Free Uzbek Rights Defender Ruslan Sharipov
On August 13, 2003, an Uzbek court sentenced Ruslan Sharipov — an independent human rights activist and journalist — to five and a half years in prison. Sharipov had been a fearless critic of police corruption and human rights abuses in Uzbekistan.
In its persecution of Sharipov, Uzbekistan used an antiquated Soviet-era law against homosexual conduct--a law which endangers the freedom of all gay men in the country. Human Rights Watch calls for Sharipov's release, and for the repeal of such "sodomy laws" wherever they are still on the books.
Police arrested Sharipov on May 26 and charged him under Article 120 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which punishes “besakalbazlyk” (homosexual conduct, defined as “consensual satisfaction of the sexual needs of one man with another man”) with up to three years in prison. After taking him into custody, police also charged Sharipov under Article 127 (involving minors in “antisocial behavior”) and Article 128 (having sexual relations with minors).
Until August 8, Sharipov had denied the charges and declared that they were fabricated in an attempt to silence him and put a stop to his human rights work. That day, he read a written statement in court waiving his right to counsel, declaring his intention to plead guilty on all charges, and asking that the only outside observer to the proceedings—his mother—be dismissed from the courtroom.
Sharipov further offered to publicly beg for the forgiveness of President Karimov, the Minister of the Interior, and local police, and retracted all articles critical of the government that he had written from 2001 to 2003.
Human Rights Watch fears that Sharipov’s August 8 statements were coerced and is deeply concerned that he faces continued threat of physical and psychological abuse while in custody.
Human Rights Watch urges the government of Uzbekistan to release Sharipov immediately, pending an impartial, independent review of the charges against him. We condemn his imprisonment as an effort to suppress free speech in Uzbekistan and as blatant discrimination and persecution based on sexual orientation. It is a further blow to civic freedoms and the integrity of private life in Uzbekistan.
What You Can Do
Write to the following authorities. Remind them that Article 120 of the Uzbek Criminal Code violates the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Uzbekistan has ratified. Express concern that the charges against Ruslan Sharipov are in retaliation for his criticism of the government. Remind the government that he is at risk of torture, and urge his immediate release pending an impartial investigation of the case. You can also sign on to this petition calling for the repeal of Article 120.
President Islam Abduganievich Karimov
Rashidjon Hamidovich Kodirov
Zakirjon Almatovich Almatov
Human rights defender Ruslan Sharipov.