Background Briefing

Broader repression

Assertion: “The human rights situation in Uzbekistan has always been in keeping with generally recognized regulations and standards.”

The Uzbek government has a longstanding and well documented record of widespread human rights abuse, of which the May 2005 massacre and its aftermath were acute examples. Even a cursory look at the government’s disastrous and worsening human rights record should suffice to conclude that it lacks any commitment to complying with its basic human rights obligations.

Assertion: “Uzbekistan is pursuing a policy of social partnership to promote the gradual development of civic institutions. As a result, NGOs are rapidly developing, participating in the decision making process and playing an increasing role in the democratization of society.… Since the early days of independence, in Uzbekistan great significance has been attached to the formation of civil society, of which NGOs are a most important component. In Uzbekistan, the activity of NGOs is supported and guaranteed by the State.… Interference by state bodies and officials in the activities of public associations is prohibited.”

In fact the government has made every attempt to close or disrupt the work of numerous local and international nongovernmental organizations and some have had to cease operations as a result. The growing list of international groups that were closed by the authorities in 2006 alone includes Freedom House, the Eurasia Foundation, Counterpart International, ABA/CEELI, Winrock International, and Crosslink Development International.

Also this year, at least 13 human rights defenders have been convicted and imprisoned on politically motivated charges: Saidjahon Zainabitdinov (seven years—see above), Dilmurod Mukhiddinov (five years—see above), four members of Ezgulik (convicted and released on parole), Rasul Khudainazarov (ten years), Mutabar Tojibaeva (eight years), Jamol Kutliev (seven years), Azam Farmonov (nine years), Alisher Karamatov (nine years), Utkir Pardaev (four years), and Mamarajab Nazarov (three-and-a-half years). In addition, the government closed the Andijan branch of Ezgulik.

In the past 16 months dozens of human rights defenders have fled the country after being subjected to ongoing harassment, threats of arrest, beatings and fear for their personal security. Some examples from 2006 include Tolib Yakubov, chairman of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, who fled after a series of threats, and Rakhmatulla Alibaev, who fled after he was badly beaten by an unknown person. In August, Bakhtior Khamroev, a defender living in Jizzakh, was beaten up in his home by a group of vigilantes—likely to be government proxies—while being visited by a Western diplomat. Most of the human rights defenders who continue to work in Uzbekistan are routinely followed by plainclothes men, videotaped by the authorities, prevented from leaving their flats on certain days (for example to stop them from monitoring a trial), and they and their families are subjected to other forms of harassment. Furthermore, the authorities often deny exit visas to human rights defenders and civil society activists to prevent them from participating in international conferences or other similar events.

Assertion: “In accordance with article 34 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Uzbek citizens have the right to form political parties. No one may infringe on the rights, freedom, and dignity of persons constituting an opposition minority in political parties, public associations, and mass movements…. In Uzbekistan, there are no artificial obstacles to the registration of political parties.”

Opposition political parties cannot operate freely in Uzbekistan, and there has not been a single election there that the OSCE has found to be free or fair. Opposition parties and movements such as Birlik (Unity), Erk (Liberty), Ozod Dekhkon (Free Peasant Party) and the Sunshine Coalition are denied registration or prevented from holding meetings. In March 2006, Sanjar Umarov and Nodira Khidoiatova, who are Sunshine Coalition leaders, were sentenced to 14 and 10 years in prison, respectively; Umarov’s sentence was later reduced to seven years, while Khidoiatova was conditionally released. Umarov’s lawyer, Vitaly Krasilovsky, was forced to flee the country after articles in the state-controlled media accused him of supporting terrorists.