Uzbekistan: Islam Karimov stayed at power and retained the dictatorial regime

CA-News asked us to comment on the election of the President of Uzbekistan.

The elections were held on 29 March 2015. Four candidates ran for the position - Islam Karimov, nominated by the Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (UzLiDeP), Narimon Umarov nominated by the "Adolat" Social Democratic Party, Hatamzhon Ketmonov nominated by the People's Democratic Party (the former Communist Party of the Uzbek SSR) and Akmal Saidov nominated by the "Milly Tiklanish” (National Revival) Democratic Party.

It was officially announced that Islam Karimov was re-elected for another term. As stated by the Central Election Commission, 18,928,000 people (91.01 per cent) of the eligible population participated in the voting, Karimov was elected collecting 90.39 percent of votes. It is impossible to cross-check the official data.

1. Could you comment for us on the presidential elections in Uzbekistan?

In fact, there was a substitution of the concept. A formalistic event of national importance was called the presidential elections in Uzbekistan, aimed at preserving the power of the dictator Islam Karimov. All other candidates were well aware that they have no chance to come to power. A former Chairman of the Constitutional Court of Uzbekistan Mirza-Ulugbek Elchievich ABDUSALOMOV coordinated the process resorting to the budget of the country. So do not be surprised that the Supreme Law of Uzbekistan is not respected.

This can happen only in a dictatorships and totalitarian control everywhere, in the absence of opposition, freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of assembly.

The voting figures declared, of course, are touching. No room for intrigue at all! More than 90% of the vote were given for Islam Karimov. We shall probably never find out the real results.

And now, it remains to be seen who will congratulate Islam Abduganiyevich with the victory and call this a farce the presidential election.

2. What Uzbekistan will be like after them?

Prospects are sad. The official Tashkent sees any alternative view as anti-constitutional. In fact, in Uzbekistan, there is no constitutional system - there is a regime of the dictator Karimov. And the last "election" showed it very clearly.

Political repression, restrictions of rights and freedoms will be amplified. Not only will the critics of the regime and representatives of religious organisations and communities be in danger. The authorities are targeting those who lived abroad for more than three months. Through them, the authorities find out who and where applied for the status of a refugee. Those who applied for this status have openly been called "traitors of the Motherland." Moreover, the courts do not take into account that these citizens are prosecuted on the basis of self-incrimination, obtained under torture. Chances of saving the defendants is negligible, since they are actively being used by the Karimov regime propagandists. Relatives of victims of human rights violations are discriminated against, they are barred from taking the civil service.

This wave of repressions is aimed at asylum seekers who returned to Uzbekistan, their relatives living in the country and political exiles.

There are more than 100 already documented cases where the security services of Uzbekistan exert pressure on political refugees, including intimidation and acts of attempted murder.

In November 2014 an update of the "black list" became known. It includes all those whom the National Security Service announced unreliable. In general, Karimov is fast creating the political wilderness in Uzbekistan. He is aiming to save himself from criminal liability by using the participation of the most obedient. Also, he needs to protect his daughters Gulnara and Lola. The latter, together with her husband Temur Tilaev in a close cooperation of the criminal authority figure Salim Abduvaliyev holds a monopoly on the supply of consumer goods in the market via a company called  "Abusahy" and the transportation of the goods by the logistics company of the same name. Meanwhile, Lola Karimova hides behind the status of a UNESCO representative in Uzbekistan. This is how a criminal family gained unlimited access to the country's budget and they are enriching themselves with the help of corrupt schemes. Trying to avoid responsibility, they (Islam Karimov’s family) dump the blame on "scapegoats". Therefore, the judicial system continues to depend on the executive branch headed by Islam Karimov, and, this criminal regime will not give up the practice of torture. He radicalises the society, which gives rise to intensifying repressions.

Only the adequate response of the international community, as well as activity of human rights activists and other actors of the civil society can influence the Islam Karimov regime.

Nadejda Atayeva, 
president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia.


In Uzbekistan there are no conditions for fair presidential election

On 29 March 2015 presidential elections will take place in Uzbekistan

There are 4 nominated candidates:
Islam Karimov, current leader of Uzbekistan, is put forward by the Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan. Previously, Karimov was nominated for the presidency in 1990, 1995, 2000, and 2007. His term was extended by referendum twice (in 2002 and 2007)
Khatamjon Ketmonov is a candidate put forward by the National Democratic Party of Uzbekistan and the chairman of the Central Council of the Party.
            — Narimon Umarov is a candidate put forward by the Social Democratic Party «Adolat» (Justice), chairman of the Council and Executive Committee of the Party.
            — Akmal Saidov is a candidate nominated by the «Milliy Tiklanish» (National Revival) Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, a member of fraction of the party in the Parliament, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Democratic Institutions, Non-government Organisations and Self-government Bodies. In 2007 elections, he was one of the candidates to run for the office of president.

The project Art and Human Rights
Association for Human Rights
in Centrale Asie
Association for Human Rights in Central Asia about results of observation of the election campaign

All candidates were approved prior, to their nomination, by the presidential administration. Among them there is no representative of the opposition. Citizens learn about candidates only from the government media and posters distributed by the Central Election Commission. Meetings of candidates with voters are held in conditions of limited freedom of speech. Criticism of the authorities and asking "uncomfortable" questions are prohibited. Only laudatory rhetoric is allowed. Uzbek media does not even attempt to evaluate the candidates publicly. Islam Karimov has a privileged position. As president, he uses public events for his campaign. This also applies to the opening of new businesses, and the last amnesty of prisoners.

No signs of the activity of the population. Access to opposition web sites is very limited, among other things, due to blocking and DDoS-attacks. Opinion of citizens living abroad is almost unknown to the population living in the country. All segments of the population are under total control, that is why there are so few independent-minded citizens, and they do not affect the election campaign.

Karimov has once again demonstrated the ability to exploit the conflicting provisions of national legislation, including the Constitution. The second term of Islam Karimov as president illegally lasted from January 2000 to January 2007 - eight years instead of seven, as provided by the then wording of Article 90 of the Constitution of Uzbekistan. (In 2011, the wording in the Constitutionwas amended: the presidential term was reduced to 5 years.) In 2008 Karimov took the office of president for the third term, despite the fact that Article 90 says «A person may not be elected to the office of Presidentof the Republic of Uzbekistan for more than two consecutive terms». Thus, the rule of Islam Karimov after January 2007 to the present time is unconstitutional.

The Constitution of Uzbekistan does not provide for the impeachment of the president, so even in theory, Islam Karimov cannot be removed from power. Most of the population realises that he remained in power illegally. "I am one of those who comes under criticism for a long tenure. They criticise me, but I do not stop. The more they criticise me, the more I want to continue working. What's wrong with that?"- flirts Islam Karimov.

He does not offer any explanation to his voters about his attitude towards the criminal activities of his eldest daughter Gulnara Karimova, against whom criminal cases are pending in France, Switzerland, Sweden and Uzbekistan. Issues related to the corrupt activities of members of Islam Karimov’s family are never discussed.

All other candidates praise their main competitor Karimov. This suggests that they deliberately went to participate in the formalistic elections. Refusing to play this humiliating role would be dangerous for them.

Absolute majority of the eligible population in Uzbekistan do not intend to go to the polls, unless it is made compulsory, because it is clear that the current elections do not mean anything or change anything.

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia draw your attention to violations fundamental human rights in Uzbekistan:

1) Numerous human rights activists and journalists remain in prison, including in particular those who supported in 2005 the EU demands for an independent international inquiry into the Andijan massacre, witnesses of the Andijan events, critics of the regime systematically prohibited from leaving the country, defenders of labour rights, journalists specializing on topics like Islam, and religious groups and communities, persons with disabilities and in need of medical care and persons who remain in prison despite being over 60 years old. It is worth noting that prisoners having previously worked for the government or international organisations are exposed to special discrimination.
All of them were sentenced to imprisonment on trumped-up charges of serious crimes. Formally, they were accused of the infringement on the constitutional order of the state, on the system of bodies of state power and administration. And this accusation arose in response to the open expression of opinions, for their cooperation with international organisations and the media.
              2) Situation in detention facilities of Uzbekistan. Many prisoners in Uzbekistan are physically ill; diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, anemia and HIV/AIDS are very common. There is not enough drinking water and food. Heating and ventilation are in need of repair. We receive many reports about limited access to medical care, even for severely disabled people and elderly persons. It is a known fact that even ill people are involved in heavy work. Access to detention facilities for independent observers is nonexistent, including UN Special Rapporteur on torture. In conclusion, Uzbekistan does not comply with Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, detention conditions of prisoners are comparable to torture.
            3) Necessity of restoration of the mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Uzbekistan. The program of visitation to detainees and prisoners was terminated in March 2013 due to Uzbek government’s interference in operating standard procedures of the organisation. According to our sources, the mortality rate in prisons dramatically increases due to disease that are caused by deplorable confinement conditions and limited access to medical care.

            4) Extended prison sentence. The practice of multi-year extensions of sentences to human rights activists, journalists, members of political opposition and thousands of religious prisoners became a standard practice. Uzbekistan’s Criminal Code provides for the offense of “disobedience to legitimate orders of the administration of institution of execution of penalty” (Article 221), often referred to as “violations of prison rules”, on which authorities base the extensions of prisoners' sentences. This unlawful practice leads to life long prison terms.

            5) Forced labour system of cotton production remains fundamentally unchanged. In 2014, as in previous years, the government used coercive means to ensure that farmers met state quotas for cotton production and to systematically mobilise millions of people to pick cotton throughout the country. Where people were unable or did not want to harvest cotton the government forced them to pay to hire replacement workers. In the culmination of changes that began two years ago, the government did not mobilise en masse children to harvest cotton in 2014. It failed, however, to end the use of child labor in cotton production as in some regions local authorities forcibly mobilised children, particularly in the later weeks of the harvest, in order to meet quotas assigned by the central government. The forced labour system violates international labour conventions and national law. It also drives farmers into debt – leading many to emigrate (over 25% of the Uzbek population works as labor migrants in Russia and Kazakhstan), and some to commit suicide (including Habibullo Egamberdiev on October 17, 2014); deprives citizens of full access to health-care and education during the cotton harvest. The forced labour system also led to 15 deaths in 2014. The estimated $1 billion annual income from cotton disappears into the Selkhozfond, a secret fund in the Finance Ministry to which only the highest level government officials have access.

              6) Closing the office of the HRW. In 2007 the Tashkent office of Human Rights Watch that had operated in Uzbekistan for 15 years was closed. This organisation has earned a special trust among the people of the country. It was banned for its principled assessment of human rights situation in Uzbekistan and tragic events in Andijan in 2005. One of the conditions for lifting the EU sanctions applied against Uzbekistan was the resumption of the activities of HRW in the country. Uzbekistan has not complied with this condition.

            7) The case against the «Traitor of the Motherland». Also, citizens of Uzbekistan who were deported from the countries where they claimed asylum are subjected to repression on their forced return to Uzbekistan. They are labelled as the traitors, tortured and imprisoned for up to 13 years; according to data available to us, the case against the “traitors” has subjected about 70 people to prosecution in Uzbekistan.

            8) On the continuing practice of persecution of civil society activists and other objectionable individuals by the government officials. Harassment, including criminal persecution of dissidents and critics of the authorities, civil society activists, members of the opposition, independent journalists, representatives of various religious groups, human rights activists and their family members by the authorities continues. In Uzbekistan, there are about 10 thousand people convicted for belonging to a religious group. 40 civil society activists, journalists and human rights defenders are in prison. Over the past 10 years 487 civil society activists were subjected to repression. In recent years, critics of the regime are systematically prohibited from leaving the country;
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The dictatorship of Islam Karimov has created a lack of social justice, the backwardness of the economy, widespread poverty, and, as a consequence, the radicalisation of Islamic organisations and movements. The US and EU countries are paying less and less attention to the violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms in Uzbekistan and continue to cooperate with the Karimov regime. We call upon the democratic community to revise the terms of dialogue on human rights in Uzbekistan and promote:

— Ensuring enforcement of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture;

Granting of access to the UN Special Rapporteur on 11 mechanisms of the UN, including the Special Rapporteur on torture;

Creation of conditions for the conduct of functions of the International Committee of the Red Cross mission in prisons;

 — Granting accreditation to HRW and its employees and to creation of conditions supporting the monitoring of human rights in Uzbekistan;

Abolition of the practice of arbitrary extension of terms of imprisonment for minor offences or "violation of internal regulations" under Article 221 of the Criminal Code "disobedience to legitimate orders of administration of institution of execution of penalty";

Removal of restrictions on leaving the country by the civil society activists who openly express their opinions;

Compliance with International Labour Organization Convention No. 105 on the Prohibition of Forced Labour and Convention No. 182 on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by enforcing national laws prohibiting forced labor and child labour;

—  The ILO’s unfettered access to conduct a survey of the application of ILO Convention No. 105 on the Abolition of Forced Labor and for ILO monitors to monitor Convention No. 105 throughout the 2015 with the participation of the International Organisation of Employers, International Trade Union Confederation, International Union of Foodworkers and local independent civil society activists and groups;

 — Ratification and implementation of ILO Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize so farmers and farmworkers can form independent organizations to represent their interests, speak out when abuses such as forced labor occur, and negotiate for better working conditions;


Uzbekistan: The judges elected as MPs did not resign from the judiciary

#WithUzbeks Sitting judges took offices of MPs at the new parliament of Uzbekistan, contrary to Article 106 of the Constitution of Uzbekistan, which states: “The judicial authority in the Republic of Uzbekistan shall function independently from the legislative and executive branches, political parties, and public organisations” and the Resolution of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On Amendments and additions to some resolutions of the Plenum of the Supreme Court and the Plenum of the Supreme Economic Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan” dated 3 October 2014.

The following names appear in the list of deputies elected inconstituencies to the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis:

  1. 1. Doniyor Hasanovic Abdukadirov, born in 1981 He serves as a judge of the Tashkent City Commercial Court. He is elected as a deputy representing Zangiota constituency № 81. He was nominated by Movement of Entrepreneurs and Businessmen - Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, a non-partisan (№2 in the list).
  1. Davron Rakhimovich Aripov, born in 1974. He serves as a judge of the Tashkent Regional Criminal Court. He is elected as a deputy representing Bekabad constituency № 78. The “Milliy Tiklanish” (National Revival) Democratic Party of Uzbekistan nominated him, a non-partisan (№ 10 in the list).
  1. Shukhrat Tagaymuratovich Polvanov, born in 1977. He serves as a judge of the Supreme Economic Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan. He is elected as a deputy representing Samarkand constituency № 60. The “Adolat” (Justice) Social Democratic Party of Uzbekistan nominated him, a non-partisan (№ 65 in the list).
  1. Bibisanem Tadzhivaevna Temirkhanova, born in 1964. She serves as a judge of the Supreme Economic Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan. She is elected as a deputy representing Turtkul constituency № 2. She was nominated by Movement of Entrepreneurs and Businessmen - Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, a member of the UzLibDemP, a non-partisan (№82 in the list).
  1. Zakir Sabirdzhanovich Umarov, born in 1980. He serves as a judge of the Tashkent City Commercial Court. He is elected as a deputy representing Darkhan constituency №125. He was nominated by Movement of Entrepreneurs and Businessmen - Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, a non-partisan (№99 in the list).
  1. Alisher Shonazarovich Khamraev, born in 1968. He serves as a Deputy Chair of the Kashkadarya Regional Commercial Court. He is elected as a deputy representing Samarkand Region, Taylyak constituency №61. The “Milliy Tiklanish” (National Revival) Democratic Party nominated him, a non-partisan (№112 in the list).
  1. Utkir Shomurodovich Kholov, born in 1970. He serves as a judge of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan. He is elected as a deputy representing Shakhrud constituency №23. The “Adolat” (Justice) Social Democratic Party of Uzbekistan nominated him, a non-partisan (№ in the list).
  1. Vladislav Olegovich Tsvetkov, born in 1978. He serves as a judge of the Tashkent City Criminal Court. He is elected as a deputy representing Kuylyuk constituency № 134. He was nominated by Movement of Entrepreneurs and Businessmen - Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, a non-partisan (№122 in the list).
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Association for Human Rights in Central Asia is concerned about the violation of the constitutional principle of the independence of the judiciary in Uzbekistan.

Presence of the sitting judges in the legislature raises a number of questions:
How is it possible to consider the court decisions of these judges to be objective and fair?
How judges of the Supreme Economic Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan permanently residing in the city of Tashkent were elected: Shukhrat Tagaymuratovich Polvanov to represent Samarkand constituency, and Bibisanem Tadzhibaevna Temirkhanova to represent the Turtkul constituency number 2 located in the Republic of Karakalpakstan?
How are they are going to carry out parliamentary duties of their constituencies, permanently living in Tashkent, combining it with the practice of jurisprudence?

*  *  *
Uzbek authorities are taking a formalistic approach towards the so-called reform of the judicial system. Meanwhile, its dependence on the executive branch is increasing. As one can see, among the elected deputies, there is a judge, and a member of a political party, namely the Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan. This is Bibisanem Tadzhibaevna Temirkhanova. In the list of deputies elected in constituencies to the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis (in line №82), it says that she is “a member of UzLibDemP” and a “non-partisan”. Is this an error or a manipulation?

As it appears, all those judges who participated in the parliamentary elections, as well as the Head of the Central Election Commission Mr M. Abdusalomov, most likely, do not fully understand the notion of independence of the judiciary. The Honoured Lawyer of Uzbekistan, the former Chairman of the Supreme Economic Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the current Head of the Constitutional Court of Uzbekistan is in breach of fundamental constitutional principles.

The Chairman of the National Centre for Human Rights Mr Akmal Saidov is actively trying to convince international experts and members of the UN Council on Human Rights of the fact that Uzbekistan has an independent judiciary. In the national reports submitted during the reporting period to the executive committees of the United Nations, Mr A. Saidov presents a long list of seminars and training provided for practicing judges. Uzbek President Islam Karimov says the same in his laudatory speeches. Moreover, the bulk of these events are carried out with funds obtained from the European Union and the United Nations as a financial aid.

Uzbekistan received assistance under the “Reform of Civil Procedure: effective judicial administration” project provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP, a body of the United Nations designed to assist member countries in their development). The project focuses on:
creation of favourable conditions in law and in practice for further development of civil litigation,
improving access to justice through the introduction of electronic means in litigation,
improving the quality and enforceability of judicial decisions,
raising awareness of the legal measures of protection of civil rights,
improving the effectiveness of civil proceedings.

Representatives of the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), Regional Office of Friedrich Ebert Foundation and Representative Office of the “Regional Dialogue”, an international NGO (Slovenia), the Higher Qualification Commission for the Selection and Recommendation of Judges at the Administration of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Supreme Economic Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan attended the events organised within the framework of this project.

In 2011, within the framework of the EU strategy for human rights in Central Asia, Uzbekistan received financial support in the amount of 10 million euros designated for the reform of the judicial system. Practicing judges from Uzbekistan visited France as part of the government delegation to share experiences.

Millions of taxpayers' money of the democratic countries have gone into the creation of an independent judicial system in Uzbekistan. As a result, eight practicing judges are now Members of the Parliament of Uzbekistan. This shows, again, that all human rights dialogues and intergovernmental projects aimed at development of the judicial system of Uzbekistan are carried out formalistically.


Turkey: Leader of the Tajik opposition Umarali Kuvatov murdered in Istanbul

On 5 March 2015, at 22:30 by Istanbul time, in the Simsar Street of the Molla Guraniy community of the Fatih district, leader of the opposition organisation “Group 24” of Tajikistan, Umarali Kuvatov was murdered by shots at close range.

Umarali Kuvatov
Umarali Izatovich Kuvatov, was born on 21 November 1968 in the city of Dushanbe. He was a citizen of Tajikistan He was married and had children. He was an entrepreneur.
From 2001 to 2012 U. Kuvatov in cooperation with Shamsullo Sokhibov, the son-in-law of the President Imomali Rakhmon worked on shipment of fuel to the NATO base in Afghanistan. As a result of a conflict with Sokhibov, he had to leave the country and became a member of the opposition.
In 2012 Kuvatov became a leader of the «Group 24» movement, which campaigns for stopping the President of Tajikistan. In 2014 the authorities of Tajikistan declared the “Group 24” an “extremist organisation”.
Since July 2014, Kuvatov was living in Turkey as an asylum seeker under mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

On 19 December 2014 he was arrested by Turkish secret service, following a call from an
March 5, 2015

unidentified caller. On 3 February 2015 he was released in accordance with the decision of an administrative court on a condition that he had to leave Turkey in one month’s time. Not long before the tragedy, Umarali Kuvatov was granted a temporary permission to stay in Turkey legally.

For the last three years, Kuvatov received regular threats and noticed surveillance around him of the Tajik looking individuals. The Turkish authorities did not take his reports seriously enough. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees considered his case quite formalistically.

Umarali Kuvatov was an active political leader and was courageous in his criticism of corruption Tajik government is mired in and the repression it exercises.

The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia expresses condolences to Umarali Kuvatov’s family and his loved ones.

We cherish his memory.

Our previous publications on this matter:
        – Press Release «Turkey: the leader of «Goup 24» Umarali Kuvatov is detained» dated 20 December 2014;
        – Press Release  «Turkey: the leader of «Group 24» Umarali Kuvatov faces a threat of extradition» dated 13 January 2015;