torture of detainees is common in criminal
investigations in Uzbekistan, and has become an
unmistakable feature of the government's
crackdown against independent Islam. Uzbekistan's
government refuses to hold police and security
forces accountable for acts of torture, and even
tacitly encourages torture though its
broadcasting of political prisoners' public
"confessions" as tools of political
propaganda. Instituting legal and judicial reform
to halt torture, and ending impunity for it,
should be a matter of priority for the government
of Uzbekistan and for all parties interested in
human rights and the security and stability of
the region. Persons detained by police in
Uzbekistan are routinely subjected to physical
and psychological abuse, often from the initial
moments of their arrest. Mounting numbers of
deaths in pre- and post-conviction detention
facilities over the past two years attest to the
brutality of the treatment meted out against
detainees and prisoners. Although Uzbek law
criminalizes torture, few law enforcement
officers are held accountable for it. Uzbek
courts routinely rely on evidence extracted under
torture, despite rulings barring the
admissibility of this
terrorism - who to blame?
..Simon Jones firstname.lastname@example.org
On March 28-30, a series of attacks on militia posts and
several explosions rocked the city of Tashkent and a
village near Bukhara. At least twenty militia and
bystanders were killed and many wounded. The explosions
involved women suicide bombers, one of whom detonated her
tragic load near the beautiful Kukaldash mosque in the
old part of Tashkent. A sad first for the Uzbek nation.
says 20 suspected militants have blown themselves
up during a fierce gun battle with special forces
in the capital, Tashkent.
Three police officers were also
killed after police and troops surrounded a
building, the interior ministry said.
After several hours of armed
exchanges, there was an explosion inside the
building, followed by silence.
On Sunday and Monday, 19 people
were killed and 26 injured in bombs in Tashkent
and the city of Bukhara.
Tuesday's siege took place in the north
President Karimov denounced the events on Uzbek TV,
explaining that they "were carried out by those
forces that hate in their very souls our country, the
peaceful life of our citizens and their achievements.
Their aims are to disrupt peace, destabilize the
situation, sow fear and panic, disrupt faith in our
policies, disrupt our good thoughts and creative
True, they were carried out to "destabilize the
situation" and "disrupt faith in our
policies", but as for the rest...
|Tues.March 30th BBC
the attacks seem to be directed at police targets
and now there are lone officers dotted around
Tashkent's streets, highly visible and vulnerable
to attack, she says.
Our correspondent says the
police are widely seen as the main instrument of
government in Uzbekistan, and are very much
disliked and feared in some circles.
Privately the recent murders of the militia are seen by
many as just deserts for a force that is omnipresent,
eager to supplement their meager wages with bribes,
notorious for using torture against people, and always
'solving' any crime by finding an appropriate criminal,
whether or not s/he is guilty. In the past, a murdered
militia head was gruesomely stuck on the local city hall
fence spikes in Fergana valley, a particular hotbed of
anti-government feeling. This is the first time the hated
militia have been the target of unrest beyond the
independent-minded Fergana valley, a truly worrying sign.
As for 'our policies', read 'IMF dictates'. Yes,
Uzbekistan finally made its currency, ironically called
the sum (but pronounced soom), convertible, after years
of procrastinating, despite daily exhortations and
pressure by the IMF, the US and the WB. In the process,
all basic goods prices were ratcheted up to an unbearable
level. Meanwhile, the government soaked up sums by
selling dollar reserves, pushing down the exchange rate
to less than 1000 sums per $ (it once was 1800) as
inflation continued to eat away at real wages. This
effectively halved people's pitiful savings (in $ as no
one can trust a bank here to return one's deposits).
Imported goods have doubled in price, including most
medicines. Not infrequently they are phony, nicely
packaged by a local petty swindler, a would-be New Uzbek.
In a word, the atmosphere of 'freedom and democracy'
based on IMF wisdom has created a tinderbox. The
president's reference to 'our policies' and 'the path we
have chosen' sticks in the craw. It is the path the IMF
chose, as it turned a blind eye to the devastation
wrought on the average Farhad and the new ease with which
corrupt officials and mafia deposit their ill-gotten
The latest straw for the hand-to-mouth Farhads has been
the inexorable increase in public transit charges - each
month a 10% increase. Now at 140 sums, that may not sound
bad to a westerner, but it is a major cost for most
people, and if you commute to work and must transfer and
return the same day, as most do, that alone will absorb
half a normal salary. The last increase was met with
outright protest on the bus I was in, the first time I've
witnessed this. The babushka shouting at the conductor
was hardly a terrorist.
And what does one read in the local press? About the
great future, the happy contented citizens, the approval
of the IMF for the wise policies of the president, the
lack of inflation, the creation of a bicameral
parliament, the construction of the new senate
building... The only TV programs that are
watched avidly are the Indian movies and Mexican soap
operas. And thank God for them.
President Karimov noted with disapproval in his speech
that "before, we did not witness the situation where
the criminal blew himself up. This shows the imitation of
terrorist acts taking place in other countries." Ah
yes, those cursed Palestinians and Iraqis. He goes on to
add, ominously, "extremist centers with big
financial means are behind them," though a few guns
and some ammonium nitrate don't cost an awful lot
(correct me if I'm wrong).
Is he perhaps trying to connect this with the tragedy of
the Palestinians or the criminal invasion of Iraq (which
he enthusiastically endorses, even THESE days)? If so, he
puts himself in the shoes of the Israeli and US
occupation forces in their respective missions, hardly
desirable bedfellows for a Muslim leader.
Finally, he calls on the traditional community
organizations, mahallas, and their members, to be extra
vigilant in exposing suspicious activities. "May
they be brave and decisive, not stinting in their duty to
preserve order in the mahallas."
That's the spirit! In the tradition of 911, encourage
people to inform on each other, and don't dare question
what grievances the desperate individuals have that might
prompt them to blow themselves up. Of course, they are
mere dupes of some nebulous religious 'fanatics'
(thousands of whom are languishing (or worse) in Uzbek
jails). The fact that life for most Uzbeks is close to
unbearable is never mentioned.
But beware Mr Karimov. The US can be a fickle ally. The
shiny new FBI office you so graciously allowed them to
open here, the huge military base you so magnanimously
handed over, packed full of hardnosed soldiers and covert
operations experts - they aren't necessarily to protect
YOU. And you can't fool all of the people all of the
|Tues.March 30th BBC
Hizb ut-Tahrir said the
government would use the attacks as a
justification for the oppression of Muslims.
The group, which is banned in
all central Asian states, advocates the
introduction of Muslim Sharia law.
Another group under suspicion
is the home-grown Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
The group initially aimed to
overthrow Mr Karimov and replace his
administration with a Muslim government, although
in 2000 its objective changed to establishing a
radical Islamist state across Central Asia.
The group's leader Tahir
Yuldashev is accused of orchestrating a series of
deadly bomb attacks in Tashkent in 1999, one of
which nearly killed Mr Karimov.
However, Shahida Tulaganova of
the BBC's Central Asia Service says the group,
which fought alongside the Taleban during the
Afghan conflict, is now in tatters with many of
its leaders being held by the US in Guantanamo
U.S. RUBBER STAMPS HUMAN RIGHTS
September 10, 2002
York, September 10, 2002) - The U.S.
State Department has exaggerated
Uzbekistan's human rights gains,
evidently in order to maintain foreign
assistance to that country's government,
Human Rights Watch said today.
an August 26 document that has not been
released to the public, Secretary of
State Colin Powell reported to the U.S.
Congress that Uzbekistan is making
"substantial and continuing
progress" in meeting the human
rights and democracy commitments
contained in a Joint Declaration signed
with U.S. officials in March 2002. The
State Department's determination was
required for $45 million in additional
assistance to the Uzbek government to be
released, under legislation enacted by
the Congress in July.
State Department did not use this law as
it was intended," said Tom
Malinowski, Washington advocacy director
for Human Rights Watch. "We expected
a proactive effort. All we got was a
United States has publicly expressed
concern about recent setbacks in
Uzbekistan, which include deaths in
custody of religious prisoners and the
forced psychiatric detention of a human
rights defender. Yet on the basis of
conversations with U.S. officials, Human
Rights Watch believes that the State
Department made no attempt to use the new
law to leverage additional progress on
those concerns before it made its
March 2002, a U.S.-Uzbek Joint
Declaration committed Uzbekistan to
ensure a "strong and open civil
society," "respect for human
rights and freedoms," a
"genuine multi-party system,"
"free and fair elections,"
"political pluralism, diversity of
opinions and the freedom to express
them," "the independence of the
media" and "independence of the
determining progress in these areas, the
State Department listed a number of steps
taken by Uzbekistan in response to U.S.
concerns. Yet for each step cited, Uzbek
authorities have adopted repressive
measures that undermine its impact. For
State Department cited the registration
of the Independent Human Rights
Organization of Uzbekistan, the first
such group permitted to function legally
in the country, and expressed hope that
other groups would be legalized soon.
Yet since March, no other groups
have been registered and at least four
human rights defenders have been
arbitrarily detained. Another defender,
Yuldash Rasulov, is on trial on charges
relating to "religious
extremism." On August 28, the
authorities forcibly committed yet
another human rights defender, Elena
Urlaeva, to a mental institution, where
for the past few days she has been denied
visits even from her family.
The State Department cited
prison sentences handed down against
seven police and security agents since
January for two deaths in custody, as
well as an invitation to the U.N. Special
Rapporteur on Torture to visit
But since March, Human Rights
Watch has documented three new deaths
arising from suspicious circumstances in
custody. Two deaths, those of Muzafar
Avazov and Husnidin Alimov, took place in
August just prior to the State
Department's positive determination. Many
other deaths in custody and countless
reports of torture remain uninvestigated.
In May the Uzbek government failed to
provide the U.N. Committee against
Torture with requested statistics on the
number of detainees in its facilities.
State Department cited declining arrests
of Muslims whose religious practices and
affiliations fall beyond state controls.
Yet the pace of arrests and
trials since March indicates that the
Uzbek government has not relented in its
campaign to arrest and persecute such
people. Between February and July, Human
Rights Watch's research alone found that
116 people were convicted on charges
relating to religious
"extremism," and that dozens
more were arrested. The State Department
acknowledges there are still about 6,500
prisoners in Uzbekistan convicted on
"extremism" charges, most of
whom were arrested and charged for their
protected religious beliefs, practices,
State Department cited the opposition
political party Birlik's ability to hold
five regional congresses since April,
without government interference.
But past and current members of
Birlik remain on police lists and are
required to report regularly to police
and to sign statements explaining their
current activities. Members of other
banned political parties continue to be
harassed and risk arbitrary detention for
gathering informally or discussing
political issues. Also, since March,
citizens who have tried to organize
protests on economic, social, and
political issues have been harassed,
threatened, and detained.
State Department cited the abolition of
formal prepublication censorship.
But authorities apparently have
transferred the role of censor from the
press censor's office to newspaper
editors. After running several articles
that would not have been published
previously, the editor of at least one
newspaper was subsequently summoned by
the presidential administration and
pressured to stop publishing such
material. Overall media content has
otherwise not changed. Journalists
continue to risk arbitrary detention.
Last week, Uzbek police arrested human
rights defender Jakhangir Shosalimov, of
the Independent Human Rights Organization
of Uzbekistan, on doubtful charges of
inciting a riot, when in fact he had
helped a journalist arrange an interview
with a victim of police violence.
State Department gave credit for progress
that has yet to be seen.
For example, it cites judicial
reforms announced last August, before the
Declaration was adopted, but which remain
on U.S. assistance to Uzbekistan, which
totaled $173 million this year, are
likely to be maintained by the U.S.
Congress, and Human Rights Watch urged
the Bush administration to use them more
effectively to obtain progress.
recognize that in many ways American
engagement on human rights in Uzbekistan
has intensified since September 11,
rather than ending as many feared,"
Malinowski said. "But that
engagement won't be effective unless the
Bush administration sends the message
Congress intended: that continued U.S.
support for the Uzbek government depends
on greater responsiveness to U.S.
concerns on human rights."
more information on Uzbekistan, please