Message to UN review: Systemic reform needed in Uzbekistan to protect fundamental rights

In May 2018 Uzbekistan’s compliance with its international human rights obligations will be assessed during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a state peer review mechanism carried out under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council.

A submission for this review prepared by the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA), International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and CIVICUS assesses Uzbekistan’s implementation of its obligations on the rights to freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, and unwarranted restrictions on human rights defenders. It is based on information obtained by AHRCA through its monitoring of developments in Uzbekistan through a network of in-country activists and analyzes of national legislation and practice in regard to fundamental freedoms.

The submission highlights the lack of progress made in fully implementing recommendations received by Uzbekistan during the 2nd UPR cycle in 2013. It particular, we note that although over the last year there have been some improvements to the environment for civic space, the situation for human rights activists and journalists remains deeply constrained.

Since this submission was completed, there have been further developments in the situation of civic space and CIVICUS, AHRCA and IPHR will summarize these nearer the time of the UPR review, which is scheduled to take place in May 2018.

Download the joint UPR submission on Uzbekistan


Еnd of a long and painful wait: former prisoner finally granted permission to travel abroad

Murad Djuraev,  2017
“ Despite all the years I spent behind bars, when I suffered betrayal, separation from my family, hunger , torture, and when I lost the will to fight ... solidarity proved to be stronger than all the obstacles and trials. As long as there is a human rights movement, there is a chance of saving those who share the idea of ​​living in a fair society. " Murad Djuraev, October 2017

The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA), Amnesty International and International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) welcome the news that on 7 October 2017 the Uzbekistani authorities granted permission to travel abroad to former parliamentarian Murad Djuraev, who was convicted for anti state crimes on politically-motivated charges and sentenced to 12 years in prison after an unfair trial in 1995. 

Murad Djuraev was released from prison in November 2015 after completing a 21-year sentence in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions. His original sentence was arbitrarily extended no less than four times because he allegedly violated the prison regime. One of the accusations against him was that he had not peeled carrots in the correct way.

 He requires urgent spinal surgery, but until two days ago had been refused permission to leave the country for treatment in Germany.

In August 2017 President Shavkat Mirziyoev signed a decree abolishing the legal requirement for nationals of Uzbekistan to apply for and obtain permission to travel abroad before leaving the country. The decree will enter into force on 1 January 2019. The use of these so-called exit visas is a practice that has long ago been abolished elsewhere in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

AHRCA, AI and IPHR urge the Uzbekistani authorities to take immediate action to end the practice of arbitrarily denying permission to leave the country to all other former prisoners, including those previously imprisoned on politically motivated grounds, who have been denied the right to travel abroad. In particular:
  • Former newspaper editor, Muhammad Bekjanov, who was released in February 2017 after spending 17 years in prison on politically motivated charges but remains under police supervision. Muhammad Bekjanov has not yet applied for an exit visa to travel abroad for medical treatment, as a local police officer told him that persons under supervision are not allowed to travel abroad. Bekjanov’s wife and children live in the United States and he has not seen his children for 19 years and has never met his grandchildren; and
  • Human rights defender and writer Mamadali Makhmudov who was released from prison in 2014 after serving a 14-year prison sentence handed down on politically-motivated grounds but who has not yet been granted an exit visa, for which he has repeatedly applied, since June 2016 and has therefore not been able to leave the country for medical treatment. Mamadali Makhmudov has heart, stomach (ulcer) and kidney (stones) problems and needs a pacemaker fitted.
Other individuals not in detention, who criticize or who are perceived to criticize the Uzbekistani authorities, have also been arbitrarily denied permission to leave Uzbekistan. For example, the artist Vyacheslav Akhunov has not obtained permission to travel abroad, despite repeated appeals since 2012.  He was first refused an exit visa in January 2012 after criticizing Gulnara Karimova, daughter of late President Islam Karimov, on the website of the independent Fergana news agency. 


Independent journalist Bobomurod Abdullayev arrested as OSCE prepares to discuss media freedom in Tashkent

The Civic Solidarity Platform
On 18-19 October 2017 Tashkent will host the Central Asian Media Conference organized by the Office of the Representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Freedom of the Media.
It is in this context that we, members of the Civic Solidarity Platform, and the other undersigned organizations express our concern for the safety of Uzbekistani journalist Bobomurod Abdullayev who was arrested on 27 September 2017 by officers of the National Security Services. We call for his immediate release and investigations into apparently unlawful arrest, and incommunicado detention.
An independent journalist and well known sports reporter and football commentator, Bobomurod Abdullayev previously also participated as an independent expert in discussions on “Ozodlik”, the Uzbek service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. He set up the media rights organization “OZOD OVOZ / Free Voice”, and worked as correspondent for Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and Internews International.
On 27 September 2017 Bobomurod Abdullayev was seized by law enforcement officers as he left his house in Tashkent at about 13;30 pm. He was held in custody without contact with the outside world  and only on 29 September did his relatives learn he was being held in Yunusabad district police station  in Tashkent. According to his wife, he is formally being detained on suspicion of theft, although observers believe the detention is politically-motivated. Recently Bobomurod Abdullayev had told relatives he believed he was being followed. Reportedly, the investigation is being conducted by the Investigation Department of the National Security Service of Uzbekistan, whose officers searched Bobomurod Abdullayev’s house on 29 September for over five hours and confiscated books, a computer and other media equipment.
On 29 September Bobomurod Abdullayev‘s family contacted an independent defence lawyer and on 1 October, his wife was able to visit him briefly in detention. However, on 1 October the family informed the lawyer that they do not require legal representation. This indicates that the family may be coming under pressure from the authorities.
Also on 1 October Yunusabad district Court was due to hear the case for remand in custody of Bobomurod Abdullayev but his relatives were unable to find out if this had taken place or not.
Since he came to power in September last year, Uzbekistan’s current President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has taken steps to show the international community that he intends to implement much needed reforms in Uzbekistan. However, incidents such as this one clearly demonstrate that much remains to be done to end systemic repression of free speech and civic space in Uzbekistan. The detention of Bobomurod Abdullayev shows that there are as yet no convincing signs of an end to the long-standing pattern of persecution of journalists and human rights defenders in Uzbekistan.
The undersigned organizations call on the Uzbekistani authorities to immediately release Bobomurad Abdullayev and respect his fundamental rights to freedom of expression, as well as his rights to a defence lawyer of his choice and to ensure that he is protected from torture and other ill-treatment.
Signed by the following NGOs:
  1. Association for Human Rights in Central Asia
  2. Austrian Helsinki Association
  3. Bir Duino
  4. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
  5. Committee against Torture
  6. Centre de la protection internationale
  7. Center for Civil Liberties Ukraine
  8. Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights
  9. Center for Participation and Development
  10. Crude Accountability
  11. Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor
  12. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights Poland
  13. Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
  14. Human Rights Centre “Viasna” (Belarus)
  15. Humanrights.ch
  16. Information Agency Fergana.ru
  17. IDP Women Association “Consent”
  18. International Partnership for Human Rights
  19. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rue of Law
  20. Legal policy research center
  21. Moscow Helsinki Group
  22. Norwegian Helsinki Committee
  23. “Protection of rights without borders”, Armenia
  24. Public Association “Dignity “ supports
  25. Public Verdict
  26. Women of the Don
  27. The Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights
  28. Helsinki Committee of Armenia


A freelance journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev arrested in Uzbekistan

Bobomurod Abdullaev
On 27 September 2017, at approximately 13.30 in Tashkent, a journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev left his house but did not come back. Two days later, his family learnt that he was in custody in the pre-trial detention facility of the National Security Service of Uzbekistan.

In the afternoon of 29 September officers of the Security Services conducted a search, which lasted six hours, in the house where Bobomud Abdullaev lived with his family. The processor, books, disks and flash cards were seized. There is no information yet about the state of Bobomurod Abdullaev. A lawyer has not been allowed yet to see him.

Bobomurod ABDULLAEV was born in 1973. He has higher education. Mr. Abdullaev is a freelance journalist, he has been commenting on football competitions as a sports observer for many years; He participates as an independent expert in radio discussions of Ozodlik – the Uzbek language service of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Mr. Abdullaev is the founder and was the leader of the project Ozod Ovoz – Free Voice. As an IWPR correspondent, he also participated in media projects of Internews International. Mr. Abdullaev started his journalistic career as the Editor in Chief of the Methodology Department of the Central Bank of the Republic of Uzbekistan and worked at the press service of the ASAKA Bank in Tashkent.

According to the preliminary version of the investigation, he was suspected of stealing. It is possible that this is a formal reason for his arrest, because, shortly before being arrested, he noticed that his was under surveillance.

On 1 October a court hearing was scheduled at the Yunusabad District Criminal Court to extend his preliminary detention. Neither his defence lawyer nor his family were able to find out whether this hearing took place or not.

We regard the arrest of Bobomurod Abdullayev, on the eve of the Central Asian Media Conference on the issues of the media freedom,organised by the Representative Office of the Organisation for Security andCooperation in Europe (OSCE), as a clear signal that the Uzbek authorities are not prepared to have a dialogue with civil society.

We urge the government of Uzbekistan to immediately release the freelance journalist Bobomurod Abdullayev, respect his right to express his opinion freely and unhindered, have access to a defence lawyer of his choice and ensure that his trial is public, as well as granting access to his lawyer and relatives.