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Uzbekistan

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The state of human rights in Uzbekistan has faced heavy criticism for arbitrary arrests, religious persecution, and torture employed by the government on a regional and national level. The U.S. Department of State has designated Uzbekistan a Country of Particular Concern for religious persecution.[1] Craig Murray, British ambassador 2002-2004, investigated human rights abuses, and, when his bosses at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ignored his reports, went public, garnering international attention to the situation.

Uzbekistan has become the first and the only Central Asian nation that abolished the death penalty in law and practice. The abolition, initiated by the August 2005 decrees of President Karimov, became effective January 1, 2008. Capital punishment has been substituted by longer term deprivation of liberty and life sentence.

Religious freedom is one of challenging issues in a predominantly Muslim environment, where only two mainstream religions - Orthodox Christianity and Judaism - are recognized and tolerated by the traditional society.

The Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan asserts that "democracy in the Republic of Uzbekistan shall be based upon common human principles, according to which the highest value shall be the human being, his life, freedom, honor, dignity and other inalienable rights."

However, non-government human rights watchdogs, such as IHF, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, as well as United States Department of State and Council of the European Union define Uzbekistan as "an authoritarian state with limited civil rights"[2] and express profound concern about "wide-scale violation of virtually all basic human rights" [3]. According to the reports, the most widespread violations are torture, arbitrary arrests, and various restrictions of freedoms: of religion, of speech and press, of free association and assembly [4]. The reports maintain that the violations are most often committed against members of religious organizations, independent journalists, human right activists, and political activists, including members of the banned opposition parties. In 2005, Uzbekistan was included into Freedom House's "The Worst of the Worst: The World's Most Repressive Societies".

The official position is summarized in a memorandum "The measures taken by the government of the Republic of Uzbekistan in the field of providing and encouraging human rights" [5] and amounts to the following. The government does everything that is in its power to protect and to guarantee the human rights of Uzbekistan's citizens. Uzbekistan continuously improves its laws and institutions in order to create a more humane society. Over 300 laws regulating the rights and basic freedoms of the people have been passed by the parliament. For instance, an office of Ombudsman was established in 1996 [6] . On August 2, 2005, President Islom Karimov signed a decree that will abolish capital punishment in Uzbekistan on January 1, 2008.

The 2005 civil unrest in Uzbekistan, which resulted in several hundred people being killed is viewed by many as a landmark event in the history of human rights abuse in Uzbekistan,[7][8][9] A concern has been expressed and a request for an independent investigation of the events has been made by the United States, European Union, the UN, the OSCE Chairman-in-Office and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. The government of Uzbekistan is accused of unlawful termination of human life, denying its citizens freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. The government vehemently rebuffs the accusations, maintaining that it merely conducted an anti-terrorist operation, exercising only necessary force.[10] In addition, some officials claim that "an information war on Uzbekistan has been declared" and the human rights violations in Andijan are invented by the enemies of Uzbekistan as a convenient pretext for intervention into the country's internal affairs.[11]

Contents

Freedom of religion

Religious literature which is not state-approved is often confiscated and destroyed.[12]

Forum 18, a human rights organization based in Norway, has documented raids by Uzbek police in which participants in unregistered religious services were beaten, fined, threatened and intimidated. In August 2005 one of the organisation's reporters was detained and deported by the authorities at Tashkent airport in Uzbekistan.[12]

The Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses has documented several cases with imprisonment for teaching religion.[13]

Torture

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said in November 2007 that Uzbek prison authorities routinely beat prisoners and use electric shock, asphyxiation and sexual humiliation to extract information and confessions.[14] According to a forensic report commissioned by the British embassy, in August 2002 two prisoners were boiled to death.[15]

History

2004

The U.S. State Department's 2004 report on human rights in Uzbekistan found limited improvement. While no detainees died while in police custody, police negligence led to the deaths of four prisoners. National Security Service officials "tortured, beat, and harassed" citizens but human rights activists were allowed to investigate instances in which prisoners died and activists suspected torture as the cause of death. Security forces did not arrest journalists and three were released. Some non-governmental organizations, most notably the Open Society Institute, were not allowed to register with the government, and thus prevented from work in Uzbekistan.[16]

2005

In 2005 the Uzbek government arrested Sanjar Umarov, an opposition politician, and raided the office of Sunshine Uzbekistan, an opposition political alliance. United States Senators Bill Frist and Richard Lugar introduced a resolution calling on the Uzbek government to make sure Umarov "is accorded the full measure of his rights under the Uzbekistan constitution to defend himself against all charges that may be brought against him in a fair and transparent process, so that individual justice may be done."[17]

Tashkent citizens found the body of Kim Khen Pen Khin, a Pentecostal, on 11 June 2005. According to one another Pentecostal church member police treated church members worse than animals, several beating three of them. One, a pastor, had a concussion. Police initially accused Kural Bekjanov, another church member, of murdering Khin, but dropped the charges against him two days later. When police discovered his religion they broke his ribs and put needles under his fingernails to get him to renounce Christianity.[18]

In August the Uzbek government detained Elena Urlayeva, a human rights activist, on charges of disseminating anti-government leaflets. In October a Tashkent court ordered Urlayeva to undergo psychiatric treatment in a mental health facility in a legal preceding in which neither she nor her lawyer were present. The government released Urlayeva on 27 October after officials abused and beat her.[17]

The Immigration Service and Border Guards of the Government of Uzbekistan detained Igor Rotar, a human rights activist who works for Forum 18 and Radio Free Europe, on 11 August. Rotar's plane took off from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and arrived at Tashkent Airport at 10:25AM. Amnesty International condemned the incident, saying his "detention is part of a wave of intimidation and harassment of journalists and human rights defenders by the Uzbekistani authorities that escalated following the events in Andijan in May this year." Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said, "We are deeply concerned for Rotar's safety. He should be allowed to contact his organization and a lawyer, and should be released immediately."[19]

2006

An unknown individual strangled Karina Rivka Loiper, secretary to Rabbi Abe David Gurevich, and her mother on 12 June in Tashkent. While police ruled it a robbery, the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Commonwealth of Independent States called for an investigation.[20] Jewish community leaders said a spokesman for the Committee on Religious Affairs warned them against "politicizing" Loiper's death.[21]

On 25 October the Karshi-Khanabad court fined two Baptists from Ferghana and Tashkent USD $438 while four others were given smaller fines for participating in unregistered religious activity after police raided a Baptist church in the city. 30 police raided a Pentecostal church in Tashkent on 13 November. Another raid on 27 August yielded 38 unapproved pieces of literature.[22]

Uzbek state television played a show entitled "Hypocrites" on 30 November and 1 December, in which Protestant missionaries were said to have engaged in plagiarism and drug use. The program said, "On the pretext of financially helping people in need, [missionaries] instill their own teachings in these people's minds." Converts are "zombies." Begzot Kadyrov, specialist of the State's Religious Affairs Committee, commenting on the program, said, "Turning away from the religion of one's ancestors is not only one's own mistake but could also lead to very bad situations between brothers, sisters and between parents and their children." Converts to Christianity are "lost to family, friends and society."[23]

2007

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), Human Rights Watch, and the International Federation for Human Rights International asked the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to continue monitoring human rights in Uzbekistan on 22 March, 2007. The council is considering ending its observation. Aaron Rhodes, executive director of the International Helsinki Federation, criticized the suggestion, saying, "What that would really imply would be that the United Nations would reward the Uzbek government for its repressive policies and its refusal to cooperate with the Council. If the Human Rights Council can't take up the problems in Uzbekistan, then what is it for?"[24]

Umida Niazova case

Uzbek police detained Umida Niazova (also spelled Niyazova), a human rights activist who worked for Veritas, a local rights group, and as a translator for Human Rights Watch in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on 21 December 2006 in the Tashkent airport.[25]. Officers confiscated her computer, flash drive and passport and kept her for 9 hours in the airport on suspicion that she might be bringing in illegal content. Fearing criminal prosecution, she left the country for Osh, Kyrgyzstan, on 8 January 2007. On 22 January, her lawyer communicated with Niyazova's mother saying that he was informed by investigators that no criminal case would be launched against her, but she still would be found in violation of administrative code. Having learnt of the assurances, Umida Niyazova attempted to return but was arrested police at the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border. She stood a trial on charges of illegally crossing the border, smuggling and distribution of illegal content.[26]. Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, "Niazova was threatened with these charges for political reasons. In our view, the authorities wanted to intimidate Umida Niazova into stopping her human rights work. Niazova is the victim of political persecution and apparently of entrapment,” said Cartner. There is no reason whatsoever why she should be in custody. We are profoundly concerned about her well-being"[27]

On May 1, 2007, an Uzbek court convicted Niazova and sentenced her to seven years in prison, on charges of "preparing or disseminating material containing a threat to security and order," according to Uzbekistan's Foreign Ministry.[28] The Uzbek government alleged she was storing on her laptop literature by an Islamist extremist group. Niazova had written news stories about deadly protests in Andizhan, Uzbekistan in 2005. Human Rights Watch stated material on Niazova's computer that was labeled "extremist" by the government was a Human Rights Watch report on the Andizhan killings and an article by an independent Uzbek journalist.

Reporters, foreign diplomats, and human rights observers were barred from the two-day trial. Uzbekistan's government stated that during the investigation of Niazova it came to light that she used funds from foreign diplomats to finance unregistered NGOs. A government statement claims, "These facts, according to international law, cannot but be viewed as an attempt at interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign state." The 56-member Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)--of which Uzbekistan is a member--the United States government, and Human Rights Watch criticized the sentence.

On May 8, her sentence was suspended due to her confession in open court and the court's desire for her to be able to raise her young child.[29] The court gave her a seven-year suspended sentence with three years’ probation, and released her from custody.[30]

See also

References

  1. ^ Court orders preacher into 'exile' WorldNetDaily
  2. ^ US Department of State, 2004 Country report on Human Rights Practices in Uzbekistan, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 28, 2005
  3. ^ IHF, Human Rights in OSCE Region: Europe, Central Asia and North America - Uzbekistan, Report 2004 (events of 2003), 2004-06-23
  4. ^ OMCT and Legal Aid Society, DENIAL OF JUSTICE IN UZBEKISTAN - an assessment of the human rights situation and national system of protection of fundamental rights, April 2005.
  5. ^ Embassy of Uzbekistan to the US, Press-Release: THE MEASURES, TAKEN BY THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN IN THE FIELD OF PROVIDING AND ENCOURAGING HUMAN RIGHTS, October 24, 2005
  6. ^ UZBEKISTAN DAILY DIGEST, UZBEKISTAN'S OMBUDSMAN REPORTS ON 2002 RESULTS, December 25, 2007
  7. ^ http://usinfo.state.gov/eur/Archive/2005/Sep/26-966275.html
  8. ^ Uzbekistan: Report Cites Evidence Of Government 'Massacre' In Andijon - RADIO FREE EUROPE / RADIO LIBERTY
  9. ^ Uzbekistan: Independent international investigation needed into Andizhan events | Amnesty International
  10. ^ Press-service of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan:
  11. ^ Kreml.Org | Áîäéöáîóëéå Óïâùôéñ Óôáìé Ðï×Ïäïí Äìñ Âåóðòåãåäåîôîïçï Äá×Ìåîéñ Îá Õúâåëéóôáî
  12. ^ a b Uzbekistan: Religious freedom survey, April 2005 Forum 18
  13. ^ Uzbekistan: Current news releases Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses
  14. ^ "Uzbek Leader Wins New TermCBS News". 2007-12-24. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/12/24/ap/world/main3644754.shtml?source=search_story.  
  15. ^ "US looks away as new ally tortures IslamistsThe Guardian". 2003-05-26. http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,963497,00.html.  
  16. ^ Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2004 United States Department of State
  17. ^ a b Uzbek human rights abuses Voice of America
  18. ^ Uzbekistan, Country Report The Voice of the Martyrs Canada
  19. ^ Uzbekistan: Authorities must release detained journalist Human Rights Watch
  20. ^ Jewish official murdered in Tashkent Union of Councils for Soviet Jews
  21. ^ Uzbek Jews murdered Union of Councils for Soviet Jews
  22. ^ Uzbekistan: Court fines Baptists and burns Bibles Forum 18
  23. ^ Uzbekistan cracksdown on Christians Spero News
  24. ^ Rights groups demand UN action against Uzbekistan RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
  25. ^ [1]«HARAKAT» XABAR AGENTLIGI :: Independent News Agency Harakat
  26. ^ [2]Майдан. Статті. Суд над Умідою Ніязовою. Як це було
  27. ^ Uzbekistan: Release human rights defender Human Rights Watch
  28. ^ Reuters report on Niazova conviction and sentence
  29. ^ [3] BBC
  30. ^ [4] Freedom House

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