Human rights impact assessment of the Covid-19 response in Uzbekistan

A new briefing paper prepared by International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) examines the human rights impact of Uzbekistan’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Soon after the first cases of COVID-19 were r/egistered in Uzbekistan in March 2020, the government introduced restrictive measures amounting to a lockdown but stopped short of declaring a state of emergency. In May, the authorities introduced a colour-coded system of zones, which was in effect until October, and reflected the degree to which an area of the country was affected by the pandemic. Each colour was associated with different sets of measures. The pandemic and measures to contain it have severely affected Uzbekistan; the economy has suffered and hundreds of thousands of people have seen their socio-economic situation worsen. It has also highlighted the underlying weaknesses of the Uzbekistani healthcare system – medical officials sounded the alarm as early as in July when some 8000 cases had been registered, warning that the healthcare system was reaching full capacity and since then the number of cases has increased significantly.
Freedom of expression in Uzbekistan, already tightly controlled before the pandemic, has come under even more pressure as the authorities have cracked down on independent, non-official information relating to this public health crisis, arguing that it might cause panic amongst the population as well as on those voicing criticisms about the government’s COVID-19 policy. Medical doctors who have questioned the COVID-19 response have faced pressure and, in at least one case, criminal prosecution.
Civil society sources have disputed the official COVID-19 statistics and compiled and shared lists on social media of cases of deaths which are likely associated with the virus; these numbers significantly exceed the official statistics.
Legislation introduced earlier this year penalising the dissemination of false information about infectious diseases with up to three years’ imprisonment has made people even more cautious about exercising their right to freedom of expression.
As in other countries, prisoners and detainees in Uzbekistan are at heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. However, the authorities have not published any information about measures taken to protect this category of people from the virus, and reports by prisoners and their relatives indicate that the measures taken have been far from sufficient. No efforts have been made to review pre-trial detention cases to determine whether it was possible to apply non-custodial measures of restraint to all but the most serious offenders. Some measures have been taken to ensure access to justice in the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic, such as allowing submission of complaints to courts online. The right to have access to justice has nevertheless been severely affected by the restrictive measures in place.
Restrictions on the in areas of the country categorised as red and yellow zones have severely limited detainees’ and prisoners’ access to lawyers. In many cases lawyers were not able to see their clients in detention, even when the latter alleged having been subjected to torture or ill-treatment.
Several local civil society groups report an increase in domestic violence in Uzbekistan during the COVID-19 pandemic and the state-imposed lockdown. The five shelters which remained open during the initial lockdown had to turn away victims for lack of capacity.
Compared to other groups of Uzbekistani society, LGBTQI+ individuals – already vulnerable due to the criminalization of consensual same-sex relations between men and widespread homophobia – have faced an increased risk of homelessness and poverty during the pandemic, and of being subjected to extortion and blackmail.


Uzbekistan ordered to “beat off attacks by international human rights organizations...

On 10 December 2020, Abu-Ali Niyazmatov, the administrator of Uyat.uz, a social group on Facebook, posted about custom-made laudatory publications in the European media. I would like to comment on this practice.

The image of the government of Shavkat Mirziyoyev began to concern his team as soon as he came to power. This is due to his desire to divert attention from the fact that he became president in violation of the current Constitution of Uzbekistan, hence the urgent need to create an information legend about the reformer, Shavkat Mirziyoyev. And when he got a press secretary who began to be active on social networks on every occasion, it became clear that the Uzbek authorities decided to launch a global campaign of political lobbying, using modern information technologies, the Internet and the practice of leading PR companies.

The rest proceeded along the lines of the classics of this genre: Shavkat Mirziyoyev created an online reception, which received millions of appeals from naive citizens, new local media outlets were opened, new journalists and bloggers loyal to the authorities emerged - they began to write often about the humanitarian aid of the oligarchs, the charitable works of the first lady and the eldest daughter of the president, creating for them the images of good "Santa Claus" and "Snow Maidens". Against the backdrop of such informational hurray campaign, thousands of dramas began to flare up due to the demolition of houses and bankruptcy of entrepreneurs, but at first the authorities generally preferred to keep silent about these.

The statements of the press service of the Prosecutor's Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs helping to evade responsibility of those involved in torture and extrajudicial executions against prisoners and other victims of human rights violations are particularly cynical.

Meanwhile, the reality is that there are still no conditions in Uzbekistan for transparency in fulfilling obligations within the framework of protection against torture and corruption; the process of legalising the human rights activities of independent human rights defenders, those who cannot be bought off with an apartment or a position in power, has not yet begun. And at the time when there are no conditions for independent monitoring of human rights observance during the period of isolation associated with COVD-19, Uzbekistan is suddenly taken out of the bottom rungs of international ratings - allegedly for improving the human rights regime, which raises questions.

Is this accidental? Most likely no. Our organisation is in possession of documents that directly show the payment for the services of lobbyists, whose tasks include attracting famous US congressmen, experts, journalists, and creating new websites. This PR campaign is being carried out by a government-controlled team of a new structure, whose official status is an NGO, but it performs pro-state tasks. Not long-ago Lola Karimova used to work using the same scheme, and Gulnara Karimova used it even earlier. And we plan to write about this in more detail very soon.

Nadejda Atayeva


Uzbekistan: stop punishing homosexuality and respect the human rights of all

The NGOs jointly issuing this statement urge the Uzbekistani authorities to live up to their international human rights obligations by decriminalizing homosexuality. Article 120 of the current Criminal Code punishes consensual sexual relations between adult men by up to three years’ imprisonment. Uzbekistan is currently drafting a new Criminal Code and should take this opportunity to improve its human rights record and remove legislation that punishes individuals for the peaceful exercise of their fundamental human rights.       

“When I remember the things that happened to me my heart stops beating.” — A former prisoner recalls his time in detention.
We call on the Uzbekistani government to repeal legislation that punishes consensual sexual relations between adult men and that is used to repress individuals‘ freedom, personal security and privacy and persecute them for peaceful exercise of human rights including the right to life. The authorities should also combat existing stigma and discrimination of LGBTI persons by actively increasing public awareness about human rights.
As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Uzbekistan has committed itself to ensure that everybody can exercise their rights without distinction of any kind, “such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.“ In their concluding observations issued in January and May 2020, both the United Nations (UN) Committee against Torture and the UN Human Rights Committee called on Uzbekistan to repeal Article 120.
“When I found out that my son is gay, I was thrown into a blind panic. I dragged him to imams, and to psychologists to try to “heal“ him. But all I did was hurt him and spoil his life. Now I understand that homosexuality is not an illness. He is still the same handsome, clever and peaceful person. He simply happens to love people of his own sex, that’s all! But because of this, many want to kill him, burn him, stone him. As long as Article 120 exists my son and other LGBT people will not be able to live quietly and be happy. I believe that revoking Article 120 will only lead to good – for everyone.”
— Mother of a young gay man calling on her fellow citizens not to be afraid of people with same-sex relations.
A young man who in recent years was imprisoned under Article 120 and has since been released, reports that he does not know how to live with the trauma of having been beaten and treated with hatred and contempt each day. In pre-trial detention he was regularly subjected to violence by other detainees while the guards looked the other way. He recalled that the days spent in pre-trial detention “were the most awful and disgusting in my life” and that officers beat and attempted to rape him with a truncheon when he first arrived at the prison colony.
Article 120 poses a constant threat to gay and bisexual men in their daily lives and makes it impossible for them to lodge complaints with the authorities about violence and discrimination to which they are subjected, for fear of revealing their sexual orientation. Groups defending the human rights of LGBTI persons are unable to operate safely in Uzbekistan and the authorities suppress all attempts to draw attention to human rights violations affecting LGBTI persons.
A gay man from Uzbekistan said on condition of anonymity: “Article 120 gives people the right to abuse and discriminate with impunity against persons with a non-traditional sexual orientation or gender identity. It also provides the ideal breeding ground for corruption. As long as this article exists, we will have to live in fear and homophobes will have power over us.”
Police do not press charges against all the gay and bisexual men whom they track down, but often threaten to imprison them or disclose their sexual orientation to their families for blackmail and financial extortion purposes. Police also coerce LGBTI people to collaborate with them to identify wealthier   gay and bisexual men. In this way many LGBTI persons in Uzbekistan feel they have no option but to lead double lives – they stand to pay a steep price if their wives, husbands, parents, other relatives or neighbours learn about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Homophobic mobs frequently target LGBTI individuals and those perceived to be gay, subjecting them to physical abuse and extortion. On internet-based messaging services homophobic activists disseminate the names and contact details of gay and bisexual men and those perceived to be gay and call for them to be “punished” and killed. Videos of such beatings have been disseminated and there are credible reports that several gay men have been murdered or severely injured by homophobic mobs in recent years.
Police are also known to exploit the fear of being labelled as “gay” (an accusation perceived as extremely shameful in Uzbekistani society) by extending the threat of imprisonment under Article 120 beyond gay and bisexual, to heterosexual and pious Muslim men. The NGOs jointly issuing this statement are aware of several cases in recent years when police forced individuals to hand over large sums of money or property or to “confess” to serious crimes including “terrorism” or “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order”, to avoid being charged with Article 120.
Human rights violations including sexual violence against gay and bisexual men and those perceived to be gay, are particularly egregious in penitentiary institutions. These men are frequently victims of torture and other forms of ill-treatment inflicted by police officers, National Security Service officers, prison guards and fellow inmates. Torture methods include rape with bottles and truncheons, attaching heavy water bottles to the detainee’s genitals, wrapping newspaper around the genitals and setting the paper on fire. Gay and bisexual prisoners and those suspected or accused of same-sex relations have the lowest status in the informal but strictly imposed prisoner hierarchy. They are regularly used as “slaves” by guards and other inmates and, for example, are forced to clean dirty toilets with their bare hands.
The Uzbekistani authorities have on several occasions stated that homosexuality is contrary to Islam and the country’s traditional values and cultural norms, and that the public is not ready to repeal Article 120. However, governments cannot use religion, tradition and culture as an excuse to circumvent their human rights obligations. Muslim majority countries that have legalized homosexuality include Uzbekistan’s neighbours Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as well as Azerbaijan and
For further information about the human rights situation of LGBTI persons in Uzbekistan, refer to:
Download the statement in EnglishRussian and Uzbek languages.


Central Asia: Tightening the screws on government critics during the Covid-19 pandemic

The Central Asian authorities have used the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to suppress criticism of
government policies and tighten the screws on independent media, civil society and social media users. A new briefing paper published by International Partnership for Human Rights, Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, the Legal Prosperity Foundation, Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia highlights the increasing restrictions on the freedoms of expression, association and assembly seen across the region during this time of crisis.

The briefing paper, entitled Central Asia: Tightening the screws on government critics during the Covid-19 pandemic, summarises cross-regional trends of serious concern and details country developments. IPHR and its partners have submitted the briefing paper as input for the upcoming EU-Central Asia Ministerial Meeting, asking the EU to raise the disturbing trends documented in the paper with the Central Asian governments. The Ministerial Meeting, an annual event where high-ranking EU officials and Central Asian foreign ministers discuss different areas of cooperation, is scheduled to take place online on 17 November 2020.

Key trends covered in the briefing paper include:

Failure to ensure access to information and misguided efforts to combat misinformation: The government of Tajikistan initially denied that the global Covid-19 pandemic had reached the country, despite independent reports to the contrary, while the government of Turkmenistan has continued to cover up the evident national outbreak of Covid-19. Also in the other Central Asian countries, independent media and civil society have faced obstacles in accessing information related to the pandemic and across the region, the authorities have engaged in misguided efforts to prevent misinformation about the pandemic. Thus, in the name of combating “false” information, they have adopted and implemented vaguely worded legislation that can be used to stifle legitimate free speech, and obstructed discussion on social media platforms.

Persecution of government critics across the region: In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Central Asian governments have stepped up pressure on journalists, bloggers, civil society activists, human rights defenders, protest participants, opposition supporters and others critical of the authorities and their Covid-19 response. Across the region, government critics have been threatened, questioned, detained, prosecuted and convicted on charges initiated in retaliation for their peaceful exercise of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly, including charges of overly broad criminal offenses such as “spreading false information”, “inciting hostility” and “extremism”. At the same time, the situation of those imprisoned on politically motivated charges is currently of particular concern given the increased risk of contracting Covid-19 that they face and their frequent lack of access to adequate medical diagnosis and treatment.

Restrictive operating environment for civil society and problematic legislative initiatives: Across Central Asia, civic space is seriously limited. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the authorities have pushed ahead with new, problematic legal initiatives without ensuring adequate opportunities for public discussion and meaningful consultation with experts and civil society. In Kazakhstan, the authorities rushed through a new restrictive law on assemblies and have used this law to continue to detain and penalise participants in peaceful anti-government protests held without pre-approval. The most recent version of the draft law on assemblies in Uzbekistan also requires pre-approval of protests, in violation of international standards. A draft law on NGO reporting passed the second reading in parliament in Kyrgyzstan despite widespread criticism and fears that it will be used as a tool of intimidation. The lack of transparency of the processes of drafting new laws on non-commercial organisations in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan has reinforced concerns that these laws will provide for new mechanisms of excessive state control of NGOs. The authorities of Uzbekistan have continued to deny compulsory state registration to independent human rights groups on arbitrary grounds, while no such groups can still operate in Turkmenistan. In recent months, exiled groups have been subjected to renewed cyberattacks, and online smear campaigns have targeted the leaders of NGOs based both in- and outside the region.

The joint briefing paper is available here.


Saodat Abduzakirova: "Here's another truth for you!" #COVID-19

On the Facebook page of Saodat Abduzakirova, the leader of the Public Association for Social Mutual
Support and Human Welfare “Yangi Hayot” published on October 19, 2020, an outcry appeal whose name is not disclosed for security reasons.

Saodat Abduzakirovania wrote: This was sent to me as personal message! Here's another truth for you!

Gentlemen from the Ministry of Health, how do you like it? The clinic Zangiota has been working for half a year, it has been mess and still is! This was personally messaged to me! Here is one more truth! 

Hello Dear Saodat! 

I apologize for contacting you. But I don't know where to write anymore. I wrote to the presidential portal, but no answer. And I beg you to read it! Cry from the heart! Can't be silent! Start from beginning! My mother-in-law felt unwell and had slight increase in temperature on 09/28/2020, called to request a doctor come visit for check up, the Multidisciplinary District Polyclinic at the Republican Society of Sergeli District Branch , located at the address: Tashkent, Sergeli District, Sergeli-2 31A block. But she was told: "Come yourself." My mother-in-law, an elderly person, obediently came to the clinic herself, where, after examining her, she was sent to do an x-ray of her lungs, to another clinic, the

Central Polyclinic No. 37 of the Sergeli District. The next day, 09/29/2020, having come for an x-ray, she stood in line for 3 hours! She was x-rayed and told that it would be ready in 5 days!  The next day 09/30/2020 her condition got worse, a cough appeared and her blood pressure dropped. On the same day, my father-in-law also had a fever, and she called the polyclinic again, where they prescribed Ciprofloxacin and Acyclovir by phone, and they simply said, "Take pills". No dosage, no prescribed prescription form! The worst thing is that she began to take them and next day, 02.10.20e0 closer to noon, she got more ill, the cough intensified and the pressure rose. The father-in-law just had a fever, no coughing.

I called the clinic myself and began to simply beg for help and call a doctor. They told me: "Wait, the doctor will be there." We waited for a few more hours, towards evening I called again, they said: "That's it, the doctor is coming to you." But the doctor never came! And she didn't even call! Although we left all the phone numbers. Why they would promise and give empty hopes? After all, my in-laws are elderly people, they were waiting until late the promised doctor! Of course, I called an ambulance myself. The first ambulance arrived, the doctor, having examined her and father-in-law, said that it was not critical, gave an injection of a lytic mixture from the temperature, and advised to do multispiral computed tomography of the lungs and call a local doctor, and left. 

But my mother-in-law immediately gets worse, and with huge rage I call the ambulance again and call again another brigade. Another ambulance arrived, after examining my in-laws, they urgently hospitalized my in-laws in Zangiota hospital number 1, assuring that they treat very well there, this is a specialized hospital. Having done MSCT there, they revealed more than 25% of lung lesions with a saturation of 94 in both. They put in-laws in different units. And here the HELL began! It is impossible to reach neither the unit or the doctor by phone! We communicated with the mother-in-law through her phone. There was no connection with the father-in-law. Not a single phone in their call center answers! The next day, with great shortness of breath, my mother-in-law got hold of  the phone of her doctor. I phoned him, and he immediately told me to bring the medicine. I found them (for a total cost of about 2 million soums), but that's not the point. I brought the medicine. Along the way, I was looking for my father-in-law. Through the gate, through some window near this damned hospital, I finally found the cell where my father-in-law was. After struggles, on the 3rd day in the same window, I begged for the phone number of his doctor.

I phoned, the doctor said that he was doing well, we would watch him and release him. On the same day, my mother-in-law is transferred to the intensive care unit on a ventilator. She could no longer breathe on her own, and her saturation dropped to 84. This was on the third day in the hospital! No one picks up the phone in intensive care! Somehow, I got through to my mother-in-law. She could hardly breathe, said that the medications that were prescribed to her caused an allergic reaction (my mother-in-law tells me this! Not the doctor!) I asked her to ask the doctor's number, but no one gave her the number. I asked if she was injected with drugs, she said, yes, stabbed with injections me all over, not knowing what exactly being injected. This lasted again 3 days. During these three days, my father-in-law's attending physician himself calls me and says that his sugar level has increased to 25, he fell into a coma, and we are transferring your father to intensive care. How? This man has never had a high sugar level. 

The next two days on weekend, I endlessly called the intensive care unit, but NO ONE picked up the phone. I went there myself, but even in the window they could not find out any news to me. Finally, on Monday, I could reach through, and the doctor said that my father-in-law was in critical condition, that I needed to bring medication and a glucometer to measure blood sugar. I found these medicines and a glucometer in Kibray and handed them over to the transfer point of this hospital. After that, for the rest of the day I called to find out how my father-in-law's condition was, and whether these medications reached. But again, NOBODY! Nobody picked up the phone. The next morning, I started calling all the phones again, and when I finally got through, I found out that my father-in-law had passed away the day before. He came on his feet! No high blood sugar! No shortness of breath! Only fever! How was he killed? On the same day, my mother-in-law felt better, and she called me and asked me to bring something dairy and $50. What for? What kind of non-human asked old woman on a ventilator to bring $ 50? I asked her to find out the doctor's number. I brought and handed over food to her, waiting for the doctor's number to talk about money. In the same place, I went to the morgue for a certificate of the death offather-in-law. But even more NON-HUMANS work there! People are standing under the high gates. Many people. For several hours, or even days. It turns out that you can get a certificate and the body released in 3 hours for $ 500! This is incomprehensible! If not, then wait for more. With a scandal I received this certificate in the evening after closing hours, I said that I would not go anywhere without a certificate, having stood there since noon, intimidated them by the prosecutor's office in order to make a death certificate the next morning and arrange the burial. The next day, running from the registry office to the cemetery, I called both the intensive care unit and the mother-in-law herself about her health, she picked up her phone and said that she felt worse. I started calling the emergency phone, but NOBODY picks up the phone again! The next day, from early in the morning, I again call both my mother-in-law and the intensive care unit. After noon, finally picking up the phone, they told me that my mother-in-law was in critical condition, her oxygen saturation dropped to 50. And half an hour later they called back and said that she had died. WHY? She, too, came on her feet, short of breath. Saturation 94! I am in  tears, tearing apart from pain and powerlessness! And only one question WHY? And again, with a scandal, I obtained a certificate for her. The morgue is a separate topic! At one gate, under which the relatives of the deceased are standing, they release corpses and garbage from the units, from here they issue certificates, and from here the relatives take the bodies, standing in full ANTI-SANITARY conditions for several hours, or even the whole day.

We were invited into the courtyard of the morgue to take bodies, where some corpses are taken out for identification, goodbye and release, and other corpses are immediately brought from the units of this damned hospital. While we were identifying and saying goodbye, they brought in 3 new corpses! New carts with corpses. In 15 minutes! Corpses with notes of name and surname lie on the floor, people step over them and look for their deceased ones. THIS IS NON-HUMAN! THEY ARE NON-DOCTORS! They all, starting with the district clinic, killed, KILLED our parents. What's injected there?  Why do people DIE? Since the opening of the hospital, there are more than a thousand death certificates, we have certificates 905 and 950 with a difference of 1.5 days! Now the number has exceeded 1000. We had a very friendly family. I lived with them for 23 years, and these people became so dear to me! They loved us and our children! Their son, my husband, was away, he is a freight carrier, came to the funeral of his parents. It's scary to look at him! We were all orphaned overnight! In 10 days! In the hospital? Where people should be saved! Why? Advise me. Help! I understand that you can't bring your parents back. But this negligence and inhumanity must be stopped! Where to write ABOUT THIS MESS? Which door to knock on? SCREAM OF PAIN! I’m TORN INSIDE FROM PAIN AND POWERLESSNESS!

(Before reposting, the punctuation and spelling mistakes of the text were corrected)


Torture continues in Uzbekistan

- this is the conclusion reached by the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) and this is confirmed by reports from the prisoners of colony No. 4 of the GUIN of the Navoi region of Uzbekistan who are asking for help from the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev.  Respecting their right to be heard, we publish this letter openly, thus wishing to destroy all obstacles created by those who continue to torture and those who cover up such crimes.  And another thing is important, to understand how soon Mirziyoyev will hear the call for help, he who uses all public platforms to declare his commitment to democracy and human rights.


"On 24 April 2020, prisoners Gairat Karimov (born in 1986 in Tashkent), Farrukh Omonov (born in Kashkadarya), Sayfiddin Ortikov (born in the Chirchik District), Erkin Mirzamakhmudov (born in Namangan), Ozod Komilov (born in Samarkand) were accused of gross violation of quarantine rules and then transferred from the Penal Colony No. 5 to the Penal Colony No. 4.

Erkin Bobokulov, head of the operational unit of the Penal Colony No. 5, accompanied them in their journey from one penal colony to the other.

Upon arrival at the Penal Colony No. 4, they were all searched one by one, and then the head of the Penal Colony No. 4, Lieutenant Colonel Sunnat Dustboev, took them to his office, where the head of the operational unit of the Penal Colony No. 4, Dilmurod (his last name was not given),  an officer in charge of discipline, Laziz (his last name was not given) and an officer of the operational unit, Jasur were present, and said: “You went on a hunger strike during quarantine”.

An office from the production department called Saidullo and the officer of operative unit called Jasur handcuffed all five prisoners, and then began beating them with all their might. The prisoners began to explain that they did not go on a hunger strike, but were fasting on the first day of the Holy month of Ramadan. In response to this, the head of the colony No. 4, Sunnat Dustboev, said: "I was ordered by the head of the Penal Colony No. 5, Major Vosit Rustamov. His assistant, Maruf Abdullaev, informed me about this." Following this, all the aforementioned persons participated in beating the prisoners with rubber truncheons until they bled, and then, they were placed in punitive isolation cells for fifteen days as a disciplinary measure. On the same day, the beaten prisoners informed the guards of the isolation ward that they had been tortured and they wanted to file a complaint about it and register it officially, but these "military officers" (as the author refers to the security service) answered them: "There is no registration of complaints here and “kolonka” (this is a prison slang for the word colony), Dustboev himself is a tough and cruel man, and no one dares to complain about him. If we now accept and register a complaint, we will all be fired from our work tomorrow". That was the reason why the fact of prisoners sustaining bodily harm was not recorded. Two days later, six prisoners, who were again transferred from the Penal Colony No. 5, were beaten with truncheons. We only know names of Zhurabek Pulatov from the Turakurgan District of the Namangan Region and Zafar Ismailov from the city of Tashkent, we do not know the names of the others prisoners. S. Dustboev, continues torturing and beating prisoners in this manner grossly violating the Constitution of Uzbekistan, neglecting the policy pursued by our President Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyayev, abusing his official powers, violating the laws!

In May 2020, another 20 prisoners were also transported from the Penal Colony No. 5, and they too were beaten in the same way. According to reports that reached us, the old days continue in the Penal Colony No. 4 and no positive changes are visible.

In the Penal Colony No. 4, 90% of officers treat prisoners in a sneering manner, insulting and humiliating their dignity. We are constantly receiving such complaints from the 31 inmates mentioned above. We have never acted against our dear President. On the contrary, we fast on the days of Ramadan and pray for our President, but we are severely tortured, beaten for this and then forced to write that "we have no problems”.

Shavkat Miromonovich, we really need your help. We are all interested in the policies that you are pursuing and are following this process. We ask you to send your trusted people to the institution No. 4 of the Navoi Region Main Department of Corrections and to make public everything that is happening here”.

The translation of the letter from Uzbek into Russian and English is prepared by the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. 

Uzbekistan: Cease legal harassment of human rights defender

In Uzbekistan, a criminal case has been opened against experienced human rights defender Tatyana Dovlatova, leader of the Open Line Initiative Group, in a move that appears intended solely to disrupt her legitimate human rights work, 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 groups called on the authorities in Tashkent to quash the criminal case, and guarantee Dovlatova and all other human rights defenders, full operational freedom for their human rights work.

Dovlatova told the undersigning groups that on 25 August, the special prosecutor of Zangiata District of Tashkent telephoned her and demanded she come to his office in relation to an alleged complaint against her. The prosecutor strongly insisted that she come, and, atypically, offered to reimburse her transportation costs. As she did not have a lawyer at the time, and had not received an official summons and thus was not required by law to comply with the prosecutor’s demands, Dovlatova chose not to go to the prosecutor’s office.

“The criminal case against Tatyana Dovlatova has one goal and one goal only – to put a stop to the activities of this tireless human rights defender and to shut off the flow of credible information she regularly collects about routine human rights violations”, said Nadejda Atayeva, President of the Association of Human Rights in Central Asia. “Tashkent must immediately lift these politically motivated barriers obstructing Dovlatova’s activities, cease the legal harassment of her, and allow her to carry out her important and valuable work”.

During the phone call, the prosecutor informed Dovlatova that two prisoners of the settlement colony No. 42 had allegedly filed a complaint against her, claiming that Dovlatova had photographed them during one of her work-related monitoring visits to the settlement colony and posted the pictures in social media without their consent. Dovlatova regularly visits settlement colonies, which house convicts sentenced to short terms of imprisonment and are open for visitors. Monitoring the conditions in which they are held is an essential part of Dovlatova’s human rights work. During these visits, inmates regularly approach Dovlatova and seek her help, as the publicity she provides often helps to resolve or alleviate their plights. She regularly uncovers cases of torture, harsh labour conditions, medical emergencies etc. When relevant government bodies fail to act on her written official statements, Dovlatova publishes her findings relying on support from the public and international organizations.

Talking to the undersigned organizations, Dovlatova underlined that all prisoners had talked to her voluntarily and had agreed to being photographed. Dovlatova also said that she has reasons to believe that the two prisoners who filed the complaint against her did so under duress. One of them reportedly admitted to fellow inmates that the settlement colony administration had forced her to write the complaint. On 7 September, after she said that she would withdraw the complaint against Davlatova, this same prisoner was reportedly placed in a punishment cell by order of the Deputy Head of the settlement colony.

 “Our colleague Tatyana Dovlatova’s efforts to document grave violations of prisoners’ rights provide excellent input which the authorities could use to implement the necessary changes to the penal system. Sadly, we see that Tashkent prefers to suppress the information she collects from places of detention. ,” said Gunnar Ekeløve-Slydal, acting Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. “The Uzbekistani authorities must cease all persecution and harassment of human rights defenders, and instead view them as partners in the ongoing reforms. No meaningful and sustainable reforms can take place without a free civil society and the contribution of human rights defenders.”

When Tatyana Dovlatova sought clarification about the allegations from the settlement colony in question, she was told that the prisoners were no longer allowed to talk to her and that the colony administration refused to answer any of her questions. Dovlatova has been regularly visiting various penitentiary institutions in Uzbekistan since 2011 – this is the first time that the administration of the penal colony in question has obstructed her work.

In her work, Dovlatova has uncovered many cases of human rights violations, ranging from torture and attempted rape to forced labour, non-payment of pensions to disabled prisoners, non-observance of sanitary and hygienic standards in the context of the current COVID—19 pandemic and ban on visits to prisoners. She has also made public information about cases of suicide of individuals in custody. She is a respected human rights activist who enjoys the trust of prisoners, colleagues and international experts alike.

 “Uzbekistan has committed itself to establishing national preventative mechanisms, enshrined in the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). If implemented swiftly and effectively, these will radically improve the system for prevention of torture. But the role of civil oversight in such procedures is key to its success and the work of Tatyana serves exactly this important purpose. We deplore that she is being prosecuted for fulfilling this crucial role.”, said Brigitte Dufour, Director of the International Partnership for Human Rights.