Uzbekistan: Two human rights activists are subjected to torture

Two human rights activists were detained for 15 days in the basement of the police station of Pakhtakor District of Jizzakh region. Under torture, they were forced to withdraw from the public action aimed at the protection of constitutional rights.

From 1 to 10 December 2012 the human rights activists of the "Birdamlik" movement conducted a campaign dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Constitution of Uzbekistan. They spread information among the population about the constitutional rights and freedoms. Human rights activists Saida Kurbanova and Nuriniso Kholboeva of Jizzakh Region participated in the action.

Pictured: Nuriniso Kholboeva
and Saida Kurbanova
Saida Kurbanova was born on 31 December 1958, she is the Head of the Pahtakor District Department of Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU), led by Talib Yakubov.

Nuriniso Kholboeva was born on 15 June 1967, she is a human rights activist and a member of the “Birdamlik” movement.

On 5 December 2012 several employees of the Pakhtakor District Police Department broke into human rights defender Saida Kurbanova’s home. In commanding tone and with threats of violence, the authorities demanded the human rights activist Kurbanova to withdraw from the public campaign to mark the 20th anniversary of Uzbekistan's Constitution and banned her to leave the house.
On 6 December 2012, in defiance of the police, Saida Kurbanova and her colleague Nuriniso Kholboeva continued to hand out the text of the Constitution of Uzbekistan in the city of Jizzakh.
On the same day, the Chairman of Pakhtakor Rural Citizens' Gathering Mr Tovboy Soliev came to Kurbanova’s house and said that the local Khokimiat (Administration) urgently requested a schedule of the electricity supply, indicating the time convenient to the public. [In recent years, in Uzbekistan, power cuts are often commonplace]. Said Kurbanova invited Nuriniso Kholboeva and the three of them went to carry out a survey of the residents and on the way, they stopped at the Café "Home Cooking" for a lunch.
When they were already in the café, Mahliyo (we were not able to determin her last name and occupation - Ed.), a friend of Soliev joined them. She drank a lot, and when fairly drunk, began offering vodka to Saida Kurbanova and Nuriniso Kholboeva. In response to their refusal she splashed the vodka in their faces and began to shout at them loudly. Then the police from Pakhtakor District Department came and charged the human rights activists with disorderly conduct and took them into custody. Mahliyo and Tovboy Soliev by this time had disappeared.
On 6 December 2012 a hearing against Saida Kurbanova and Nuriniso Kholboevoy took place at the Pakhtakor Criminal Court, which considered an administrative action under Article 183 of the Administrative Code of Uzbekistan (disorderly conduct). Human rights activists were sentenced to 15 days imprisonment and fined 179,000 soums, (90 U.S. dollars). Mahliyo participated in the hearing as a witness. Tovboy Soliev not appear. The accuse human rights activists did not have a legal representative. Their families learned of their whereabouts three days after their arrest.
For 15 days Saida Kurbanova and Nuriniso Kholboeva were held in a small cellar at the Pakhtakor District Department of Internal Affairs of Jizzakh Region.

From the first to the last day they were questioned in the basement and in the office of Akmal Dzhahanov, the Deputy Chief of the Pahtakor Department of the Internal Affairs of Jizzakh Region. According to human rights activists, they were treated roughly, the Pakhtakor district police officers used obscene language and threats as follows: "We shall accuse your children of involvement in religious movements, and put them in jail," "Don’t you have anything better to do? Or do you need a man? No problem, we can put you among the 10 men, they will quickly comfort you", “If you do not stop your work, then we can quickly disfigure your face and shove a club into your anus”. They grabbed the women by the hair and beat their heads against the concrete wall; they were beaten in the abdomen and other parts of the body.

Under the threat of reprisals against them and their families the activists wrote a “pledge” to give up social activities and have agreed to cease their cooperation with the “Birdamlik” movement.
The relatives of the activists suspected that they were tortured, and came to the police station every day in order to achieve the liberation of women. The Major, Akmal Dzhahanov, the Deputy Chief of the Pahtakor Department of the Internal Affairs of Jizzakh Region did not hide his anger and threatened to deal not only with the detainees, but also with their families. He very rudely demanded Saida Kurbanova’a daughter in law to write a  “letter of guarantee” to say: “... if my mother in law [Saida Kurbanova] continues to pursue her activities in the organisation “Birdamlik”, my eighteen months old son Murodjon will be given to the authorities as a hostage.”
On 21 December 2012 Dzhahanov got this “guarantee” and closer to 17:00 the activists were released to go home.

The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia – AHRCA urges all interested individuals, organisations and the media to draw attention to the fate of Saida Kurbanova and Nuriniso Kholboeva. Everything must be done to stop the acts of reprisals against human rights defender.

The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia – AHRCA considers that the actions of representatives of the government - the Deputy Chief of the Pahtakor Department of the Internal Affairs of Jizzakh Region, Major Akmal Dzhahanov and his subordinates, are illegal and contrary to the Constitution Uzbekistan and the obligations which Uzbekistan took under international agreements.

The AHRCA reported the reprisal against activists Saida Kurbanova and Nuriniso Kholboeva to:
—  UN Special Rapporteur on Torture,
— UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders,
— EU,
— U.S. Department of State
— and international human rights organisations.