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Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned by the death of Samandar Umarov in Novoi prison 64/29 on January 2, 2005. We are writing to urge the government of Uzbekistan, in accordance with international standards, to conduct a thorough, prompt and impartial investigation into Mr. Umarov’s death and to make public the results of that inquiry. We encourage the government to follow the constructive precedent it set in May 2004 in the case of the death of Andrei Shelkovenko and publicly commit to such an investigation and to allow independent international experts to observe all aspects.

As you know, according to international standards, “[a] death in any type of custody should be regarded as prima facie a summary or arbitrary execution, and appropriate investigation should immediately be made to confirm or rebut the presumption. The results of investigations should be made public.”

In the course of such an investigation, the Uzbek government must ensure the safety of Mr. Umarov’s family. Human Rights Watch was disturbed to learn of reports from local human rights groups that police officers surrounded Mr. Umarov’s family’s home and officials pressured relatives to bury his body quickly without giving them adequate time to observe customs such as preparing the body for burial and gathering other relatives and friends for the funeral. Officials also reportedly refused to give Mr. Umarov’s relatives a copy of the report on the autopsy conducted on him prior to the return of his body or his death certificate. We encourage you to examine these allegations during your investigation, protect Mr. Umarov’s relatives from further intimidation and harassment and bring to account any law enforcement officials found responsible for any misconduct.

To ensure thoroughness and impartiality, the investigation should consider not only a forensic autopsy of Mr. Umarov’s remains by independent experts, but also information from witnesses, relatives, prison and infirmary officials, medical records, prison records and other sources relevant to the state of Mr. Umarov’s health prior to his death, including any known medical conditions, his treatment while in custody, and the cause and manner of his death.

Human Rights Watch notes with concern that according to reports of local human rights groups and the press, relatives of Mr. Umarov had made several written complaints to the prison directorate about Mr. Umarov’s treatment in prison. They also reported that he told them he was severely beaten in prison after the March-April violence, and that he suffered broken teeth (allegedly later replaced) and organ damage as a result. These allegations highlight the importance of an impartial investigation into the cause and manner of death of Mr. Umarov and the need for accountability for any officials found responsible.

Human Rights Watch recognizes that the government of Uzbekistan has recently taken important steps to develop an independent mechanism to investigate deaths in custody and grave human rights abuses, and that independent observers were allowed to observe the investigations into the custodial deaths of Andrei Shelkovenko and Ilkhom Umarov (the “Anresay case”) in 2004. The present investigation provides a critical opportunity for this body to continue this work and create a record of impartiality and credibility. To this end, members and observers must have prompt and unfettered access to all relevant witnesses and materials, including the authority to issue summonses to officials allegedly involved and to demand the production of evidence. Further, it is vital that this mechanism report on the results of the investigations as well as any resulting prosecutions to the Uzbek people.

Thank you for your attention to the concerns in this letter. We welcome further dialogue with you on this case.


Rachel Denber
Acting Executive Director
Europe and Central Asia Division


US Ambassador to Uzbekistan
French Ambassador to Uzbekistan
German Ambassador to Uzbekistan
Swiss Ambassador to Uzbekistan
Italian Ambassador to Uzbekistan
Charge d'Affaires, Embassy of the United Kingdom

Abdusamat Polvon-Zoda, Minister of Justice and head of the Working Group for Studying the Observance of Human Rights Standards by Law Enforcement Agencies
Sodyk Sofaev, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Zakirjon Almatov, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Rajab Kadirov, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and Head of GUIN

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