I fled Uzbekistan in 2000, five years before the Andijan massacre, when government forces opened fire on civilian protests against the country’s repressive regime and failed economic policies. The vast majority of protesters were unarmed, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men, women and children were killed as they tried to flee.
Today, it is ten years since the massacre, one of the most savage acts of government repression in the former Soviet Union.
No one has been held accountable. Many of the dead were buried in mass graves, or thrown into the Karasu River on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border. Their families continue to be persecuted.
In Uzbekistan, my father was the head of the state agency responsible for grain suppy and manufacture. His bosses at the Cabinet of Ministers misreported to Karimov that Uzbekistan has achieved the grain independence and there is no need to import grain anymore. Against this, my father during 18 months tried to reach out to Karimov and warn him that without grain import the Uzbekistan’s grain security will be soon under therat. He worried that people would starve as a result and tried to contact President Karimov. But at the end, instigated by the corrupt officials who hided the truth abouy the grain supply the investigators from the Interior Ministry arrived and told him to sign a confession stating that it was him who misreported to President and embezzled the public funds. . We ran, but for a long time no one would believe our story.
Then the Andijan massacre happened and people began to pay attention to Uzbekistan, for a while. I was granted asylum in France where I live now. It was a revelation for me to see the power of citizen activism in France in the wake of the massacre; for so long, politics for me had meant the whim of one person, I had never known anything else. But ten years later, memories of Andijan have faded for many in France and elsewhere, except us Uzbeks, at home and abroad, who still live in fear.
In many ways, life in Uzbekistan is worse than in 2005. Uzbekistan’s poor human rights record and corruption are epic: No civic freedoms; nearly 12,000 political prisoners; a prison system that relies on torture and even boiling prisoners alive in the past; forced labor in which millions, previously including children, pick cotton; no political opposition. The president’s glamorous and Twitter-friendly daughter, Gulnara Karimova, once looked like a possible successor to her father. Following some very public disagreement with her father she is now fallen from grace and under house arrest in Tashkent.
The flow of refugees from Uzbekistan continue to grow but escaping the country is not an end to your troubles. Thousands of Uzbek citizens have been illegally placed on Interpol’s watch list by the Uzbek authorities, many of them eyewitnesses to the Andijan massacre. Some Uzbek citizens have been forcibly returned to Uzbekistan from European countries. Norway returned a group of Uzbek citizens in 2014 ; they were subsequently tortured and sentenced to 12 years in jail. Sweden, Latvia, Poland France and Britain have also recently begun to ignore overwhelming evidence of torture and repression in their consideration of asylum claims from Uzbekistan.
As life gets worse for Uzbeks, life just gets better for President Karimov and his close circle. In March, Karimov, who has governed the country since 1989, was “re-elected” for an unconstitutional fourth term. The elections, as ever, were a charade. Instead of censure, Karimov received congratulations from President Obama and other major dignitaries. Karimov and his close circle continue to profit handsomely from the country’s cotton industry, which runs on forced labor.
Foreign investors such as General Motors and the Scandinavian Telecoms giant TeliaSonera are now shaken down to provide money and labor for the harvest, the proceeds of which then disappear into an extra-budgetary slush fund controlled by Uzbekistan’s top leadership.
I know I am not safe in France. Uzbek diplomats in Europe are involved in the monitoring of Uzbek dissidents abroad. Over half of the Uzbek diplomatic service is linked to the Uzbek National Security Service; Uzbek embassies in France and elsewhere in Europe coordinate the intelligence activities of Uzbekistan in the EU.
Each day I understand that I could be abducted. Every time I leave France, people advise me not to go, to be extra careful. I do not telephone people in Uzbekistan anymore because if I do, they will be questioned. In July 2013, I was sentenced to six years in jail in absentia. There is no evidence that I have ever committed a crime, and I’ve never signed a confession.
In the face of this growing authoritarianism, the EU needs to reconsider its stance towards Uzbekistan. France can help this happen. EU sanctions toward Uzbekistan were lifted in 2009 and yet the situation has only worsened.
France can demand the Uzbek government reinstate the accreditation of Human Rights Watch; that the OSCE mission is allowed to conduct its work; and the establishment of a UN Special Rapporteur on Uzbekistan given the country’s ongoing abuse of human rights.
For me and for many others, the hardest part of being in France, and not at home, is psychological. I wake up each morning in my old bedroom in Tashkent. A colleague, a human rights defender, illegally crossed back into Uzbekistan when he heard his mother was seriously ill. He has since disappeared. I could never risk such a trip. We hoped things would change after Andijan; we were wrong. In Uzbekistan, we have returned to the Soviet period, maybe worse.
The lawyer representing a human rights activist Nuraddin Djumaniyazov is not given the location where he is kept. The defence lawyer is unable to meet him, despite having an official permission to do so since 20 April 2015.
The last time Mr Djumaniyazov was seen during the court hearing. He asked his lawyer to help him to get hold of medication and said that he was seriously ill. His family does not support him in any way and Djumaniyazov was enduring alone.
In October 2014, Nuraddin Djumaniyazov was referred to the Sangorod (Medical Department) of the prison УЯ 64/18 in Tashkent because of serious health condition caused by the diabetes. It has not been possible to find out any more information about his health since then.
Nuraddin Raimbergenovich DJUMANIYAZOV was born on 8 October 1948, in the town of Turtkul of the Karakalpakistan ASSR, Uzbekistan. He is a citizen of Uzbekistan, divorced. He has two children.
Since 2003, he is a member of the “Mazlum” Human Rights Centre; he is one of the founders of the Centre. In 2012 he participated in creation of Union of the Independent Trade Unions in support of the labour migrants and was the head of the Tashkent department of the organisation.
In January 2014, he was charged with the offence of “Human Trafficking” under Article 135(3)(d) of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan as well as his colleague, a human rights activist Fakhriddin Tillayev.
The Tashkent City Shaykhontahur District Criminal Court sentenced Nuraddin Djumaniyazov to 8 years and 9 months, Fakhriddin Tillayev to 10 years and 8 months of imprisonment on 6 March 2014.
At the appeal hearings against this Sentence, it was upheld, although the defence lawyer presented the evidence that during the investigation and the previous court hearings, the rights of Nuraddin Djumaniyazov and Fakhriddin Tillayev were breached.
Not long ago, a charitable foundation provided a humanitarian aid to purchase medication and provisions of food for him. That is why the lawyer wanted to visit her client. She also wanted to get his instructions in order to file an application seeking his release on compassionate grounds and ill health.
Association for Human Rights in Central Asia expresses a serious concern that the lawyer is unable to meet with Mr Djumaniyazov or access a reliable information about him. The human rights activist Nuraddin Djumaniyazov has been ill for a long time and is detained in conditions, which obviously caused damage to his health, and we fear, the worst consequences.
In this regard, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia sent a report about the situation of the human rights activist to the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.
We previously reported on this case in the following press releases:
- «Uzbekistan: a human rights activist Nuraddin Djumaniyazov is admitted to a hospital» dated 14 October 2014;
- «Uzbekistan: the Supreme Court upheld the Sentence against human rights activists Tillaev and Djumaniyazov» dated 14 October 2014;
- «Uzbekistan: a sentence against human rights activists Fakhriddin Tillaev and Nuriddin Djumaniyazov is upheld» dated 21 April 2014;
- «Uzbekistan: Two Human Rights Defenders Imprisoned for 8 Years, 3 Months» dated 8 March 2014;
- «Uzbekistan: Fakhriddin Tillaev, a human rights activist is under threat of long term imprisonment» dated 18 February 2014.
Speech at the hearings of the subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament within the framework of the discussion on “The EU - Central Asia. Strategy for a New Partnership”
6 May 2015 (15:00-16:15)
I address all those present in this hall. I would like to draw your attention to the situation of human rights in Uzbekistan on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Andijan tragedy.
The mass murder committed by the government of the dictator Islam Karimov on 13 May 2005 is a crime to which the statute of limitations does not apply. And it still needs an international independent investigation.
Misuse of firearms led to many victims. The Andijan tragedy was a natural consequence of the repressive policies of the Karimov regime. These policies exclude the observance of the Constitution and international agreements on human rights ratified by Uzbekistan.
In the first year of their imposition, the EU sanctions against Uzbekistan, which followed the refusal to allow independent experts, led to the release of the largest number of political prisoners compared to all the years of a dialogue. However, in 2007, Germany initiated a dialogue with the Karimov government in the field of human rights and was the most active supporter of lifting the sanctions. As a result, there is a lack of significant changes in the field of human rights. Instead, a political bargaining has start. And now the list of political prisoners gets only updated.
Up to 40 civil society activists are constantly in prison. A former Member of the Parliament of Uzbekistan, Murad Juraev, is serving the fifth consecutive sentence which totals to 21 years. The human rights defenders Isroil Kholdarov, Azam Farmonov, Ganikhon Mamatkhanov and a journalist Muhammad Bekzhanov are each serving a second consecutive sentence.
All attempts to appeal against their sentences were fruitless, because neither the judiciary nor the legislature is independent of the executive power. At the end of the last parliamentary elections, eight judges assumed office at the Parliament of Uzbekistan, one of whom is a member of a political party. Although, they were removed from holding an office in the judiciary recently, the fact that the Chairman of the Constitutional Court, as the head of the election commission, allowed them to run at the elections shows a complete disregard for the Constitution. Similarly, the dictator Islam Karimov is occupying his post for the fourth term in a row.
Over the past 10 years, 487 civil society activists were persecuted and their relatives subjected to discrimination. The number of refugees originating from the country is growing every year. Thousands of citizens of Uzbekistan are declared wanted by Interpol on trumped up charges, including eyewitnesses of the Andijan tragedy, and even well-known human rights defenders from Andijan Lutfullo Shamsutdinov, Muzaffarmirzo Iskhakov and others.
Continuing a purely formalistic dialogue on human rights between the EU and Uzbekistan is unacceptable. This leads to an increase in the number of victims of human rights violations in Uzbekistan and the refugees originating from the country, including illegal ones.
The EU member states are paying less and less attention to the human rights situation in Uzbekistan. And, they are creating more and more barriers against receiving refugees. Appeals of human rights organisations to the immigration services of these countries are often overlooked. This is the case even when all the conclusions of the human rights activist regarding the violations of the rights of refugees are documented. Not only that Uzbek courts and authorities ignore complaints of use of torture, by now, European countries no longer react to them. Thus, a group of Uzbek citizens were forcibly returned to Uzbekistan from Norway. Once back home, in violation of the principle of the presumption of innocence, before the trial, they were labelled as terrorists and traitors on the national television. Then, they were sentenced to imprisonment of up to 12 years. All of them were victims of torture. This is a result of policy of Norway. Recently, this country temporarily suspended the deportation of asylum-seekers to Uzbekistan. At the same time, Norway continues refusing to grant refugee status even to Uzbek human rights defenders. A similar practice exists in Sweden, Latvia and Poland. France and Britain also began to consider the cases of Uzbek refugees formalistically, ignoring overwhelming evidence of practice of torture in Uzbekistan. This is especially true of victims of corruption and raider seizure of property carried out by inner circle of Islam Karimov’s daughters and high ranking officials of the National Security Service (SNB).
Asylum applications of Uzbek entrepreneurs are rejected, immigration officers ignore the fact that in Uzbekistan the rights of ownership are not protected at all, and the tax sector is extremely corrupt. The head of the tax administration is one of the richest and most influential people in Uzbekistan Batyr Parpiev - a close relative of Rustam Inoyatov, the head of the National Security Service.
Over the 26 years of Islam Karimov’s rule, not a single leader, including Mr Karimov himself, declared his income. At the same time, their property clearly does not correspond to their official income. In such a country it is difficult to be protected oneself from torture, to count on a fair trial, and even save lives. That is why even the businessmen are now turning into refugees. Migrant workers who have lived abroad for several months also seek asylum, because, upon returning to Uzbekistan, they are subjected to extortion of bribes, forced to testify against themselves and those with whom they communicated abroad.
Immigration officials of the European Union often do not take into account that refugees from the countries of Central Asia are not always able to document the politically motivated persecution. In Uzbekistan, the authorities almost always take an individual in for interrogation without any official papers and refuse to investigate the use of torture. For example, in 2014, a human rights defender Fahriddin Tillaev was tortured during the investigation. His lawyer immediately filed a motion for a forensic medical examination, but the prosecutor's office and the court ignored it.
Uzbek security services have unlimited power. Moreover, they have the authority to act in the member states of the SCO and the CSTO. The exchange of refugees between Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan has become a common practice.
Over the past 4 months, our organisation documented 14 cases of abductions and disappearances of Uzbek citizens. More than 100 "Osh refugees", living in Uzbekistan illegally and under a total control of the National Security Council, are facing deportation to their country of origin Kyrgyzstan. Since 2007, political murders of three critics of the regime of Islam Karimov were committed. Muhammad Salih and Obid Qori Nazarov a prominent religious figure suffered several politically motivated attacks in Norway and Turkey, Sweden. We see numerous threats and intimidation against political refugees in Sweden, Norway, Holland, France, Canada and the United States. We are submitting our appeal to the prosecutors of the EU countries in this regard.
According to information available to our organisation, Uzbek diplomats are involved in this activity too. Before 2007, 20% of the diplomatic corps of Uzbekistan were linked to the National Security Service and its agents, however, now this figure is more than 50%. The Uzbek embassies coordinated intelligence activities of Uzbekistan in the EU. This information is obtained from a reliable source. All candidates for diplomatic posts are approved by the SNB. We note signs of involvement of Uzbek oligarchs controlled by the SNB in threats against political refugees and assault on them. The first deputy chairman of the National Security Council Hayot Sharifhodzhaev and his jailed younger brother Javdat Sharifhodzhaev are publicly known. During the past few years, they were engaged in extortion from successful entrepreneurs using official position; some of the businessmen were forced to pay for special operations/measures aimed at eliminating opponents of the regime abroad. All the information that our organisation has collected about these measures was sent to the relevant institutions to combat such practices.
For the last 10 years, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia documented 114 cases of murders, abductions, disappearances, which involved the Uzbek security services, diplomats and oligarchs.
Ethnic Karakalpaks are discriminated against in Uzbekistan. They are persecuted not only for their beliefs. Residents of Karakalpakstan suffer from pollution, but not one of them was recognised as an "environmental refugee". It is essential to include a program to support the population Karaklpakstan in the dialogue in the field of human rights.
The EU needs to revert to the original demands that were put forward to the Government of Uzbekistan when lifting the sanctions in 2009, which have not yet been complied with, and to begin implementation of the resolution of theEuropean Parliament, adopted in October 2014. The European Parliament must reiterate that it is important to maintain a consistent policy of the EU regarding Uzbekistan, as
1) The Government of Uzbekistan did not renew the accreditation of HRW representatives in the country;
2) there are still no conditions allowing the mission of the International Red Cross to visit places of detention;
3) the practice of forced labour continues;
The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, IPHR, HRW, Amnesty International and FIDH call upon the EU to:
4) insist on granting access of 11 thematic special rapporteurs of the United Nations to Uzbekistan;
5) support the establishment of the office of the Special Rapporteur on Uzbekistan by the Council of the UN on Human Rights because the Uzbek government refuses to cooperate with UN human rights institutions, grossly and systematically violate human rights.
The current practice of dialogue on "the EU - Central Asia" encourages repression and is in need of radical reform.
I hope that the outcome of this discussion will be a new strategy for relations between the EU and Uzbekistan with the participation of the UN Special Rapporteur on Uzbekistan. I, as a citizen of Uzbekistan, wish my country to respect freedom of speech, there was an independent judiciary, stable conditions to be created for the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms. The EU can make a historic contribution to the development of democracy in Uzbekistan.
Since 29 April 2015 a breastfeeding mother of a 5-month old baby is detained in a pre-trial detention facility.
Nazgul Ahmatalieva born on 9 November 1988 is detained together with her 5 month old baby in the Osh city pre-trial detention centre No.5 (СИЗО-5). She is married and has two children.
We learnt that Nazgul Ahmatalieva is accused of committing a fraud (Article 166 of the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic). She has no previous convictions. After graduating from a high school, Ahmatalieva was employed by the Swedish-Kyrgyz company «Oriflame-Kyrgyzstan». At the insistence of the company management, she signed a statement that she allegedly received 7,000 US dollars. By much persuasion, she was misled to believe that the note she signed was only a formality, it did not impose any liability on her. At that time, Ahmatalieva was pregnant and was about to leave on a maternity leave. In reality, she never received the money or the goods in that amount and never had any financially responsibility for the money in question. As it turned out, two previously convicted women put down the note in question for her. They fraudulently persuaded her to sign a document, but she did not fully understand what she had signed.
On 14 April 2015, the law enforcement officials summoned her for questioning the first time. On 15 April, the second interrogation took place, the following night she felt extremely unwell and her family had to call an ambulance. Doctors recorded that her health condition was critical. It was a reaction to the way they treated her during the investigation. She underwent a medical forensic examination. According to its results, the defendant N. Ahmatalieva is in a state of psychosis resulting from a nervous breakdown. Her speech is impaired, after her arrest, she lost her ability to speak almost entirely. The charges came to her as a great shock.
On 29 April 2015, Nazgul Ahmataliev was taken into custody. The Osh City Court handed down a decision to remand her in custody for an initial period of 18 days, as a preventive measure. Despite her health condition, Akmatalieva is in detention with her baby and continues to breastfeed a child who is ill with measles. The doctors recommend not to stop breastfeeding at this very time, because the child is very weak. To make matters even worse, now the baby is kept in an environment where it is easy to contract TB.
All this time, duty lawyers have been representing her. According to preliminary information available to our organisation, investigations of the criminal matter against Nazgul Ahmatalieva are conducted in violation of the procedural rules and in conditions causing serious damage to her health and the health of her baby.
Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) calls on the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic to fulfill its obligations under international agreements in the field of human rights. We ask to ensure compliance with national legislation and the principles of legality and objectivity in the investigation of the criminal case against a citizen of Kyrgyzstan, Nazgul Ahmatalieva.
Our report was also sent to:
— UN Special Rapporteur on Torture;
— Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of the EU;
— Special Rapporteur of the EU to Central Asia;
— Chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament;
— Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan;
— Prosecutor General of Kyrgyzstan.
On 27 April 2015 in the village of Cheremushki of the Osh region three houses burnt down
The cause of fire was a fault in wiring in one of the houses. Lyudmila Kasimbaeva lost her home and property the second time. She is 76 years old. She lives alone.
When the tragic events of June 2010 started, Ms Kasimbaeva lived in the city of Osh, on Chekhov Street. Her home was then hit by the riots that took place on the grounds of ethnic conflict.
This time L. Kasimbaeva is completely helpless and unprotected. She has no insurance policy and means to live on. Local authorities have not responded to her appeal in any way.
Lyudmila Kasimbaeva is asking for help of anyone who can help her rebuild her house. First of all, it is necessary to restore the roof, replace the doors and windows, connect water supply and electricity. Neighbours and human rights activists are ready to clear the rubble.
Association for Human Rights in Central Asia appeals to the Mayor of the city of Osh Aytmamat Tentibaevich Kadyrbaev to help Ludmila Kasimbaeva, a single old woman and her neighbours who suffered.
|House Ludmila Kasimbaeva, May 1, 2015.|
|House Ludmila Kasimbaeva, May 1, 2015.|