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The Worst of the Worst 2012 - Uzbekistan

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 4 July 2012
Cite as Freedom House, The Worst of the Worst 2012 - Uzbekistan, 4 July 2012, available at: [accessed 22 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 28,463,000
Capital: Tashkent

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 7
Status: Not Free

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2002200320042005200620072008200920102011

2011 Key Developments: Uzbekistan's government suppressed all political opposition and restricted independent business activity in 2011, and the few remaining civic activists and critical journalists in the country faced prosecution, hefty fines, and arbitrary detention. Nevertheless, the regime continued to improve relations with the United States and Europe as it provided logistical support for NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Political Rights: Uzbekistan is not an electoral democracy. President Islam Karimov uses the dominant executive branch to suppress all political opposition. Karimov's most recent reelection in December 2007 apparently flouted constitutional rules on term limits. Only four political parties, all progovernment, are registered, and no genuine opposition parties function legally. Unregistered opposition groups operate primarily in exile. In October 2011, the exiled opposition group Birdamlik attempted to hold a national event to bring complaints against local officials in several cities. Local activists faced harassment from authorities, and leaders of the campaign reported that the neighborhood committee (mahalla) officials threatened residents who wanted to participate.

Civil Liberties: Despite constitutional guarantees, freedoms of speech and the press are severely restricted. The state controls major media outlets and related facilities. The government permits the existence of mainstream religions, including approved Muslim, Jewish, and Christian denominations, but treats unregistered activities as a criminal offense. The state exercises strict control over Islamic worship, including the content of sermons. In 2011, members of legally registered Christian organizations were frequently targeted in raids, with authorities seizing religious literature, and members were arrested for unauthorized private gatherings. In March, the last remaining bookstores legally permitted to sell approved religious literature in Tashkent were raided and closed. The government reportedly limits academic freedom. Bribes are commonly required to gain entrance to exclusive universities and obtain good grades. Open and free private discussion is limited by the mahalla committees – traditional neighborhood organizations that the government has turned into an official system for public surveillance and control. Despite constitutional provisions for freedom of assembly, the authorities severely restrict this right in practice. Freedom of association is tightly constrained, and unregistered nongovernmental organizations face extreme difficulties and harassment. Human Rights Watch, the last international monitoring group with a presence in the country, was forced to close its office in March 2011. The judiciary is subservient to the president, who appoints all judges and can remove them at any time. Prisons suffer from severe overcrowding and shortages of food and medicine. As with detained suspects, prison inmates – particularly those sentenced for their religious beliefs – are often subjected to abuse or torture. In May 2011, the president amnestied political prisoner and critical poet Yusuf Juma, who had been sentenced to five years in prison in 2008, allegedly for injuring police during a demonstration. He left for the United States after his release. Restrictions on foreign travel include the use of exit visas, which are often issued selectively. Women's educational and professional prospects are limited by cultural and religious norms and by ongoing economic difficulties. The trafficking of women abroad for prostitution remains a serious problem. Despite legislation passed in 2009 to impose tougher penalties for child labor, the practice reportedly remained widespread during subsequent cotton harvests.

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