25.6.18

International Anti-Torture Day: NGOs call on Central Asian governments to end torture


On 26 June, International Day of Support for Victims of Torture, the Coalitions against Torture in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA, Uzbekistan, based in exile in France), the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR, Turkmenistan, based in exile in Austria) the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland) and International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) call on the governments of Central Asia to redouble efforts to adopt a zero tolerance approach towards torture.

In recent months Central Asian governments have made some positive steps. 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.

However, despite these improvements, torture and ill-treatment remain pervasive in Central Asia. Statistics testify to this: in Kazakhstan the Prosecutor General’s Office reported 124 cases filed under criminal proceedings for the crime of torture as of April 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, due to lack of transparency NGOs are unable to keep meaningful statistics, but activists continue to receive credible reports of torture.  

The following critical issues need to be addressed urgently to ensure that torture becomes a thing of the past:

In Kazakhstan impunity is the norm. According to official statistics, between January and April 2018, 173 cases were closed including from previous years, and only nine 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.

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 tortured by six other prisoners, with the knowledge of the detention centre administration. Witnesses complain of pressure and blackmail from the administration of the pre-trial detention centre in Karaganda, where they were transferred after the investigation began. It should be noted that in Kazakhstan all institutions, both the system of execution of sentences and pre-trial detention since July 2011, are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The Kazakhstani authorities should: register all complaints of torture should where there are reasonable grounds to believe torture could have occurred; cease threatening people lodging complaints of torture with criminal prosecution if their complaint fails to be substantiated. They should also 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 not put in place crucial safeguards against torture 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 block 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.

Nargiz Rajapova alleges that she was tortured by police officers from 23-25 March 2017 to pressurize her to incriminate her husband in the murder of a police officer. Rajapova reported that police officers beat her on the stomach with a bottle of water; put a bag over her head until she lost consciousness and inserted needles under her fingernails. Although the case involved serious procedural violations and a criminal case was opened into the allegations of torture on 28 March 2018, investigations have not progressed and the officers accused of torture continue to work.

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.

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. 

The 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 General Prosecutor.  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 establishing a separate mechanism to investigate and prosecute torture or ill-treatment which is independent from those official bodies accused of perpetrating the crimes, 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: Implement the recommendations of the UN Council Working Group on 18 convicted persons on suspicion of cooperation with Fettulla Gülen and conduct an independent investigation into all allegations of torture 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, government representatives accused of torture have been brought to justice in recent months. However, their trials have been closed to public scrutiny, and the names of the perpetrators have not been made public. In many cases they have been charged with abuse of power (Article 301 of the Criminal Code) instead of the crime of torture (Article 235), which means that they are facing lighter penalties.

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.  

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 that all court cases on torture are open and transparent; allow independent forensic medical examinations; and ensure that torture investigations are carried out by independent mechanisms.


23.5.18

Open letter of civil society organizations to the Swiss government


The Swiss government should not return assets stolen from the people of Uzbekistan to its government until the Swiss government reviews its return policies in light of reported irregularities in the use of assets Switzerland previously returned to the Kazakh government
We, the undersigned representatives of civil society organizations advocating for transparent and responsible repatriation of assets stolen from the Uzbek people, are urgently calling upon the Swiss government to ensure that any decision regarding the ill-gotten assets of Gulnara Karimova, currently the subject of litigation in several countries, be made with due consideration to the rights and development prospects of the Uzbek people.

We urge the Swiss government not to act hastily and to consider that the promise of reform by the Mirziyoev regime have not yet materialized in practice. Based on all available information we strongly believe that return of these assets without sound conditionalities developed in consultation with major stakeholders, including civil society - which has been in a stranglehold in Uzbekistan for more than two decades - would only further perpetuate corrupt practices in Uzbekistan, leaving the systemic causes of the original criminal conduct untouched. The Swiss government can and should use these assets as an incentive to promote and support the course of reforms in Uzbekistan in the long-term interests of the Uzbek people.

The government of Uzbekistan’s claim over these assets is based on a decision of Tashkent Regional Criminal Court. As far as we know, Swiss law bars the recognition of a foreign court judgment if the procedural principles set forth in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms were not observed. Given the absence of anything approaching a due process in Uzbek courts, as numerous reports by human rights organizations, international bodies, and other governments have documented, we question how the Swiss government could consider returning assets in reliance on this basis. The only way we see it could comply with its legal obligations would through a return with sound conditionalities.

Hastily returning the assets also raises the risk of repeating the irregularities observed around the Swiss government’s recent, essentially unconditional return of $48 million in money laundering proceeds to the Kazakh government. The assets were returned through funding two projects administered by the World Bank Trust Fund. We have reports that that those projects are affected by conflict of interests and opaque disposal of funds to organizations controlled by top officials, including Dariga Nazarbayeva, the daughter of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The controversial restitution of $48M to Kazakhstan and the looming return of Gulnara Karimova’s ill-gotten assets directly to the Uzbek government contravenes the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs’ (SFDFA) commitments to pursue transparent and accountable repatriation of the proceeds of corruption, stolen assets frozen and confiscated on Swiss territory.

In our view, asset return should be considered as an integral part of the global fight against corruption. The repatriation policy that appears to have been functionally adopted by the Swiss government is contradictory to this view. Violation of commitments against corruption and regarding responsible asset return may undermine Switzerland’s reputation as a leading state in asset return.

Not just the Kazakh case, but also earlier lessons learned by the Swiss government in the Montesinos case, the Abacha case and the Angola case - where setbacks occurred as well - underline the importance of responsible repatriation and the responsibilities of the requested state in this process. As the Swiss government acknowledges in its recent publication No Dirty Money, “with the right mechanisms it is possible to seek transparency and justice in restitution of plundered assets. Cooperation with the country of origin, political will, and close monitoring offer the best guarantees that the funds will be used to benefit the people and not be misappropriated once again.”  We urge the Swiss government not to lose sight of this fine statement of policy when considering the return of assets to Uzbekistan.

In one of its statements the Swiss government outlined its reasoning for not setting up a Bota Foundation type solution: "Restitution through a foundation proved to be administratively cumbersome". We are very disappointed that for the SFDFA considerations of justice and restitution of the victims of corruption were outweighed by a desire to be rid of the assets as soon as possible with as little of administrative burden as possible.

We call upon the Swiss government:
  • to take a firm and responsible approach to asset restitution by setting certain conditions that would guarantee that the funds returned were not again stolen but go instead to further the well-being of the Uzbek people. Any arrangement for the return of Uzbek assets should work to encourage the government of Uzbekistan to maintain its commitments for reforms and take serious, measurable steps towards establishing effective anti-corruption mechanisms and the rule of law. These reforms should proceed rather than follow any asset return, as all too often reforms are promised, but never delivered.
  • to launch an investigation into the alleged irregularities in the implementation of projects funded out of the $48M restituted to Kazakhstan in 2015.
  • to postpone the decision on repatriation of Uzbek assets until this investigation is complete. The result of this investigation may have implications for Swiss policy on the modality of restitution. Swiss authorities should recognize that Uzbekistan still lags far behind even Kazakhstan in transparency and accountability standards, and in the ability of watchdog organizations to operate, so the risk of even more irregularities in the use of returned assets in Uzbekistan is greater should the Swiss federal government decide to return assets without appropriate safeguards attached.
  • to make its commitment to fighting grand corruption the first priority in its policy on asset return to Uzbekistan and to contribute more attention, time, and resources to ensure the proceeds of corruption are returned responsibly, in the long-term development interests of the Uzbek people.


KEY INFORMATION:

Uzbek assets:

In 2012, the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Switzerland launched a criminal investigation into the origins of assets on the bank accounts of Takilant, LTD, Swisdorn, LTD and other shell companies the beneficial owner of which was Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the former Uzbek president Islam Karimov. The Prosecutor’s Office froze assets valued at 800 million Swiss francs held in accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere and filed criminal charges against several close associates of Gulnara Karimova on the suspicion of money laundering. The aforementioned amount of 800 million CHF was a bribe paid to Gulnara Karimova by telecom companies in exchange for promoting their businesses in Uzbekistan. The investigation by the Swiss prosecutor’s office led to the collapse of Karimova’s once-expansive financial empire, criminal convictions for her closest associates, ostracism, and a criminal investigation for Karimova herself leading to her imprisonment in 2017. Karimova’s trial proceeded in violation of all international standards, with no right provided for Karimova to choose her defense, with no public transparency, and was in fact staged in the kitchen of her own house. It is our understanding that SFDFA is planning to return the assets to the government of Uzbekistan very soon, despite all concerns raised earlier by civil society groups regarding such a scenario.

Kazakh assets:

The recent return of $48 million to the government of Kazakhstan is a second tranche related to the scandal known as “Kazakhgate“. The first tranche of $115 million was repatriated in 2008 through the charitable Bota Foundation that was administered by a board accountable to its three founding countries, Kazakhstan, Switzerland and the United States, as well as the World Bank. The experience of Bota Foundation was widely praised as a model for responsible return of stolen assets that met standards of transparency and accountability and provided mechanisms for secure checks and balances in disposal of funds in interests of Kazakh people.

The recently returned second tranche of $48 million stands in total opposition to the Bota Foundation model in terms of transparency and accountability. It evolves from a 2011 corruption prosecution in Geneva, relating to a currently unknown Kazakh figure. Parties to the case agreed that the money would be returned to Kazakh government. Switzerland decided to use the World Bank Trust Fund as a means to return these assets to Kazakhstan and monitor its use. The Agreement was signed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the World Bank on 20 December 2012. Out of this amount, $21.76 million has been apportioned to the so-called Youth Corp Program, with the agreement for this project signed in 2015 between the World Bank and the Kazakh Ministry of Education and Science as the implementing agency. The second part, in the amount of $23.06 million, was allocated in the same year for an energy efficiency project to be implemented by the Ministry of Investments and Development.

According to our information at least one of these two projects, the Youth Corp Program, is accompanied by a number of irregularities which may be described as money laundering.

To begin with, the World Bank did not disclose to the Kazakh public that the money for both projects originates from the assets frozen and confiscated by Swiss authorities in the money laundering case committed by a Kazakh citizen, most likely by a top official and his associates. Instead, the bank presented this grant as having been allocated by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SADC). Thus, the Kazakh society was misled on the origin of the funds. It was not money allocated out of the Swiss public finance, but, in fact, was the repatriation of assets stolen from the Kazakh people and retuned through the very same public office that might itself have been instrumental in the original criminal conduct.

Secondly, there have been a number of transactions possibly made with conflicts of interest. Here are only few examples:
  • Aliya Bizhanova, who has acted on behalf of the World Bank as Operations Officer responsible for the Youth Corp Project, is reportedly herself a co-founder of the Kazakh Society of Researchers in the Field of Education. This non-profit had received a grant from the World Bank’s Youth Corp project (grant No 140840014775). It turns out that Bizhanova acted in this case in two capacities, representing two parties, the one allocating funds and another receiving these funds. Furthermore, the head of this non-profit is Aida Sagintayeva who is, in turn, a niece of Bakhytjan Sagintayev, the current Prime Minister of Kazakhstan. Aliya Bizhanova is reportedly also a co-founder or ultimate owner of other NGOs that received grants out of the Youth Corp project.
  • The Coordinating Agency, which is responsible for distributing 92% of the funds of the Youth Corps project, is a quasi-government consortium made up of three organizations. It is led by the Congress of Kazakhstan Youth whose chair is the eldest daughter of the President, Dariga Nazarbayeva. There is a likelihood that Dariga Nazarbayeva may have influence over the Coordinating Agency due to her position in the Congress of Kazakhstan Youth and could therefore have influence over the distribution of funds. As a result, the project might have been politically instrumentalized – resulting in propagandistic rhetoric in youth policy documents published by government centres on how to mold a new generation of patriotic Kazakhs prepared to do their utmost for the motherland. Thus, the SADC may have found itself an unwitting co-funder of a scope of a ‘Komsomol-style’ organization.
  • There is also information that some organizations that received grants out of the Youth Corp project are not legitimate entities and do not exist at addresses where they have been registered.
There are similar problems with how the World Bank is administering funds allocated by the Swiss government to Kazakhstan, but it would be better if the Swiss authorities had themselves acquired better understanding of how the funds they have allocated to the Kazakh government are being used in reality.

Nadejda Atayeva, on behalf of Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Le Mans, France, 

Umida Niyazova, on behalf of Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, Berlin, Germany,    

Jodgor Obid, Uzbek political refugee, resident of Austria    

Dilya Erkinzoda, Uzbek political refugee, resident of Sweden

Ulughbek Haydarov, journalist, former political prisoner, resident of Canada

Alisher Taksanov, journalist, political emigrant, resident of Switzerland

Alisher Abidov, political emigrant, resident of Norway

Rozlana Taukina, Federation of Equal Journalists, Kazakhstan

Irina Savostina, Republican Movement “Generation”, Kazakhstan

Dametken Alenova, NGO “Unity”, Kazakhstan  




16.5.18

US: Focus on Rights as Uzbek Leader Visits

Congress Should Press for Further Reforms


Фото: UzDaily
(Washington, DC) – Uzbekistan’s president’s meeting with President Donald Trump on May 16, 2018, comes at a time when the Uzbek government has taken steps to improve human rights but needs to translate them into sustainable, structural improvements, 12 human rights organizations said today.

Since assuming the presidency in September 2016 after President Islam Karimov’s death, Shavkat Mirziyoyev has ordered the release of at least 28 political prisoners, including 10 journalists, relaxed certain restrictions on free expression, and publicly spoken on the need to rein in the country’s feared security services and to end forced labor in the country’s cotton fields. Such moves have offered hope that Uzbek authorities could meaningfully improve the country’s human rights situation and carry out sustainable reforms. But egregious rights abuses, including internet censorship, politically motivated imprisonment, torture, a lack of competitive electoral processes, and a lack of justice for serious past abuses remain to be addressed.

At this hopeful time for Uzbekistan, the government should ensure that the modest steps already taken in the right direction lead to enduring and effective human rights protection for all of Uzbekistan’s citizens,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The US Congress should make clear that reform it can believe in requires sustained concrete changes.”

Congress has long sought to address Uzbekistan’s severe human rights situation through the conditioning of US military assistance in the Foreign Appropriations Act on efforts to combat torture and release political prisoners. It has also provided special scrutiny of Tashkent’s adherence to religious freedom principles through the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The organizations are Amnesty International, Article 19, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Civil Rights Defenders, Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, Freedom Now, Human Rights Watch, International Partnership for Human Rights, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Reporters Without Borders, and the Uzbek German Forum for Human Rights.

On May 7, a Tashkent court acquitted three people accused on politically motivated charges of conspiring to overthrow the government. It convicted the fourth defendant, Bobomurod Abdullaev, an independent journalist, but fined him without imposing a prison sentence. On May 12, the authorities also freed a labor rights and political activist, Fahriddin Tillaev, imprisoned since 2013. But thousands of people imprisoned on politically motivated charges, including for extremism (articles 159, 216, 244-1, and 244-2 of the Criminal Code), remain behind bars.

Among them are Andrei Kubatin and Akrom Malikov, scholars; Mirsobir Hamidkariev, a film producer; Aramais Avakyan, a fisherman; Dilorom Abdukodirova, Ruhiddin Fahriddinov (Fahrutdinov), Rovshan Kosimov, and Nodirbek Yusupov, all religious believers; and Aziz Yusupov, the brother of a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist.

Human rights groups urged members of Congress to raise these cases during Mirziyoyev’s White House visit and to call on the Uzbek government to immediately release everyone imprisoned on politically motivated charges, providing them with full rehabilitation and access to adequate medical treatment. Members of Congress should once again remind the US administration that human rights should be a core pillar of US foreign policy, including in bilateral discussions with Uzbek government officials.

The groups also said that the Uzbek government should amend its criminal code provisions relating to extremism that are commonly used to criminalize dissent (Articles 159, 216, 244-1 and 244-2), and to bring the criminal code into compliance with Uzbekistan’s international human rights obligations.

We are heartened to see the release of long-held activists,” said Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. “To ensure lasting change, the repressive legal framework used to persecute and imprison peaceful activists and religious believers on ill-defined charges of extremism for so many years should be changed for good.”

In November 2017, Mirziyoyev signed a decree prohibiting the courts from using evidence obtained through torture, and forbidding legal decisions based on any evidence not confirmed during trial. The decree, which came into force in March, states that prosecutors will be required to check whether physical or psychological pressure was exerted on a defendant or their relatives. If enforced, the decree could help prevent torture and other ill-treatment in detention in Uzbekistan.

Uzbek officials have indicated an openness to cooperate with United Nations experts by inviting those who have requested access to the country to visit. The US Congress should urge the Uzbek government to combat systematic torture by allowing the UN special rapporteur on torture to visit the country during 2018, closing Uzbekistan’s Jaslyk prison, and ratifying the Optional Protocol to the international Convention Against Torture – all longstanding recommendations by UN bodies, the groups said.

It is important that Uzbek officials have acknowledged the importance of the work by UN experts and human rights groups,” said Kate Barth, legal director at Freedom Now, “but Tashkent should follow through on longstanding recommendations to allow in the UN’s expert on the prevention of torture, close the notorious Jaslyk prison, and ratify Torture Convention’s Optional Protocol.”

May 13 marked 13 years since Uzbek government forces shot and killed hundreds of largely peaceful protesters in the eastern city of Andijan following mass protests connected with the trial of 23 local businessmen on charges of Islamic extremism. The government has never acknowledged the full scale of the killings nor the persecution of witnesses, journalists, and other human rights activists who reported on the events. Hundreds of people convicted in flawed trials after the protest remain in prison and hundreds more who fled the country have been unable to return home.

Many Uzbeks are inspired by the pace of change in the country, but Uzbekistan can only truly move forward by providing accountability for serious abuses of the past, including for the events in Andijan in 2005,” said Muzaffar Suleymanov, program officer at Civil Rights Defenders. “We hope Uzbekistan’s international partners will press the Uzbek government to allow a full accounting of what occurred and ensure that Uzbek society can examine those painful events without fear of retaliation.” 




18.4.18

New names for new times: updated lists of prisoners imprisoned on politically motivated grounds in Uzbekistan

Since October 2017, 29 civil society activists have been released from prisons in Uzbekistan (see list below), giving a clear sign of a move towards liberalization of treatment of those who are critical of the authorities. However, these releases have not significantly changed the attitude of the ruling authorities in Uzbekistan towards the free expression of opinion, especially if criticism of the authorities is involved.

Our analysis shows that those released activists remain on confidential "black" lists kept by the intelligence services. Former prisoners are kept under supervision for longer periods of time than those provided for in the criminal-procedural code. By law, former prisoners are required to register with the internal affairs each month for the first year following their release, but in practice some former prisoners are told to do this for up to three years, during which time the threat of re-arrest for violating the terms of supervision (parole) regime remains present.

These restrictions are imposed by the authorities in the name of crime prevention. However, in practice they impede former prisoners from moving freely, both within the country and abroad, even for urgent medical care. On 4 December 2017, former Member of Parliament Murad Djuraev[1] died in Uzbekistan. He was released from detention in 2015 after serving 21 years’ but was not given permission to leave Uzbekistan until October 2017, and did not manage to leave before he died.

The grounds for release from detention of these activists was either early release or else because they had served their prison sentences. None benefitted from amnesty.

Over the past decades in Uzbekistan, there have been no cases of former prisoners imprisoned on politically motivated grounds being rehabilitated or pardoned. It is therefore too early to regard the recent releases as a concrete sign of political reform, as the representatives of the Uzbek government would have the international community believe.

The articles of the Criminal Code which are used against civil society activists and which were regularly used under former President Karimov against dissidents and critics and which are still in force today include: 
– 120 "homosexuality",
 159 ("Violations of the constitutional system of the Republic of Uzbekistan"),
 223 ("Illegal departure abroad or illegal entry into the Republic of Uzbekistan").
 244-1 ("Making or distributing materials containing a threat to public safety and public order").
 244-2 ("Creation, leadership, participation in religious extremist, separatist, fundamentalist or other prohibited organizations").
 221 ("Disobedience of the lawful requirements of the administration of the institution for the execution of punishment"). This article is very often applied to prisoners serving politically motivated sentences with the aim of extending their term of imprisonment. The charges of violation of prison rules are often obtained from other prisoners in exchange for a reduction of their prison terms. According to our information few charges have been brought under this article since August 2017.

Four people were convicted last year:
     –  Akram Malikov, political critic, author of publications under the name "Abdulloh Nusrat") – convicted of “attempt on the constitutional order of Uzbekistan” Article 159 of criminal code and sentenced to six years imprisonment;
     –  Rustam Abdumanopov, - political critic convicted of “attempt on the constitutional order of Uzbekistan” Article 159 of criminal code and sentenced to six years imprisonment;
     –  Musazon Babadzhanov, serving a conditional sentence (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan "Ezgulik");
     –  Andrei Kubatin, 1984 serving an 11-year sentence (Oriental academic, associate professor)[2];

Currently, independent journalists and correspondents of the "Fergananews" news agency, Bobomurod Abdullayev and Khayotkhon Nasreddinov, are standing trial on what may believe to be politically motivated charges. Bobomurod Abdullyaev and Khayotkhon Nasreddinov both told the court in March 2018 that they were forced to confess under duress and torture.

In order to achieve lasting reform on the political sphere, it is imperative that President Mirziyoyev’s government undertakes the following steps:
          1) Rehabilitate civil society activists, independent journalists and political activists who have been released from detention and those who are currently serving prison sentences in retribution for their peaceful professional activities;
          2) Ensure that those who are released from detention are allowed freedom of movement in order to seek necessary medical attention abroad;
          3) Review the cases of civil society activists, independent journalists and those who were imprisoned on politically-motivated grounds in retribution for their peaceful activities and, should it be found that they were wrongfully arrested ensure that they receive adequate monetary compensation for moral and physical harm;
          4) Establish a commission to determine the personal responsibility of state representatives who issued prison sentences for politically motivated reasons, as well as those involved in torture and other forms of cruel and inhumane treatment;
          5) To bring all officials involved in the practice of torture to justice in fair, transparent proceedings.
         6) To establish a truth and justice body including international experts to investigate past human rights violations and ensure that those found guilty are brought to justice in fair and transparent proceedings.

Civil society activists and journalists who remain in detention include:
1. Fakhriddin Tillayev (Human Rights Center "Mazlum");
2. Rukhddin Fakhriddinov, (Theologian);
3. Dilorom Abdukodirova, (Witness of the Andijan tragedy, 2005);
4. Aziz Yusufov, (Independent journalist);
5. Akrom Malikov, (Critic, author of publications under the name "Abdulloh Nusrat");
6. Rustam Abdumanopov, (Political scientist);
7. Bobromud Abdullaev (Correspondent of the Fergananews News Agency);
8. Hayotkhon Nasreddinov (Correspondent of the Fergananews News Agency);
9. Andrei Kubatin, (Oriental academic, associate professor);
10. Mirsyar Khamidokriyev, (producer)

Released from 2014 to April 2018:

1. Azam Formonov (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
2. Mehriniso Hamdamova (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
3. Zhulhumor Khamdamova (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
4. Isroiljon Kholdarov  (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan "Ezgulik");
5. Nosim Iskhakov (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
6. Gaibulo Jalilov, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
7. Matlyuba Kamilova, Human rights activist and lawyer;
8. Ganikhon Mamathanov (Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons of Uzbekistan);
9. Chuyan Mamatkulov, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
10. Yuldash Rasulov, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
11. Zafarjon Rakhimov, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
12. Bobomurod Razzakov, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan "Ezgulik");
13. Agzam Turgunov, (Human Rights Center "Mazlum");
14. Dilmurod Saidov, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan "Ezgulik");
15. Solijon Abdurakhmanov, (Independent journalist);
16. Guarat Mikhliboyev, (Independent journalist);
17. Yusuf Ruzymuradov, (Correspondent of the newspaper "Erk" of the same name of the opposition party "ERK");
18. Muhammad Bekhanov, (Correspondent of the newspaper "Erk" of the same name of the opposition party "ERK");
19. Erkin Musayev, (former UN staff formerly worked in the Foreign Trade Department of the Ministry of Defense, engaged in international cooperation programs with Western governments, including the United States and the EU);
20. Murod Djuraev, (Former Deputy of the Parliament of Uzbekistan);
21. Samandar Kukonov, (Former Deputy of the Parliament of Uzbekistan);
22. Kudratbek Rasulov, (Member of the People's Movement of Uzbekistan (NDU));
23. Rustam Usmanov, (Former Deputy of the Parliament of Uzbekistan);
24. Khayrullo Khamidov, (Journalist, poet and radio broadcaster, widely known for his religious sermons);
25. Bahrom Ibragimov - employee of the academic public magazine "Irmok";
26. Davron Kabilov - employee of academic public magazine "Irmok";
27. Ravshanbek Vafoev - employee of the academic public magazine "Irmok";
28. Botirbek Eshkoziev, - employee of the academic public magazine "Irmok";
29. Davron Todjiev -  employee of the academic public magazine "Irmok";

Deaths in detention:
30. Akrom Yuldashev (Religious and spiritual leader known in Andijan and Ferghana Valley);
31. Nouraddin Djumanianozov, (Human Rights Center "Mazlum");



[1] Murad Djuraev died on 4 December 2017 – he was not given permission to travel abroad for necessary medical treatment for nearly two years. https://ahrca.eu/uzbekistan/defenders/976-murad-djuraev-has-passed-away-but-will-live-forever-in-our-hearts
[2] On 14th February 2018, the wife of Uzbekistani academic Andrei Kubatin published an appeal to the Ombudsman for Human Rights on her Facebook page in which she said that her husband had been convicted of treason by a military court on 1st December 2017 and sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment.The prosecution claimed that Kubatin had sold electronic books, allegedly from the Central State Archive of Uzbekistan and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences, to a foreign citizen (the then head of TIKA – Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency under the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan and Turkey – Suleiman Kiziltoprak) for 1,000 USD. The prosecution claimed that these books could be used for pan-Turkism propaganda, inciting inter-ethnic and inter-religious hostility, as well as for obtaining information about the geological wealth of Uzbekistan. TIKA employee Muzaffar Zhoniyev, who was present at discussions between the academic and Kiziltoprak, wrote to the SNB. Kubatin alleges that a number of procedural violations were committed during the trial. For example, the academic believes that the assessment of the value of the materials transferred was not objective. On 21st February 2018, Radio Ozodlik reported that well known academics appealed to President Mirziyoyev to review the case personally.





APPENDIX:

In accordance with paragraph "C" of the Resolution of the European Parliament on Human Rights in Uzbekistan (2014/2904 (RSP))[1], in accordance with Rules 135 (5) and 123 (4) of the Rules of Procedure, a list of 34 prisoners was adopted, including public, political and religious figures, victims of the Andijan tragedy, who were deprived of liberty for politically motivated reasons.

The list included: Fifteen Human Rights Defenders:
1. Azam Formonov, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
2. Mehrinino Hamdamova, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
3. Zhulhumor Khamdamova, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
4. Isroilzhon Hold'orov, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan "Ezgulik");
5. Nosim Iskhakov, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
6. Gaibulo Jalilov,  (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
7. Nuraddin Djumanianozov,  (Human Rights Center "Mazlum");
8. Matlyuba Kamilova, Human rights activist and lawyer;
9. Ganikhon Mamatkhanov, (Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons of Uzbekistan);
10. Chuyan Mamatkulov, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
11. Zafarjon Rakhimov, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
12. Yuldash Rasulov, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan - HCHU);
13. Bobomurod Razzakov, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan "Ezgulik");
14. Fakhriddin Tillayev, (Human Rights Center "Mazlum");
15. Agzam Turgunov, (Human Rights Center "Mazlum");

Five journalists:
16. Dilmurod Saidov, (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan "Ezgulik");
17. Solijon Abdurakhmanov, (Independent journalist);
18. Guitar Mikhliboyev, (Independent journalist);
19. Yusuf Ruzimuradov, (Correspondent of the opposition newspaper "Erk";
20. Muhammad Bekhanov, Former editor of the opposition newspaper "Erk".

Four representatives of the political opposition:
21. Murod Dzhuraev, (Former Deputy of the Parliament of Uzbekistan);
22. Samandar Kukonov, (Former Deputy of the Parliament of Uzbekistan);
23. Kudratbek Rasulov, (Member of the People's Movement of Uzbekistan (NDU));
24. Rustam Usmanov, (Former Deputy of the Parliament of Uzbekistan);

Three religious figures:
25. Rukhiddin Fakhriddinov, (Theologian);
26. Khayrullo Khamidov, (Journalist, poet and radio broadcaster, widely known for his religious sermons).
27. Akram Yuldashev (Religious and spiritual leader known in Andijan and Ferghana Valley);

Seven other government critics and witnesses of the Andijan tragedy:

28. Botirbek Eshkoziev, -  employee of the academic public magazine "Irmok";
29. Bahrom Ibragimov - employee of the academic public magazine "Irmok";
30. Davron Kabilov - employee of the academic public magazine "Irmok";";
31. Davron Tojiev - employee of the academic public magazine "Irmok";
32. Ravshanbek Vafeev - employee of the academic public magazine "Irmok";
33. Dilorom Abdukodirova - Witness of the Andijan Tragedy of 2005;
34. Erkin Musayev, 1967 - UN employee, formerly worked in the Department of Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Defense in the past, engaged in international cooperation programs with Western governments, including the United States and the EU.