On Wednesday, August 28, two women, a human rights defender and someone she was trying to help, were forcibly detained in a locked ward of the main psychiatric hospital in Tashkent, Human Rights Watch reported today.

On Tuesday, August 27, Elena Urlaeva, a member of the non-governmental organization Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, and Larissa Vdovina attended a protest outside the Ministry of Justice building against government rights abuses. Police halted the protest by arresting and detaining them, along with six other protestors. Urlaeva and Vdovina were held in the Mirza Ulugbekski district police station until Wednesday, when they were transferred to the psychiatric hospital for compulsory treatment.

Medical staff at the hospital confirmed that both women have been given psychiatric drugs since their detention. Urlaeva told Human Rights Watch that she has been given injections and tablets.

“The government is using old Soviet tactics in an attempt to silence Urlaeva and make her stop her human rights activities,” said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia Division at Human Rights Watch.

In 2001, Urlaeva was forcibly detained in psychiatric detention for over two months under circumstances that raised serious concerns that she was being targeted for her human rights activities. Since her release last year, she has continued to actively defend victims of human rights abuse. On June 5, a Tashkent court ruled that Urlaeva should again be subjected to forced treatment in a psychiatric hospital, but the authorities only executed the decision on August 27.

Urlaeva attended the August 27 protest in order to demand that the court decision be overturned. Vdovina was protesting her illegal dismissal from work and the failure of the courts to uphold her legal rights.

Olga Krasnova, another protest participant who was detained, told Human Rights Watch that local authorities beat her in police detention. She said that she was held for 10 hours at the Yunosobadski police station and then released. A Human Rights Watch researcher observed bruising on her arms, back and legs.