received timely responses to her requests and complaints. 

The Tajikistani authorities should: 

       • combat impunity by ensuring that all investigations are conducted promptly, thoroughly, impartially and independently and that the perpetrators are brought to justice; and
       • ensure that victims of torture and ill-treatment are able to access adequate compensation as well as rehabilitation and redress.
  
In Turkmenistan, concerns persist over the lack of access to prisons and places of detention for independent monitors. Visits by international observers to prisons are tightly controlled by the authorities and, as noted by the US Embassy in Turkmenistan, it is not known whether the demonstrated conditions of detention of prisoners correspond to reality. In 2016, representatives of the diplomatic community applied to visit the prison "Ovadan-Depe", but were refused permission.

Thirty persons suspected of collaboration with Fettulla Gulen (alleged organizer of an attempted coup in Turkey in 2016) were detained and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. The group was mostly comprised of former teachers and students of Turkmen-Turkish lycees. Many detainees were sentenced to long prison terms after unfair trials, and at least two were taken to Ovadan-Depe prison. In November 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention recognized that the arrest of 18 of these individuals was arbitrary, and urged the authorities of Turkmenistan to immediately release them and provide compensation. 

The Turkmenistani authorities should: 

       • promptly implement the recommendations of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention with regard to 18 convicted persons on suspicion of cooperation with Fettulla Gülen;
       • conduct an independent investigation into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment and bring those responsible to justice; and 
       • issue invitations to UN Special Rapporteurs including the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.  

In Uzbekistan, following Presidential criticism of the practice of torture, several government representatives accused of torture have been brought to justice in recent months. However, their trials have been closed to public scrutiny. 

For example, several officials were found guilty in closed court hearings of abuse of power, rather than torture, in relation to allegations that they tortured the independent journalist Bobomurod Abdullayev. Although the trial was mostly open to the public, closed sessions were held relating to the actions of officials who were subsequently found guilty of abuse of power (Article 301 of the Criminal Code), rather than torture. The verdict was based on a medical examination that concluded that Bobomurod Abdullayev had not been tortured, although he showed injuries sustained through torture in court. Abdullayev was sentenced to 18 months’ of community labour and a fine.

In a recent positive development, on 22 June 2018, the Military Court of Uzbekistan found seven former law enforcement officials guilty of torturing Ilhom and Rakhim Ibodov in September 2015. Ilhom died in detention. Six of the officials were sentenced to between 14 and 18 years‘ imprisonment after they were found guilty under Articles 235 and 301, part 3. One official was fined 70 million soms (equivalent to 7 600 Euros). In a first for Uzbekistan, four prisoners were also found guilty of torturing the Ibodov brothers on the orders of prison officials, and were sentenced to between 16 and 18 years‘ imprisonment. Concerns remain in this case regarding the transparency and independence of forensic medical examinations as the forensic examination found that Ilhom Ibodov died of a heart attack.

The Uzbekistani authorities should:

       • ensure an appropriate level of transparency and public oversight regarding all trials of officials on charges of torture and ill-treatment;
       • allow independent forensic medical examinations; and 
       • ensure that torture investigations are carried out by independent mechanisms.


11.9.18

In Fance, court will consider lawyers’ motion; in Germany, prosecutor of Berlin registered an appeal


On 7 September 2018 in Paris, the second court hearing took place upon a lawsuit regarding honour, dignity and professional reputation of Nadejda Atayeva, President of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (France), against Mutabar Tadjibaeva, leader of the human rights organization Burning Hearts Club (France).

At the hearing, court considered the motion filed by Mutabar Tadjibaeva’s lawyer to decline the lawsuit upon procedural grounds. The object of discussion became the procedural mechanisms and their practical application in similar cases. The essence of Mutabat Tadjibayeva argument (complaint) is that the exact sentences for deletion are not given in the complaint. Nadejda Atayeva’s lawyer was guided by procedural norms, which envisage total removal of publications containing false and insulting statements. With regard to the ungrounded statements made by Mutabar against lawyer Valery Kojevnikov, she repudiates them blaming the mistake made by the police. The decision made by lawyer Valery Kojevnikov not to continue the argument is explained by his wish to avoid possible conflict of interest and devote his time to the defense of Nadejda Atayeva.

Court heard the parties and will announce its decision on 9 November 2018.

Nadejda Atayeva’s lawsuit has not been considered by merit yet, therefore, the court proceedings are continuing.

Letter of the Prosecutor of Berlin notifying
 about the registration of Nadejda Atayeva’s complaint.
Concurrently, court proceedings are under way in Germany against the organization “Uzbekistan Press Freedom Group e.V.”, “centre1.com” and its editor Galima Bukharbaeva and the president of the organization “Uzbekistan Press Freedom Group e.V.” Tatyana Gurevich and one more official – Annette Wiedene in conjunction with false and insulting statements about Nadejda Atayeva in the publications posted on the site “centre1.com”. Prosecutor of Berlin registered Nadejda  Atayeva’s complaint. Parties are waiting for the investigation results.

Over the past year, authors of the sites “mutabar.org” and “centre1.com» posted more than 100 publications containing false and insulting statements against Nadejda Atayeva and Association for Human Rights in Central Asia and its partners. The frequency of publications and the dissemination of knowingly false information damaging the honour and dignity of another person has assumed a systemic nature and reflected on the security of several civil society activists. Nadejda Atayeva applied to judicial and law enforcement organizations in order to take persons in question and their partners to court.

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia abstains from comments on the content of articles published on the sites “mutabar.org” and “centre1.com” on principle. We await legal assessment of the actions of the authors. This legal procedure obliges the authors to substantiate their allegations, otherwise they will be held liable. 

We are grateful to all who support us and maintain their trust.


3.9.18

Uzbekistan – human rights defender Agzam Turgunov fined and refused an exit visa

Agzam Turgunov, 2018

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) (based in exile in France), the unregistered organization Restoration of Justice (based in Uzbekistan) and International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) (based in Belgium) are concerned about travel restrictions recently imposed on human rights defender Agzam Turgunov on 30 August 2018, making it impossible for him to attend the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in mid-September. The organizations are also concerned that Agzam Turgunov was issued an administrative fine for filming police action during a peaceful protest the same day. It is believed that the exit ban may have been imposed in connection with Agzam Turgunov’s attempts to register the NGO Restoration of Justice, to lobby for the establishment of an independent commission to review politically-motivated cases in Uzbekistan and the administrative procedure against him following his arrest.

On 30 August 2018 Agzam Turgunov was told by an official at the Department for Visa and Passports (OVIR) of Tashkent City Department of Internal Affairs – that his request of 16 August 2018 for permission to leave Uzbekistan to travel abroad had been denied. On 3 September 2018 he requested information about the grounds for the refusal, but was told that there was no information available and that he could expect to receive a written reponse within a month.

Agzam Turgunov is a founding member of the human rights center Mazlum, he was arrested in July 2008 and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment after a politically-motivated trial which did not meet international fair trial standards. Amnesty International considered him a prisoner of conscience. He
was released from prison in October 2017 and since that time has been working to register a new human rights organization, Restoration of Justice. He and recently-released journalist Dilmurod Sayyid have been lobbying for the establishment of an independent civil commission in Uzbekistan which would review politically-motivated sentences and provide legal support through the rehabilitation process.

Eyewitnesses report that on 29 August 2018 some 100 people gathered near the Supreme Court calling for miscarriages of justice to be reviewed. On the same day Agzam Turgunov visited the Supreme Court for a meeting regarding appeals he had sent. After noticing that representatives of the law enforcement services were being rude to participants of the rally he tried to film the incident on his smartphone. Three law enforcement officers in plainclothes approached him and, without showing any proof of identity, tried to confiscate his phone and dragged him into a car in a rough manner.

Agzam Turgunov says: "They grabbed me roughly and dragged me into a car. On the way to the police station, an employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs grabbed my head and neck and began to strangle me in punishment for me refusing to give him my phone. I tried to pull his hands away."

Agzam Turgunov was held for over four hours at the 4th Police department of Tashkent and the photos and videos he took were destroyed. His colleagues and family were not informed of his whereabouts during this time. At 17:00 pm, Turguov was brought before a judge of Shayhontohur District Administrative Court who set a time for his hearing and released him at 18:00 pm. The detention record was drawn up only at 18:30 pm.

On 30 August 2018 Shayhontohur District Administrative Court in Tashkent held a hearing on the case and ruled to prosecute Agzam Turgunov under Article 194 ("Failure to comply with the lawful demands of a police officer") of the Administrative Code of Uzbekistan and imposed a fine of one month’s minimum wage. The court failed to take into account that the three police officers did not show Agzam Turgunov any proof of identity or introduce themselves when they tried to confiscate his phone, or that they used unnecessary force.

Observers and witnesses were initially not allowed to enter the court room. It took human rights defender Tatyana Dovlatova and a representative of the US Embassy a long time to negotiate access. Activists Malokhat Eshankulova, Zulfiya Khudoyberganova and Munis Ochilova gave evidence as witnesses for the defence. A district police inspector gave evidence for the prosecution but the law enforcement officials who detained Agzam Turgunov were not present in court.

The court failed to take into account that the three police officers did not show Agzam Turgunov any proof of identity or introduce themselves when they tried to confiscate his phone, or that they used unnecessary force.  Agzam Turgunov intends to appeal the decision of the court, and inform the UN special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights defenders.

"The recent decision to refuse to issue Agzam Turgunov with an exit visa clearly shows that pressure on human rights defenders remains high in Uzbekistan. Against the backdrop of announced reforms, we call on President Mirziyoyev’s government to cease the practice of punishing critics or perceived critics by refusing to allow them to travel abroad and issue Agzam Turgunov with an exit visa” said Brigitte Dufour, Director of International Partnership on Human Rights.

At this time of reforms to the judicial system, it is all the more important that in practice, as well as on paper, everyone should be equal in the eyes of the law and that courts at every level respect this principle and examine cases fairly and objectively” said Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia.