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To the Government of Uzbekistan

  • Remove law enforcement tasks from the work of mahalla committees. In particular, relieve mahalla committees of responsibility for:

  • imposing reporting conditions on citizens under investigation by law enforcement authorities or released from the custody of law enforcement authorities;

  • carrying out surveillance of individuals for law enforcement purposes;

  • Ensure that mahalla committees stop discrimination against pious Muslims. Specifically, ensure that mahalla committees do not discriminate against pious Muslim families when assessing the latter’s need for social services and benefits, and ensure that such services and benefits are delivered without discrimination and through a transparent process.

  • Ensure that mahalla committees stop surveillance of pious Muslims that breaches the right to respect for privacy, family, and home and freedom of conscience. Surveillance required for legitimate law enforcement purposes should be carried out by law enforcement officials with appropriate authorization.

  • Cease requiring religious prisoners to obtain guarantee letters from mahalla committees in order to be eligible for release under an amnesty. An appropriate government parole body should be charged with supervising released prisoners.

  • Stop the practice of extrajudicial punishment through intimidation and humiliation at public meetings organized by government authorities and mahalla committees.

  • Remove the requirement, outlined in article 12 of the Mahalla Law, that mahalla committees take measures to stop the activities of non-registered religious organizations and other activities to ensure the observance of the 1998 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations.

  • Until mahalla committees are no longer involved in law enforcement activities, ensure that mahalla committee members are not called upon to act as witnesses to police searches or other police activity. Such witnesses should be impartial. If mahalla committee members are present as a witness, they should ensure that law enforcement officers have the appropriate warrants and respect citizen’s due process rights.

  • Provide in-depth training to mahalla officials on the provision of protection to complainants in domestic violence cases.

  • Ensure the equitable distribution of funds for the provision of social services to victims of domestic violence and their children.

  • Instruct mahalla committees to end the imposition of waiting periods before filing for a divorce. End the practice of courts requiring mahalla committee permission before the court will accept a divorce application. Instruct mahalla committees to facilitate access to courts for victims of domestic violence who want to divorce.

  • Ensure that pre-family and family education programs run by mahalla committees include components on women’s rights including the right to be free from violence, coercion, and discrimination. Address the problem of domestic violence and educate both men and women on the remedies for domestic violence. These programs should avoid reinforcing discriminatory attitudes towards women.

  • Instruct mahalla committees in resettlement villages for people displaced from their homes to facilitate, rather than block, access to representatives of international organizations, the media or others.

  • To Multi-lateral and Bilateral Donors

  • Require reform of mahalla committees as a condition for forthcoming funding for civil society, democracy building, or other similar projects involving mahalla committees. In particular, insist that law enforcement functions be removed from the mandate of mahalla committees, along with the other recommendations above.

  • Set up a monitoring system for any projects involving mahalla committees to ensure that the project is not supporting abuses at the local level. In particular, monitor any projects involving domestic violence, both before and after financial support has been given. Ensure that any program addressing domestic violence incorporates a human rights perspective and focuses on women’s rights to be free from violence, coercion, and discrimination.

  • To the International Community

  • Raise with the Uzbek government the need for mahalla committee reform, including separating them from the law enforcement agencies. Urge the government to implement the recommendations in this report.

  • Engage specific government bodies, such as the religious affairs committees, women’s committees, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, on issues of concern in relation to the role of mahalla committees and on a program of reform.

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    September 2003