Statement on the Commencement of Criminal Proceedings against Mutabar Tadjibaeva

the building of the Paris Courthouse, France.

The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (hereinafter AHRCA) announces that on 
26 March 2024 legal proceedings will commence against Mutabar Tadjibaeva, a resident of France and leader of the human rights organisation Flaming Hearts Club (France), in response to a complaint regarding the protection of honour, dignity, and business reputation filed by AHRCA, Nadejda Atayeva and Alim Ataev, within the framework of a criminal case opened on 22 January 2022 in France.

The authors submitted their complaint in December 2021 and were recognised as victims. They presented 13 statements containing defamation, insults, and dissemination of false information. During the investigation, the French Prosecutors Office brought additional charges related to two more statements. Within this criminal case, the court will provide legal assessment for 15 statements published online from October to December 2021.

The authors of the complaint are seeking a compensation for the moral damages sustained amounting to 35,000 euros.

The interests of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia are represented by Maître William WOLL.

Tadjibaeva has launched a constant media campaign that has been ongoing since 2017. She has posted over 500 publications online regarding the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Nadejda Atayeva, Alim Ataev, our friends and partners. Her statements are of a negative nature, resorting to direct insults, defamation, unsubstantiated and absurd accusations of committing particularly serious crimes.

The court hearing will convene at 13:30 on 26 March 2024,
the open hearing will take place at Parvis du tribunal de, 75017 Paris.

Those interested may observe this legal proceeding. Please note that the initial court sessions will address formal matters. Further information about sessions addressing the substance of the complaint will be provided separately.

The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) states its intention to pursue the accountability of M. Tadjibaeva under the current legislation of the French Republic.
We are grateful to all who continue supporting us and still believe in us.


* We will separately provide updates regarding the progress of other complaints against Mutabar
Tadjibaeva related to her publications from 2018 to 2024.


Turkmenistan: prisoner Allamurat HUDAYRAMOV was subjected to extrajudicial execution

We, representatives of civil society, express concern about yet another prisoner death. Citizen of Turkmenistan Allamurat HUDAYRAMOV died in an institution of the Ministry of National Security of Turkmenistan (hereinafter referred to as MNS).

On November 27, 2023, Allamurat HUDAYRAMOV was summoned by an investigator of the Mary regional department of the Ministry of National Security of Turkmenistan, where he was detained. And three days later, his sister was informed of her brother’s death. Deceased HUDAYRAMOV's body was given to his relatives after an autopsy.
According to many signs, HUDAYRAMOV was tortured before his death, as evidenced by numerous injuries on his body and head (video), ruptures of the skin on his legs and other parts of the body. For example, on the head there is a scar characteristic of a traumatic brain injury incompatible with life, on the wrists and shins of the deceased there are clearly visible marks of handcuffs, on the back there are hematomas with characteristic marks from blows with a blunt object, and hematomas are also visible on the soles of his feet.
According to “Turkmen.news”, HUDAYRAMOV was suspected of involvement in drug trafficking, and in Turkmenistan the Baluchis, to whom the victim belongs, are discriminated against, and security services often persecute them on arbitrary charges.
In Turkmenistan, there is no independent forensic expertise and no legal mechanism for urgent response to reports of torture, and there are no conditions for justice. The Turkmen authorities show no interest in bringing to justice those responsible for the death of Allamurat HUDAYRAMOV; moreover, they are putting pressure on the relatives not to make the incident public.
Most at risk of torture in Turkmenistan today are those expelled from the Russian Federation, Turkey, and other countries where they are compelled to seek the right to protection. It is reliably known that upon the forced return to Turkmenistan, Ashyrbay BEKIEV was sentenced to 23 years in prison. The fate of the other imprisoned citizens of Turkmenistan in the list below remains unknown:
Farhat MEYMANKULYYEV (1992), extradited from Turkey on May 19, 2023;
Rovshen KLYCHEV (1980), deported from Turkey on July 12, 2023;
Dovran IMAMOV (1991), deported from Turkey at the end of August 2023;
Maksat BAYMURADOV (1993), deported from Turkey on September 11, 2023;
Rustam SEITKULYYEV (1977), extradited from Russia on September 17, 2023;
Serdar DURDULYEV (1989), deported from Turkey on October 17, 2023.
The tragic fate of citizen of Turkmenistan Allamurat HUDAYRAMOV and the total lack of information about the other above-mentioned citizens deserve the attention of international experts and human rights activists. This is especially of grave concern after the adoption of the New Migration Rules of the European Union, which limit the possibility to enter the European Union, the United States and Canada. Their attempts to obtain protection in Turkey have proven disastrous for many of them, because countries such as Turkey and the Russian Federation are expelling Turkmen citizens en masse to their country of origin, ignoring the obligations to comply with the terms of Article 3. 1. “No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”
Kind regards,
Reyimberdy KURBANOV, researcher on Turkmenistan, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia – AHRCA
Gvantsa LOMAIAMaster of Laws Bachelor's Degree in International Human Rights Law/Project Officer of the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)
Jodgor OBIDHuman rights activist, member of the International PEN-Club, Austria
Matvey KURZUKOVCorrespondent for the site "VOT.TAK"
Leonid PIMENOVDocumentator of the Helsinki Foundation for Human RightsPoland
Dursoltan TAGANOVATurkmen human rights activist
Yekaterina CHUKAYEVACorrespondent for the website "Media Loft"
Shaberdy OMAROVFounder of the community "Invisible Rainbow of Turkmenistan"
Umit HALLYYEVIndependent journalist, Turkmenistan
Abdulla ORUSOVActivist of the Movement “Democratic Choice of Turkmenistan” (DWT)
Serdar HODJANEPESOVActivist of the Movement “Democratic Choice of Turkmenistan” (DWT)
Nurdjan SUZERActivist of the Movement “Democratic Choice of Turkmenistan” (DWT)
Alisher SAHATOVhuman rights blogger, Turkmenistan
Tahir URAZOVCivil society activist, Turkmenistan
Zarina GAPURDJANOVACivil society activist, Turkmenistan
Aishenur AKDASHHuman rights activist, Turkey
Oleg RODINcoordinator of the “Kovcheg” (Ark) project in Poland
Oksana VLASOVAHelsinki Foundation for Human RightsPoland
Nargiza MATYUSUPOVACivil society activist, Turkmenistan
Allamurat RAHIMOVIndependent journalist, Turkmenistan
Nadejda ATAYEVAPresident of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia - AHRCA, France
Alisher ABIDOVRepresentative of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia - AHRCA, Norway


France illegally deports refugee to Uzbekistan


On November 15, 2023, French authorities deported 39-year-old Mukhsinjon Akhmedov to Uzbekistan where he is at risk of torture and politically motivated imprisonment, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA), the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) said in a statement today. The forced return of Mr. Akhmedov to Uzbekistan violates the absolute principle of non-refoulement and is a blemish on France’s human rights record, the organizations said. Following the return of Akhmedov to Uzbekistan, the French Constitutional Court ruled that his deportation to Uzbekistan was carried out illegally.

Law enforcement officials in France detained Akhmedov, who had resided in France for years, on October 20 and placed him in a detention centre for foreigners. He was wanted by Uzbekistani authorities for charges of “attempts to the constitutional order”[1], provisions which are frequently used in cases of politically motivated persecution in Uzbekistan.

Three weeks after Akhmedov’s detention, French authorities deported him to Uzbekistan on November 15. His forced return took place despite the real risk that Mr. Akhmedov will be subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in Uzbekistan where such treatment remains a widespread problem – reportedly, at least twelve people have been tortured to death in Uzbekistani detention facilities in the last three years. Because of the risk of torture and ill-treatment, in March of this year the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)  adopted interim measures to prohibit Akhmedov’s forced return to Uzbekistan.

Following the forced return of Akhmedov to Uzbekistan, the French Constitutional Court for administrative cases, the Conseil d’etat, ruled on December 7, that his “removal to Uzbekistan, in violation of the interim measure prescribed by the European Court of Human Rights, constitutes a serious and manifestly illegal attack on a fundamental freedom”. The court also ordered the Minister of the Interior and Overseas Territories and the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs to implement all useful measures as quickly as possible to enable the return of Akhmedov to France at the expense of the French state. In addition, the Constitutional Court ordered the French state to pay Akhmedov Euro 3000 in compensation.

When Akhmedov arrived in Uzbekistan on November 15, he called his mother from the Taskhent International Airport telling her not to worry. However, law-enforcement agencies detained him shortly thereafter and transferred him to a detention facility in the city of Kokand. Following his forced return, Uzbekistani authorities have brought additional charges against Akhmedov – he is now charged with production and dissemination[2] of materials containing a threat to public security and public order, and smuggling[3] and risks up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

At the time of writing of this press release, Akhmedov’s lawyer had not been granted access to the materials of the criminal case. He was however able to meet his client in detention, and during this meeting Akhmedov told him that he has not been tortured in detention so far. However, the severity of the charges against him as well as his prior history with torture in Uzbekistan places him at serious risk of torture and other ill-treatment in Uzbekistan.

Akhmedov first found himself in the crosshairs of the Uzbekistani authorities in 2015 – during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan of that year, police raided his home one early morning and confiscated his cellular phone along with several audio discs before they placed him in a detention centre in Kokand. Akhmedov later told the AHRCA that police claimed to have found a video on his confiscated phone showing a speech by Tahrir Yuldashev – a now-deceased former leader of the illegal group Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Akhmedov claims the officers themselves must have planted the video on his phone. He also told AHRCA that police held him for almost three days at this time and subjected him to regular torture and death threats while trying to force him to incriminate himself and admit to membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir. Hizb ut-Tahrir is another Islamic group banned in Uzbekistan, distinct from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Akhmedov denied all of the accusations which he claims are unfounded.

When he was released in 2015, Akhmedov went to a medical institution to have the signs of torture on his body recorded before submitting a complaint to the prosecutor’s office about torture by the police officers.  His complaints however, did not lead to  the perpetrators of torture being brought to justice. Due to the severity of the accusations against him, he  decided to leave Uzbekistan and fled to the Russian Federation in 2016. While in Saint Petersburg, Russia he learned that Uzbekistani authorities had declared him internationally wanted on charges on attempts to the constitutional order. Fearing that Russian authorities would return him to Uzbekistan, he left Russia for Estonia where he spent 18 months in a deportation camp. Eventually, an Estonian court ruled to release him and he was granted a work permit. However, in late 2018, he learned that his asylum application had been rejected, and, once again fearing forced return to Uzbekistan, he left Estonia for France in 2019 where he resided until his forced rendition to Uzbekistan in November 2023.

The organizations issuing this statement are highly concerned about Mr. Akhmedov’s safety at the hands of Uzbekistani authorities. We fear that he will be subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment in pre-trial detention and later in prison and that authorities will violate his rights to a fair trial and give him a decades-long prison sentence on bogus charges. We support the key points of the ruling of the Conseil d’etat and call on the Government of the French Republic to take any steps necessary to secure the safe return of Akhmedov to France, and to implement measures to prevent any similar breaches of the principle of non-refoulement in the future.




[1] Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan: Public statements to unconstitutional change of the existing state order, assumption of power, or removal of legally elected or appointed authorities from power, or to unconstitutional impairment of integrity of the territory of the Republic of Uzbekistan, as well as dissemination of materials containing such statements (…).

[2] Article 244-1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan: Production or keeping with the purpose to dissemination of materials that contain ideas of religious extremism, separatism, and fundamentalism, calls for pogroms or violent eviction, or aimed at creating a panic among the population (…).

[3] Article 246 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan: Smuggling, that is carriage through the customs border of the Republic of Uzbekistan without the knowledge of or with concealment from customs control, or with using false documentation or means of customs identification, or jointed with non-declaration or with declaration under false name of virulent, poisonous, toxic, radioactive, explosive substances, explosive assemblies, armaments, firearms, or ammunition, as well as narcotic or psychotropic substances, or materials that propagandize religious extremism, separatism, and fundamentalism (…).


Civic space under attack in Central Asia: NGOs document key trends as region sees increasing international engagement

International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and its partners draw attention to the widening attack on civic space and freedoms seen in Central Asia at a time of increasing international interest in the region and an increasing number of high-level meetings with the region’s leaders, such as a meeting organised by US President Joe Biden in New York earlier this month, a meeting to be hosted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin this week, and an EU-Central Asia Summit planned for next year. In their engagement with the Central Asian countries, international actors should use all available opportunities to speak out against current alarming trends and push for concrete steps by the governments of the region to roll back repressive policies, which undermine public debate and civic participation on issues of concern to citizens.

IPHR and its partner organisations Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, Legal Prosperity Foundation, Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights and Association for Human Rights in Central Asia have prepared an overview of current key concerns regarding the protection of the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly in the five Central Asian countries ahead of the Warsaw Human Dimension Conference, which will be held on 2-13 October 2023 to discuss human rights protection in the OSCE region.

The key trends documented in the NGO briefing include:

• Lack of accountability for serious human rights violations related to the crises seen in Central Asia in 2022, when the authorities employed harsh measures to end mass protests against government policies and ensuing unrest during the so-called ‘Bloody January’ events in Kazakhstan, in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) in Tajikistan and in the Republic of Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan. To date, measures taken to investigate allegations of excessive use of force, torture and ill-treatment, and other violations of the rights of protesters during these events, as well as to bring those responsible to justice have lacked independence, thoroughness, and effectiveness, resulting in widespread impunity for serious human rights abuses.

 Persecution of civil society activists, opposition supporters, human rights defenders, journalists, and bloggers who speak out against injustice, criticise government policies and demand transparency and accountability of those in power. The use of criminal prosecution as a tool to intimidate and silence critical voices is of particular concern across the region. This tactic was used during wider crackdowns launched in response to the mass protests seen in Kazakhstan, the GBAO in Tajikistan and Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan in 2022, but is also used more broadly in all countries of the region, with criminal cases on slander, extortion, fraud, rioting, extremism and other charges initiated in retaliation against those who exercise their freedoms of expression, association, and assembly in peaceful and legitimate ways. It is of serious concern that especially the authorities in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan have misused extremism-related charges to target government critics and that a growing number of bloggers have been singled out for prosecution in Uzbekistan and other countries because of social media posts on issues deemed sensitive by the authorities. Recently, there has been an increase in politically motivated criminal cases in Kyrgyzstan in the context of a worsening climate for free speech, while the authorities of Turkmenistan have sought the forcible return of outspoken activists based abroad, in addition to imprisoning “inconvenient” individuals living in the country.

 Pressure on independent media and restrictions on access to alternative information through the internet. The few independent media outlets that operate in the region, as well as those working for them are subjected to ongoing intimidation and harassment, both on- and offline. There have been several recent government initiatives to shut down independent media services and block access to their sites in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, a country where the media environment has up until now been more favourable than in other countries of the region. Draft media legislation currently under consideration in Kyrgyzstan, as well as in Kazakhstan threatens to result in increased state control over media operations. Broadly worded restrictions on blogging activities have been initiated in several countries, including Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and the authorities are misusing the fight against disinformation to stifle free speech across the region. Internet censorship is most pervasive in Turkmenistan where thousands of sites have been arbitrarily blocked and the authorities actively campaign against censorship circumvention tools used to access blocked sites that provide information alternative to that of state-controlled national media.

• Excessive and unjustified restrictions on the operation of independent civil society organisations. An increasing number of NGOs have either been forcibly shut down or pressured to “voluntarily” close in Tajikistan, while several independent human rights groups have been denied registration on technical grounds in Uzbekistan, and not one human rights NGO is registered in Turkmenistan. Draft NGO legislation initiated in Kyrgyzstan mirrors legislation seen in more repressive countries in the post-Soviet region and would – if adopted - undermine the hard-won gains in terms of civil society participation in this country. In particular, foreign-funded NGOs risk being subjected to stigmatisation and excessive state regulation and interference. There are also concerns that a recent government initiative in Kazakhstan to publish a list of foreign-funded NGOs could result in increasing stigmatisation and state control of such groups.

 Practices undermining the right to peacefully protest. Such practices include a court-sanctioned ban on protests that has been in place in central areas of Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek for more than a year; the systematic dispersal of peaceful gatherings held without government approval and the detention of protesters before, during and after such assemblies in Kazakhstan; and measures taken by authorities in Turkmenistan to promptly cut short public expressions of discontent about economic hardships, corruption and other problems.

These issues are covered in more detail in the joint briefing paper, which describes recent developments concerning civic space and freedoms in each of the Central Asian countries, features descriptions of individual cases of concern, and provides recommendations for measures that the authorities of the region should take to improve the situation.

The briefing paper is based on ongoing cooperation between IPHR and its Central Asian partners on monitoring and documenting developments affecting fundamental freedoms in the five Central Asian countries in the framework of the CIVICUS Monitor, an initiative to track and rate civic space across the world.  The CIVICUS Monitor currently assesses civic space as ‘’closed’’ in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as ‘’repressed’’ in Kazakhstan and as ‘’obstructed’’ in Kyrgyzstan.

Download the joint NGO briefing here


Justice for Torture Victims in Central Asia

 I want justice. A sniper bullet damaged my optic nerve. Later – in pretrial detention, I was beaten so severely over the head that I lost my eyesight – I live in the dark now”.

Yermek, torture survivor, Almaty, Kazakhstan
Today, 26 June, is the United Nations (UN) International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. And on this day the Coalitions against Torture in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA, Uzbekistan, based in exile in France), the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR, Turkmenistan, based in exile in Austria), International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) call on the governments of Central Asia to take immediate action to put a stop to torture.
Across the world, this day provides an opportunity to support victims of torture and their families, to stand together in solidarity and to demand justice.
Despite numerous promises of zero-tolerance and reform, torture and ill-treatment continue to be widely used in all five Central Asian countries. Hundreds of individuals are charged and convicted based on confessions extracted under duress; and, fearful of suffering from reprisals, many more victims of torture and their relatives never dare to lodge complaints at all.
The bloody consequences of excessive police violence and serious allegations of torture in several countries of the region last year have been felt throughout 2023. In 2022 the governments of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan responded to predominantly peaceful protests with excessive force often amounting to extra-custodial torture and leading to numerous civilian deaths, arbitrary arrests, widespread torture in detention, persecution of human rights defenders and journalists. To date they have failed to effectively and impartially investigate the actions of state representatives and hold the perpetrators accountable. The governments weaponized internet by deliberately shutting it down in the regions where protests took place, thus preventing people from communicating, reporting on violations and obtaining updates about the security situation.
In Kazakhstan, nearly a year and a half after the ‘Bloody January’ events of 2022, the government has failed to take effective steps to impartially and thoroughly investigate the events and to hold accountable those responsible for serious human rights violations which occurred when authorities forcibly put down mass protests for social and political change and evolving unrest. Reported human rights violations include the excessive use of force and related killings of protesters and passers-by, the arbitrary detentions of thousands of protesters, and widespread torture and ill-treatment of protesters in detention. Many investigations opened into killings and torture allegations were prematurely closed due to the alleged lack of evidence of crimes in the actions of law enforcement and security officials involved. The High Commissioner of Human Rights of Kazakhstan (Ombudsperson) stated that 80 per cent of all cases have been closed. Only 1-2 per cent of complaints of torture have reached court, and in only a handful of cases have perpetrators of abuses been convicted.[1] Thus, unfortunately, very few victims of torture and their families who have been brave enough to lodge complaints will see justice.
The Kazakhstani government has not recognized that systematic human rights violations took place in January 2022, has failed to initiate an effective and transparent investigation and provide adequate compensation for the victims and their families. On the contrary, victims, and those protecting their rights such as human rights defenders and lawyers continue to face harassment and persecution in retribution for carrying out their professional duties.
In May 2023 the UN Committee against Torture expressed its deep concern at ‘’many consistent reports indicating various forms of torture, ill-treatment, including excessive use of force’’ related to the January 2022 protests in Kazakhstan, as well as the ‘’high rate of closed cases’’. It called on the Kazakhstani authorities to promptly, independently and impartially investigate all acts of torture, ill-treatment and excessive use of force and punish the perpetrators in a manner commensurate with the gravity of their acts.[2]
In Tajikistan, there has to date been no accountability for serious human rights violations perpetrated in connection with the authorities’ response to mass protests that took place in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) in November 2021 and May 2022. Reported violations include the excessive use of force, arbitrary detentions, torture and ill-treatment, extrajudicial killings, and unfair trials of dozens of people.[3]
Following the events in GBAO, the authorities launched a widening crackdown on dissenting voices and civil society, targeting in particular those who criticised the authorities’ actions in the region.[4] About 20 civil society activists, human rights defenders and journalists were detained, tortured, criminally prosecuted and convicted following non-transparent trials held in violation of international standards. In a case of particular concern[5], in December 2022, the Supreme Court sentenced Manuchehr Kholiknazarov, Director of the Lawyers’ Association of Pamir (LAP) and member of Tajikistan’s Anti-Torture Coalition, to 16 years in prison on fabricated charges of participation in a criminal and banned organisation which were initiated in retaliation for his efforts to assist victims of human rights violations and promote access to justice and the rule of law in GBAO.
In a similar pattern, there are ongoing concerns about torture and ill-treatment and the disregard of victims’ rights in Uzbekistan. Analysis of torture complaints there over the past years shows that collusion between perpetrators of torturer and doctors is an ongoing problem, making it more difficult to document and investigate torture cases. Victims’ lawyers are often threatened with disbarment if they actively raise torture concerns. Victims and journalists who speak out in public are at risk being prosecuted. There is still no efficient national mechanism for a rapid response to reports of torture.
The authorities have yet to ensure an independent investigation into the July 2022 events in Karakalpakstan in western Uzbekistan when mass protests broke out against proposed constitutional amendments which would have deprived the republic of its current constitutionally protected status and its right to secede from Uzbekistan. There are multiple, credible reports that authorities resorted to excessive use of force, arbitrary detentions, and torture and ill-treatment when putting down the protests. According to official figures, at least 21 people died and 270 were injured, although the real figures could be much higher.[6]
The investigative efforts undertaken into the Karakalpakstan events have been shrouded in secrecy and to date no one is known to have been held accountable for the killings or violations of the rights of protesters, although a few law enforcement officials were reportedly charged with wrongdoing.[7] At the same time, as the authorities have presented the events as an attempt to seize power in Karakalpakstan, several dozen protest participants have been charged with and convicted of various crimes following legal proceedings falling short of international fair trial standards. Among them are well-known journalists, bloggers and activists, who publicly criticised the proposed constitutional amendments, including lawyer and blogger Dauletmurat Tazhimuratov who has been depicted as a protest leader. In January 2023, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison on charges of encroaching on the constitutional order, organising mass riots and other crimes. In court, he was the only defendant who dared to speak out about having been tortured in detention, but his allegations were not referred for an independent investigation before the verdict was issued. The live broadcast of the court proceedings was stopped after Tazhimuratov told the court he had been tortured. In June 2023, the Supreme Court upheld his sentence on appeal. Civil society sources reported that other defendants were also tortured but did not speak out in court for fear of reprisals.
In Kyrgyzstan, torture and ill-treatment also remains a serious problem, especially in pre-trial detention, where conditions often amount to degrading treatment. Those detained in politically motivated cases are at particular risk of abusive treatment, including activists who were arrested in October 2022 and charged with preparing riots, although they are only known to have peacefully engaged against the government-negotiated border deal with Uzbekistan concerning the strategically important Kempir-Abad water reservoir.[8]
In this respect, the important role of Kyrgyzstan’s National Prevention Mechanism (NPM) in torture prevention should be emphasized–because its members can carry out unscheduled visits to detention facilities and meet detainees.
There are ongoing concerns about torture and enforced disappearances in politically motivated cases in Turkmenistan. We are worried about the fate of blogger Farhat Meimankulyiev (aka Durdyiev) who was recently forcibly returned from Turkey to Turkmenistan where he is at serious risk of torture because of his criticism of the authorities.[9] The blogger has also previously been subjected to harassment, including by being arbitrarily detained[10] in Turkmenistan’s consulate in Istanbul in connection with a planned protest in August 2021. While there, he was reportedly ill-treated and pressured to apologise for posting videos critical of the regime. Other outspoken activists based in Turkey or other countries with friendly relations with Turkmenistan’s government are also at risk of being returned to torture.[11]
We call on the authorities of Central Asian countries to put a stop to torture by:
  • acknowledging  the scale of the problem of torture;
  • publishing comprehensive statistics on cases and investigations;
  • allowing independent monitors full access to detention facilities; initiating immediate independent investigations into widespread allegations of torture related to mass protests of 2022 with the participation of international experts and local civil society representatives;
  • ensuring genuine cooperation with relevant UN mechanisms and addressing entrenched systemic problems in a transparent manner.
The Central Asian authorities must now turn words into action by ending impunity for torture and guaranteeing victims the protection and compensation to which they are entitled.
[1] For more information on human rights violations related to the January events and the measures taken to investigate and prosecute violations, see briefing paper prepared by IPHR and Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR) for the EU-Kazakhstan Human Rights Dialogue in March 2023: https://www.iphronline.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/IPHR-KIBHR-briefing-paper-for-EU-Kazakhstan-HR-dialogue-2023.pdf; report issued by IPHR, KIBHR, the Coalition against Torture and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) in January 2023 on torture, ill-treatment and impunity related to the January 2022 events: https://www.iphronline.org/we-don-t-even-cry-anymore.html; as well as joint CAT submission by the Coalition against Torture, IPHR and OMCT from March 2023: https://www.iphronline.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/CAT-submission-final-22-March-1.pdf
[2] The Committee’s concluding observations are available at: 
[4] For more information on this trend, see update prepared by IPHR as part of its cooperation with the CIVICUS Monitor, published in March 2023: https://www.iphronline.org/tajikistan-continuous-crackdown-on-civil-society.html 
[5] For more information on his case, see joint statement by IPHR, the OMCT, Human Rights Watch, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Frontline Defenders, International Federation for Human Rights and Freedom Now issued on 3 April 2023: https://www.iphronline.org/tajikistan-manuchehr-kholiqnazarov-must-be-immediately-released.html 
[6] For more information about the Karakalpakstan events and related violations, see submission for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Uzbekistan by Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) and IPHR from April 2023: https://www.iphronline.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/UPR-Uzbekistan-2023.pdf


NGOs urge the EU’s Charles Michel to press for accountability for rights violations during Central Asia visit

This week, Charles Michel, President of the European Council will attend a high-level meeting with the heads of the Central Asian States, which will take place in the city of Cholpon-Ata in Kyrgyzstan. Ahead of Michel’s visit to the region, five NGOs sent him a joint letter, urging him to raise key human rights issues with the Central Asian leaders and to insist on concrete human rights progress as a condition for a further strengthening of the EU’s partnerships with the countries of the region.

The signatories of the joint letter include International Partnership for Human Rights, Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, Legal Prosperity Foundation, the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. The NGOs urged Michel, in particular, to stress the need for accountability for serious human rights violations related to last year’s crises in the region, when the authorities employed harsh measures to end mass protests and ensuing unrest in Kazakhstan, the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) in Tajikistan and the Republic of Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan. To date, measures taken to this end have lacked independence, thoroughness and effectiveness.
The five signatories of the joint letter also asked Michel to raise concerns about recent initiatives aimed at stigmatising and restricting the activities of NGOs, especially foreign-funded ones in the Central Asian countries such as highly worrying draft legislation put forward by MPs in Kyrgyzstan this month. In addition, the five organisations urged Michel to call for an end to the persecution of activists, human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers who are critical of the authorities in the countries of the region, including in the following cases:
— The leader of the unregistered opposition Democratic Party, Zhanbolat Mamai, was recently convicted for his alleged role in the unrest seen during the January 2022 events in Kazakhstan. He was given a suspended six-year prison sentence and banned from conducting political, civic or social media activities during this period, thereby effectively preventing him from continuing his opposition campaigning.
— Together with others charged in the so-called Kempir-Abad case in Kyrgyzstan, human rights activist Rita Karasartova continues to be held in deplorable conditions in pre-trial detention despite the absence of any compelling grounds for keeping her behind bars. Those charged in this case were arrested in October 2022 after peacefully engaging against a government-negotiated border deal with Uzbekistan concerning a strategically important water reservoir.
— Journalist Bolot Temirov, known for his investigations into high-level corruption, was deported from Kyrgyzstan in November 2022 in violation of the constitutional prohibition on expelling citizens of the country.
— As part of a wider crackdown on dissenting voices seen following last year’s protests in Tajikistan’s GBAO, human rights defender Manuchehr Kholiknazarov was sentenced to 16 years in prison on charges initiated in retaliation for his efforts to assist victims of human rights violations and promote access to justice and the rule of law in this region.
— Human rights lawyer Buzurgmehr Yorov, who is serving a 22-year prison sentence initiated in retaliation for his professional activities in Tajikistan, is facing new charges which could result in a further extension of his sentence.
— In late May 2023, Turkmenistani YouTube blogger Farhat Meimankulyiev (aka Durdyiev) was reportedly deported from Turkey to Turkmenistan after being detained at the request of Turkmenistani diplomats. Because of his criticism of the Turkmenistani authorities, the blogger is at serious risk of politically motivated arrest, imprisonment and torture in Turkmenistan.
— The UN Human Rights Committee recently called for the release of journalist Nurgeldy Khalykov, civil society activist Murat Dushemov and human rights defender Mansur Mingelov who are currently serving prison sentences on charges believed to be politically motivated in Turkmenistan.
— Earlier this year lawyer and journalist Dauletmurat Tazhimuratov was sentenced to 16 years in prison in Uzbekistan for allegedly playing a leading role in the July 2022 events in Karakalpakstan. Currently the Supreme Court is hearing his case on appeal with a decision expected to be issued soon.
— Also in Uzbekistan, blogger Otabek Sattoriy continues to serve a six-year prison sentence deemed unlawful by UN experts and was recently denied a transfer to less harsh prison conditions because of alleged violations of prison rules. Another blogger, Miraziz Bazarov was forcibly detained by law enforcement authorities in May 2023, held for several hours and reportedly pressured to delete online content under torture and threats of criminal charges for allegedly violating the terms of a restricted liberty sentence issued against him in 2022.
President Michel’s visit to Kyrgyzstan comes at a time of increasing EU interest and engagement in Central Asia given the changing geopolitical situation due to Russia’s war against Ukraine. Previously Michel visited Central Asia and held discussions with the region’s leaders in October 2022.