Open Letter Regarding the Human Rights Situation in Azerbaijan

We the undersigned are alarmed by the deteriorating human rights situation in Azerbaijan. Arrests and detentions of journalists, civil society and human rights activists, religious believers, and opposition figures have multiplied; Azerbaijan now has twice as many political prisoners as Russia and Belarus combined. The government has targeted domestic and foreign NGOs, freezing their bank accounts and effectively paralyzing them. Senior government officials have engaged in an ugly anti-Western campaign. Corruption is a huge problem and inhibits the country’s ability to flourish economically and politically. The December 26 raid on the office of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a publicly funded news organization that reaches countries in the former Soviet Union and beyond, represents a direct challenge to the principles of freedom of speech. Through these actions and statements, the government of Azerbaijan has openly rejected its international obligations as signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Open Government Partnership as well as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and as a member of the OSCE and the Council of Europe.

The time has come to impose consequences on the Azerbaijani government for its abysmal treatment of its own people. Official expressions of concern about the deteriorating human rights situation have not yielded results. Accordingly, more concrete measures including targeted sanctions against specific government officials should be adopted to reverse this trend and bring Azerbaijan back to a path toward meaningful European integration. Western governments and parliaments should:
  • Impose a visa ban and asset freeze on senior Azerbaijani government officials responsible for and involved in gross human rights abuses. In the United States, President Obama has existing authority to deny visas under an August 2011 presidential proclamation that bars entry to “persons who participate in serious human rights abuses.” We urge other democratic states to follow suit.
  • Block trade promotion assistance—e.g., in the U.S., Export-Import Bank and OPIC support—to Azerbaijani state-owned entities.
  • Convene congressional/parliamentary hearings on the declining human rights situation in Azerbaijan to shine a spotlight on the abuses. Increasing awareness about the real situation inside the country is imperative.
  • Organize a political leaders boycott of the inaugural European Olympic Games, which the Aliyev government will host in June. We also urge corporate partners of the games to withdraw their sponsorship.
Human rights organizations, governments, and international organizations have already called for the immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners, but such calls have not been heeded by the government of Azerbaijan, which persists in a targeted campaign against critics of the government. In a resolution passed September 18, 2014, the European Parliament called on Azerbaijan to release all political prisoners and noted a number of measures that could be used if Azerbaijan fails to do so, including consideration of the “possibility of targeted sanctions against those responsible for human rights violations.” The resolution also called on member states to сommunicate with the International Olympic Committee to ensure that Azerbaijan complies with the principles of the Olympic Charter ahead of the European games that are planned in Baku in June. In addition, a December 2014 report of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe reiterated numerous prior findings and reports from the Commission and the European Court of Human Rights that Azerbaijan’s NGO legislation unduly restricts freedom of association and has a “chilling effect on civil society.” 

The Council of Europe’s human rights chief, Nils Muiznieks, slammed the Azerbaijani government last year for the “totally unacceptable” human rights situation, which, he said, “flies in the face of the human rights obligations undertaken by Azerbaijan” as a member of the Council. Last August, several UN human rights envoys said they were “appalled” by the growing number of abuses and arrests of rights activists “on the basis of trumped-up charges.” The “criminalization of rights activists must stop,” they declared. 

Human Rights Watch, in its annual report, says the Azerbaijani government "escalated repression" against its critics last year, "marking a dramatic deterioration in its already poor rights record." Freedom House, in its annual report, noted yearly “declines in political rights and civil liberties” in Azerbaijan, as the government “stepped up its jailing of human rights activists, journalists, and other perceived enemies.” 

Religious freedom in Azerbaijan is also under threat, with a marked increase in arrests and repression of civil society activists and religious communities in Azerbaijan. The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2012 issued a joint legal opinion finding that Azerbaijan’s 2009 religion law failed to meet its international human rights commitments. In 2014, the European Court for Human Rights found that this law gives the Azeri authorities “an unlimited discretionary power” to define and prosecute “illegal” religious activity. Provisions of that law include: compulsory state registration with complex and intrusive requirements; no appeal for registration denials; religious activities are limited to a community’s registered address; extensive state controls on the content, production, import, export, and distribution of religious materials; and state-approved religious education to preach, teach religion or lead ceremonies. Those found in violation of this law face fines that have increased exponentially since 2010.

There are nearly 100 political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The most prominent cases include:
  • Khadija Ismayilova, an intrepid journalist and contributor to RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service who has been detained on spurious allegations. A representative for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) called Ms. Ismayilova’s arrest “nothing but orchestrated intimidation.”
  • Activists Leyla and Arif Yunus, accused of spying for Armenian secret services—implausible charges linked to the decades-old dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. Ms. Yunus’s health is deteriorating rapidly, as she has been denied medical treatment for diabetes, high blood pressure and hepatitis.
  • Several leading opposition figures—including Ilgar Mammadov of the opposition movement REAL and Tofig Yakublu of Musavat—who languish in prison on unsubstantiated charges. In an October 2014 decision that should be binding on Azerbaijan, the European Court for Human Rights found Ilgar Mammadov to be a political prisoner and, citing numerous violations of the European Charter, called for his immediate release. Appeals pertaining to other political prisoners are being considered by the ECHR.
  • The trial of Rasul Jafarov began in January 2015. He is head of the Human Rights Club which took a leading role in exposing human rights abuses in Azerbaijan, particularly with his Sing for Democracy Campaign that embarrassed the government during the Eurovision song сontests. He has provided information about political prisoners, including Muslims jailed for the non-violent practice of their faith or advocacy for religious freedom. Most were sentenced for publicly protesting what is in effect a ban on headscarves in schools;13 of that  group are still imprisoned and seven were released in 2014.
  • Activists Anar Mammadli and Bashir Suleymanli of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS) were arrested and handed multi-year prison sentences following their public criticism of fraud in the October 2013 presidential election. They were among the first human rights activists arrested in the crackdown on civil society. Suleymanli was recently pardoned but Mammadli, who was awarded the 2014 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, remains in prison.
  • Intiqam Aliyev, head of the Legal Education Society and one of Azerbaijan’s most prominent human rights lawyers, was arrested on trumped-up charges last summer. If convicted, he faces up to twelve years in jail. Aliyev has submitted more than two hundred cases to the European Court of Human Rights concerning violations of fundamental freedoms of Azerbaijani citizens. In 2013, in recognition of his exceptional commitment to protecting human rights, Mr.Aliyev was awarded the People in Need Homo Homini Award.
  • Rauf Mirkadirov, a prominent independent journalist and columnist with Zerkalo newspaper, was arrested in Baku airport in April 2014, after being deported from Turkey. Mirkadirov, who had been living in Turkey, was charged with espionage on behalf of Armenia, following a trip he made to Armenia to meet with civil society activists.
  • Emin Huseynov, director of the Azerbaijani NGO Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), has been in hiding in Azerbaijan since August 2014. He is the subject of a travel ban and faces imminent arrest due to criminal charges that stem from his lawful human rights work. Other employees of IRFS have similarly faced travel bans, as well as interrogations, asset freezes, and physical attacks. Several were forced to flee the country. IRFS was raided by the Azerbaijani government around the time Huseynov went into hiding and remains closed to this day.
In addition, family members of activists are being targeted. The case against Gunel Hasanli, daughter of National Council and former presidential candidate Jamil Hasanli and young mother of two small children, who has been sentenced to two years in jail, is a total fabrication with no basis whatsoever. She has never been active in politics but is being punished because of her father’s political activities. Lawyers defending dissidents and human rights activists are also being persecuted for fulfilling their professional responsibilities, including Khalid Bagirov, who is facing politically motivated disbarment charges. His license has been suspended, depriving him of the opportunity to represent his clients who include Leyla and Arif Yunus, Rasul Jafarov, and Ilgar Mammadov.

For years, Azerbaijan’s importance as an energy supplier and partner on security and counter-terrorism has outweighed attention to its deplorable human rights record. Western officials have tended to mute their criticism of the human rights situation in Azerbaijan, allowing other interests to dominate the agenda. The growing repression during the past year, however, has now made such an approach especially untenable. With parliamentary elections scheduled for later this year, we fear the situation will only get worse unless the West takes decisive action.

To avoid imposition of such sanctions, and consistent with its commitments as a member of the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and other international agreements and covenants, the government of Azerbaijan needs to undertake the following steps:
  • Release all political prisoners and those imprisoned for practicing their nonviolent religious beliefs and grant them full political rehabilitation. Those imprisoned or on trial on religion-related charges, including those who publicly protested the de facto hijab ban, should have their rights fully restored.
  • Permit unrestricted visits by the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture.
  • Cease harassment and intimidation of family members of opposition activists, human rights defenders, and their lawyers.
  • Respect the rights of journalists to do their job unhindered.
  • End the campaign against domestic and foreign non-governmental organizations and stop the push for legislation that would restrict the activities and funding of NGOs.
  • Create the conditions for free and fair parliamentary elections later this year.
  • Permit foreign broadcasters to resume operations without fear of state harassment and raids.
We hope that Azerbaijan will succeed as a democratic state fully integrated into the international community. We hope that stronger ties will develop between Azerbaijan and countries in the West. We support efforts to resolve peacefully the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. But none of this is possible as long as Azerbaijan continues down the authoritarian path it is currently on. 

The government of Azerbaijan cannot be both a respected member of the international community and a repressive, kleptocratic autocracy. It must choose. We urge it to choose democracy and respect for human rights, a course that is in the best interests of the people of Azerbaijan and in the cause of international peace.

Ambassador (ret.) Morton Abramowitz

Elliott Abrams
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights

Gorkhmaz Asgarov
Azerbaijani-Americans for Democracy (AZAD)

Association for the Protection and Promoting of Animals Rights (HAGID) – Turkey

Elmar Chakhtakhtinski
Azerbaijani-Americans for Democracy (AZAD)

Eric Chenoweth
Director, Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe

Nicholas Daniloff
Professor emeritus, Northeastern University

Christophe Deloire
Secretary General, Reporters Without Borders

Charles H. Fairbanks, Jr.

Larry Diamond
Hoover Institution and Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law,
Stanford University

Freedom to Earth Association (YOD) - Turkey

Jeffrey Gedmin
Georgetown University

Dr. Altay Goyushov

Johannes Grotzky
University of Bamberg, Germany

Jonas Gunnarsson
Head of the Swedish delegation to the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe

Roman Haken
Center for Community Work, Czech Republic

Brian Hook

Prof. William Inboden

Florian Irminger
Human Rights House Foundation HRHF

Ambassador (ret.) Richard Kauzlarich
Former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, 1994-97

Katrin Kinzelbach
Global Public Policy Institute, Germany

Jakub Klepal
Forum 2000, Czech Republic

Gerald Knaus
European Stability Initiative,

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


Secret services of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan made a pact to swap refugees

Special services of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have made a secret list of refugees residing in their territory and agreed on their mutual extradition.
In April 2015, representatives of special services of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan held a closed-door meeting. According to a credible source’s leaked information, a list of people living in these countries and wanted by the authorities was approved in this meeting. The information we receive from this source always gets confirmed.

Many on this list are subject to the protection criteria defined by the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees. Some of them applied to the UNHCR for refugee status.

The Uzbek side requested of Kyrgyzstan extradition of Karakalpak refugees. Uzbek authorities label these people “separatists” because they actively support independence of Karakalpakistan. More than 50 Karakalpaks living in Kyrgyzstan are under the threat of extradition. In Uzbekistan, they are at risk of torture, prolonged imprisonment and death. Relatives and persons with whom they maintained relations before their emigration are either in custody or under the total control of the security services.

The Kyrgyz side in return requested extradition of Kyrgyz citizens, ethnic Uzbeks, persecuted for their involvement in the Osh events of June 2010. Uzbekistan is known to be home to about 100 ethnic Uzbeks originally from the south of Kyrgyzstan. In the case of forced return, they are at risk of torture, life imprisonment, death, confiscation of property and discrimination against their relatives along ethnic lines. The government officials, nationalists and criminal gangs systematically put pressure on judges and lawyers in Kyrgyzstan. Therefore, ethnic Uzbeks in the country have no chance of an impartial and fair trial. Cases of Azimjon Askarov Dilmurad Khaidarov, Mirzahid Vahabzhanov and others show this to be the case.

In Uzbekistan, all Uzbeks who fled southern Kyrgyzstan have been under the surveillance of the National Security Service (SNB) for the last fine years. Their freedom of movement is restricted, the National Security Service seized their passports and curtails their attempts to legalise. In actual fact, they are refugees. They had to leave their homes under threat of death during inter-ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan and live in Uzbekistan illegally. The refugees were willing to legalise. However, the Uzbek authorities did not allowed them to do so and this puts these people in complete dependence on the decisions of various government departments, without any involvement of international organisations and independent observers.

If refugees exchange takes place, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan will demonstrate once again their reluctance to comply with international agreements on human rights and safeguard the rule of law.

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia calls on
 United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,
— United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,
 United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture,
 EU Commissioner for Human Rights,
— EU Commissioner for Central Asia
to intervene in this situation.

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia appeals to all diplomatic missions and the media to seek suspension of the mass expulsion of refugees and their forced return to the countries of origin, where they are in mortal danger. We urge you to do everything that is necessary for the legalisation of persons in need of international protection.


Uzbek Government Forces Labor & Extorts Funds From Citizens and Corporations

New report highlights how the cotton harvest fosters modern day slavery and extortion 

In 2014, the government of Uzbekistan forced more than a million of its own citizens to pick cotton, and officials extorted individuals and businesses, including multinational companies, at a larger scale as part of the annual Uzbek cotton harvest, according to a new report released by the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights (UGF). 

Although the government did not systematically mobilize children throughout the country to pick cotton, as it had in previous years, this did not decrease the massive scale of forced labor, as the government instead coerced more adults to pick cotton in their place. 

The study of the 2014 cotton harvest also found an unprecedented degree of extortion of individuals and businesses that fueled the forced labor system, including keeping people in fields even though there is no more cotton to pick so people are still forced to pay fees for food and board, etc., and setting unattainable quotas so people had to pay to make up deficits.  

“The scope of the bribery is simply astounding,” said Umida Niyazova, UGF director. “At all levels of government, officials take their cut, and Uzbek citizens, particularly public sector workers are forced to pay or pick cotton through intimidation and fear.”

The Government’s Riches, the People’s Burden: Human Rights Violations in Uzbekistan’s 2014 Cotton Harvest documents the 2014 cotton harvest with data gathered by human rights monitors and interviews of hundreds of people forced to participate. The report finds that in 2014, more public sector workers were mobilized than in previous years, handicapping essential public services such as healthcare and education during the two months of the cotton harvest. 

“Students and the sick suffer during the harvest time,” said Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. “Schools and health clinics cannot function with so many staff sent to pick cotton. Students cannot receive the quality of education that they deserve, and medical care is inaccessible to people, even when they are very ill.”

The increase in adult workers was, according to the report, to make up for a substantial decrease in the number of children forced to harvest cotton. However, monitors still found many 17-year-olds were forcibly mobilized with their schools, and officials resorted to forcing younger children to pick cotton in several incidents. 

At least 17 people died during the harvest, the report found, and numerous people were injured, an increase from previous years. The report also documents brutal working conditions. Workers toiled in the fields for 10 hours a day with little rest and no days off, and their living conditions were often unheated, overcrowded, and lacking clean water and washing facilities. 

The report found that widespread extortion characterized the 2014 harvest more than in previous years, with officials lining their pockets at every level. Authorities extorted contributions from businesses small and large, payments from individuals to avoid field labor, and payments from forced laborers for food, transportation, and unmet quotas. The government’s practices in the cotton sector, the report states, undermine rule of law and nurtures a culture of impunity. Two multinational companies – Telia Sonera and Telenor – admitted to making contributions to the harvest in 2014, claiming it is a prerequisite for conducting business in Uzbekistan, and employees of another multinational corporation, General Motors, reported for a third straight year that they were sent to pick cotton.

“We’ve long known about the human rights risk associated with cotton sourced from Uzbekistan, but these findings raise alarms for any company invested in Uzbekistan,” said Emily Kaiser, sustainability analyst at Calvert Investments. “As the Uzbek government feels more international pressure to end its forced labor system, the system is becoming more volatile and destructive. It seems to be increasingly difficult for any company in Uzbekistan not to support the forced labor system in some form.”

The Cotton Campaign supports the report’s recommendations to the Uzbek government: to permit unfettered access to international organizations, journalists, and independent civil society, and to undertake fundamental reforms of the cotton sector that would eliminate forced labor. As UGF notes in the report, it is also incumbent on Uzbekistan’s international partners, including the United States, European Union, World Bank and International Labour Organization, to use their influence to impress upon the Uzbek government the necessity of these reforms.


Watch a video of the 2014 cotton harvest, by Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights: 

The Cotton Campaign is a global coalition of labor, human rights, investor and business organizations coalesced to end forced labor of children and adults in the cotton sector of Uzbekistan.

For more information, please contact:
In Berlin, for Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, Umida Niyazova, +49-17687-532684umida.niyazova@uzbekgermanforum.org (English, Russian, Uzbek)

In New York, for the Cotton Campaign, Matthew Fischer-Daly (English, Spanish): +1-347-266-1351cottoncampaigncoordinator@gmail.com

In Paris, for the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Nadejda Atayeva, 

In Washington DC, for Calvert Investments, Melinda Lovins, 301-657-7089melinda.lovins@calvert.com,  

In London, for Anti-Slavery International, Jakub Sobik, j.sobik@antislavery.org, and Klara Skrivankova, k.skrivankova@antislavery.org (English and German)

For more reporting by the Uzbek-German Forum on cotton and forced labor in Uzbekistan, see: http://uzbekgermanforum.org/ 

For more information on the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, visit http://www.ahrca.org/

For more information on the Cotton Campaign, see: www.cottoncampaign.org



Turkey: journalist Gulnora Ravshan noticed surveillance

Gulnora Ravshan, a journalist report from Turkey: «…to start with, they would call over the phone but say nothing, then they started threatening and now they are watching my every movement».
Gulnora RAVSHAN was born on 28 July 1966 in Tajikistan. She is a citizen of Tajikistan, ethnic Uzbek.

She has a higher education degree. She works in the field of journalism. From January 2006 to March 2012, she was an Uzbek service correspondent of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

She is the mother of four children.

Gulnora Ravshan had to leave Tajikistan in 2013 to escape a punishment on trumped-up charges of spying for Uzbekistan.

In February 2015, she filed a report with the Foreigner’s Department of the City of Bursa Directorate of Security (Emnıyat Mudurluğu yabancıler şubesı); in her report, she wrote: «On 30 January, at about 5 o’clock in the morning, I went to a park with my children. My eldest daughter Rushana noticed a man watching us. Soon after, I noticed that the same man was following us.

He was wearing a brown jacket and a hat, which made it impossible to identify him. He was dressed in dark blue jeans. When he realised that, we noticed him, he was gone.

On 31 January, around 10:30 am, I went to a meeting with my friend, a woman from Uzbekistan (the name is withheld here for safety reasons- AHRCA), she lives in the city of Bursa. And on that day, on the way to this meeting, I also noticed that the man wearing the same clothes was constantly following me at a short distance behind me.

In addition, on 24 January 2015 Google informed me that someone was trying to break into my email account. I can provide a copy of this report, if necessary.

Even before the above-mentioned instances, an unknown man, saying that he knew me and was trying to ask me what I do in Turkey and to find out the details of my personal life, approached me. I received a few calls from him, when I called back, he never picked up the phone.

I am in a panic, I do not know how to protect myself and my children».

On 2 February 2015, Gulnora Ravshan filed a complaint at the Office of the General Prosecutor of Turkey (Türkıye Cumhuriyet Savcılığı). There she was told that they have no agency that would be specialised in affairs of foreign citizens under the protection of UNHCR, so they consider her complaint on the same basis as others and cannot respond in expedited manner.

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) calls for provision of international protection of Gulnora Ravshan, a refugee from Tajikistan, who is prosecuted in the country of origin for her professional activities. And in this regard, the AHRCA appeals for intervention of:
— The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR);
— International Organisation for Migration (IOM);
— agencies of internal affairs of Turkey;
— international human rights organisations;
— the media.


Uzbekistan: the authorities do not allow the lawyer Polina Braunerg to travel abroad

#WithUzbeks The lawyer Polina Braunerg plans to travel to get a medical treatment, but the authorities of Uzbekistan rejected her application for a permit to travel abroad. She needs adequate medical care.
Polina BRAUNERT was born on 11 October 1948 in the Akmolinskiy region of Kazakhstan. She is a citizen of Uzbekistan.

She is a qualified lawyer.

She is group 1 disabled.

Following her graduation from the law school of the Institute, she worked as an investigator at the Almalik town police department, where, from the very first days of her career, she was faced with serious violations of the law. She and other investigators were forced to "write off" unsolved murders, thefts, robberies of property of the deceased persons using the "testimony" of bogus witnesses.

Reluctant to carry out illegal orders of her superiors, Ms Braunerg resigned from the police. Since 1976, she has been working as a lawyer. She is known to the public for her bold and principled stand and views.

Pauline Braunerg handled the cases of political prisoners. During the investigation stage and in court, she represented the interests of prisoners and human rights defenders Fakhriddin Tillaev and Nuraddin Djumaniyazov. She defends imprisoned former Member of Parliament of Uzbekistan Murad Juraev, a human rights activist Shavkatzhon Hazhihanov, former editor of the "Erk" newspaper of the opposition party of the same name Muhammad Bekjan and others.

Ms Braunerg did a great deal of work in establishing the cause of death of Nilufar Rakhimzhanova who was sentenced to 10 years in prison but died in a women's prison in November 2014.  

  • Chronology
12 November 2014, Polina Braunerg submitted the documents required to obtain a permission to travel abroad at the Tashkent region Headquarters of the Department of control of entry, exit and registration of citizenship of the Ministry of Interior of Uzbekistan (UVVIG of the MOI of Uzbekistan).

5 December 2014, the deadline outlined in the guideline for consideration of the application expired. This was the day when the Tashkent regional Department of control of entry, exit and registration of citizenship was supposed to return her passport. However, they did not return it even either on 12 or 19 December.

26 December 2014, after repeated chasing letters, queries and requests Ms Braunerg received a reply that her application for an exit visa was rejected. She complained to the Prosecutor General of misconduct of the Tashkent region UVVIG. Ms Brounerg received formalistic responses where, with reference to paragraph three of the Decree №8 of the Cabinet of Ministers dated 06.01.1995, without explanation, it was stated that her right to travel abroad is restricted.

Her passport was returned, however, they are refusing to endorse it with a permit to exit the country.

Association for Human rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) believes that the Uzbek authorities are restricting Polina Braunerg’s right to travel because of her professional activities. Repeated phone call with treats from an anonymous caller preceded this politically motivated decision Ms Brounerg often notices that she is under a surveillance. 

The Association notes that in the case of Polina Braunerg the following provision of law have been violated:
  •  Article 28 of the Constitution of Republic of Uzbekistan:  Any citizen of the Republic of Uzbekistan shall have the right to freedom of movement in the territory of the Republic, as well as a free entry to and exit from it, except in the events specified by law.
  • Article 30 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan: All state bodies, public associations, and officials of the Republic of Uzbekistan shall allow any citizen access to documents, resolutions, and other materials, relating to their rights and interests.
  • Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
    (2)  Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.
  • Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
                      (1) Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
          (2) Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.


How many prisoners are there in Uzbekistan?

Information on the number of prisoners and the cost of maintaining them in Uzbekistan is classified and not reflected in the mainstream statistics. Main Department of Corrections (GUIN) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Uzbekistan is strictly controlled by a special department of the National Security Service.

In 2010, at the session of the Parliament, Islam Karimov said that for every 100,000 people in Uzbekistan there were 166 prisoners, i.e. there were approximately 46,480 people in prison. The Chairman of the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan stated the same data (166 per 100 thousand) in November 2014.

The International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS) relies on this figure. In 2013, the Centre reported that in 2012 the number of prisoners, including those under investigation, declined to 46 420 people, of whom 42,000 were serving sentences. These statements were published with reference to the US State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012. This report presents data on the number of prisoner held in 58 penal institutions of Uzbekistan in 2009. However, the Centre did not specify that the data available to the State Department was outdated.

As it turns out, ICPS collects information from different sources:

Penal Reform International — http://www.penalreform.org/where-we-work/central-asia/;

It is impossible to double-check the data provided by these sources. All attempts to find the publication by the links displayed leads to the main page of the website and in the archives were not saved. Uzbekistan does not allow access by the UN Special Rapporteurs for the past 11 years; it expelled the HRW from the country.

Our analysis shows that the official data provided by Tashkent causes serious doubts, because the figures are very low. As reported by the media, the Amnesty announced in November 2014 applied to more than 50,000 prisoners. In addition, in 2013, on the occasion of the 21st anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution, 69.5 thousand individuals were pardoned. These figures were published by Office of the Prosecutor General of Uzbekistan, with reference to the Resolution of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis (Parliament).

But, how can anyone amnesty 69,500 prisoners, if not long before such decision, according to official figures, there were a total of 46,480?

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (ARCA) sent a query to the International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS). We asked the ICPS to describe their methodology for obtaining input data and explain why, in their report for 2012, they were using the statistics applicable to 2009. Does the ICPS confirm the data presented their findings, which indicate a reduction of number of prisoners in Uzbekistan, or was that a mistake? We will inform the public when we receive a response to our query.

According to our sources, the Uzbek prison colonies are crowded. The prison cells designed for four people contain 8-9 prisoners. The number of the penal institutions and the number of prisoners in each colony changes frequently. The number of prison colonies may be declining, but the number of prisoners is only growing. For example, in 2011, the Andijan prison (УЯ 64/СИ-14 GUIN - Ed.) was closed. However, the prisoners held in that colony were transferred to other prisons, where new buildings were constructed. The public is usually informed about the new colonies and prisons, about the change of location, but not about the construction of new buildings or additional cells.

Unless some authoritative international mission visits prisons in Uzbekistan, the official statistics cannot be verified. Even the International Red Cross does not have access to the prisons for an independent assessment.
Association for Human Rights in Central Asia believes that the government of Uzbekistan completely falsifies data on the number of prisoners. Then many international publications and organisations circulate these figures without critical analysis and verification. Independent experts of the UN and the governments of democratic countries should request the authorities of Uzbekistan to publish reliable statistics on the number of prisons and prisoners in Uzbekistan.