Obstruction of the right to form organisations43
On 30th January, the request for registration filed by the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU) in November 2001 after its third congress, was turned down by the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry asked the HRSU, inter alia, to organise another congress. Despite repeated requests filed since 1992, this association has not been given legal status although its activities are internationally recognised.
According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the Independent Human Rights Organisation of Uzbekistan (IHROU) did obtain legal status on 4th May 2002. This organisation was set up in 1996.
Mr. Yuldash Rasulov arbitrarily detained and tortured44
On 24th May 2002, Mr. Yuldash Rasulov, a member of the Kashkadarya Regional Section of HRSU, was arrested and transferred on 3rd July to Provisional Detention Centre No. 1 where he was subjected to ill treatment. On 18th July, an unidentified person entered his cell and beat him to extract a confession. A medical examination certified his injuries. Mr. Rasulov's lawyer filed a complaint on 20th July and on 20th September a letter from the prison administration concluded that their investigation had entirely failed to prove the basis for the complaint. Mr. Rasulov is accused of having set up a prohibited organisation and of having led this group to Tadjikistan with the goal of instructing them in the use of firearms, although he knows only 4 of the 20 people accused of belonging to the organisation and has never been to Tadjikistan. His trial began on 3rd September and on 17th September he was sentenced to 7 years' hard labour under severe conditions for "acting against the constitutional order" (Article 159 of the Criminal Code), "preparing and circulating materials that could threaten security and disturb the peace" (Art. 244 para. 3C of the Criminal Code) and "creation and participation in religious, extremist, fundamentalist or other prohibited organisations" (Art. 244, para 1C of the Criminal Code). His sentencing followed court proceedings marked by many irregularities. He was placed in detention by an investigator of the Ministry of the Interior for 40 days in a cell within the Ministry, despite the fact that the legal limit on holding people for questioning is 72 hours. Mr. Rasulov and his lawyer were not informed of the charges against him until 8th July and the Articles of the Criminal Code are cited without explanation, justification or evidence. On the first day of the trial, the two witnesses for the prosecution retracted their testimony after it was read out, accusing the investigator of having interrogated them under duress.
Mr. Rasulov was released in early January 2003 under an amnesty announced in December 2002.
Arbitrary detention of Ms. Elena Urlayeva45
On 27th August 2002 Ms. Elena Urlayeva, President of the Tashkent Section of HRSU, was committed to a psychiatric centre following a court decision on 6th June. On that date, another activist in that organisation, Ms. Larisa Vdovina, was also taken to the centre. The centre's administration refused to give any date for the release of the two women, saying simply that they need to undergo medical treatment. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture visited Uzbekistan in November/December 2002 and met Ms. Urlayeva. He said that she was lucid but did not know how much longer she was to remain in detention.
Since 2001 Ms. Urlayeva has been repeatedly harassed. In February 2001 she was arrested and documents on fundamental freedoms were seized. During her detention she was forced to sign a declaration certifying that she had organised a coup d'Etat. In March, her apartment was splashed with gasoline. In November she was again arrested after filing a complaint with the ombudsman. She was sent to the infectious diseases ward and then to the Regional Department of the Interior in Chilanzar. Despite her release on 14th November 2001, the inquiry into her mental health continued and resulted in her conviction on 6th June 2002. During her periods of detention she was systematically subjected to psychological pressure and was forced to take neuroleptics which affected her health.
Ms. Urlayeva was released on 30th December in accordance with the conclusions of a medical commission. Two complaints have been filed. The first was filed by Ms. Urlayeva's lawyers who are asking for compensation for moral suffering. The Office of the Prosecutor has filed a request that she be declared "incapacitated".
Arbitrary detention of six other members of HRSU46
Three members of the Nishan Section of HRSU were convicted on 16th September 2002 by the Nishan Criminal Court and sentenced to hard labour: Mr. Muradov, President of the Section, received 6 years, Mr. Hamraev 5 and a half years and Mr. Radjapov 5 years, on the following charges: hooliganism (art. 277 of the Criminal Code), burglary (Art. 166 of the Criminal Code), vandalism committed against private property (Art. 173 of the Criminal Code) and violent death threats (Art. 112 of the Criminal Code). This trial follows an investigation of these activists launched in mid-June. Before the summer a first hearing was held before the District Court but it was suspended for reasons relating to the harvest period. On 16th September a policeman came to summon the three activists to the Court and took them there. At the beginning of the hearing the Judge read the text of the sentences which had been handed down with no debate. The lawyers for the idem were not present at the hearing, not having been informed that it was taking place. They were then taken to prison. For several months, even before the HRSU Section opened in May 2002, Mr. Muradov and a group of human rights defenders had been denouncing theft taking place in the Okoltin Kolkhoz, presenting many pieces of evidence implicating senior officials from the Kolkhoz, the District, the Prosecutor's Office and the security forces. Following this campaign against corruption, they began to be subjected to persecution and threats and the opening of the Section accelerated this process.
On 4th September, Mr. Tursinbay Utamuratov, a lawyer and President of the Karakalpankistan Section of HRSU, was arrested and charged with a variety of economic crimes. He was held in Detention Centre No. 9 in Nukus. His trial began on 21th November and on 29th November he was sentenced to 9 years in prison for falsifying documents (Art 168a, pIII of the Criminal Code), abuse of authority (Art 209a pII), violations of market rules (Art 189 pIII) and physically resisting a representative of the police forces (Art 219 pI). In early January 2003 the Supreme Court in Karakalpak reduced his sentence to 4 years.
In 1996 he had been arrested for having opposed the Prosecutor of his district, among others.
Two other HRSU members were in prison at the end of 2002: Mr. Kobilov, former President of the Djizaksk Section arrested on 27th October 1994 and sentenced to 10 years in prison and Mr. Madrahimov, from Namangan, who received a 9-year prison sentence in 1999.
Persecution of a lawyer
In May 2002, Mr. Shayfiev, a lawyer and member of the Legal Aid Society, was severely beaten by policemen in the street and then at the police station in the district of Sergeli. He was released the day after his arrest and placed under investigation. On 15th May the Judge of the Sergeli
District Court put a stop to the investigation for lack of sufficient evidence. This decision was taken a few days after the conclusions of a medical examination certifying "light physical injuries" were submitted to the Court. Mr. Shayfiev filed a complaint with the Prosecutor's Office denouncing the illegality of the action taken by the police but the Prosecutor has refused to investigate on grounds that "the complaint was unfounded." He then filed a suit against the Minister of the Interior. The proceeding is now pending.
An iniquitous investigation
Mr. Shovruk Ruzimuradov, head of the Kashkadarya Department of the HRSU, was arrested on 15 June 2001 and found dead in detention in July 2001. Following a mobilisation of civil society the authorities eventually said the death was being investigated. No report has been made public and the HRSU has on a number of occasions sought to obtain information on the conclusions of the investigation. On 1st November 2002, the HRSU finally received a letter from the Prosecutor's Office saying that the investigation carried out by the relevant departments had concluded that, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, the death had been a suicide. A criminal investigation was launched against the warden responsible for his cell for dereliction of duty. He was arrested and then released under the amnesty granted to mark the tenth anniversary of the independence of Uzbekistan. The HRSU recalls that Mr. Ruzimuradov's body showed multiple bruises and traces of torture when it was handed over to his family.
Lack of investigation
The authorities have informed the HRSU that they will not be launching an investigation into the death of Mr. Ahmadhon Turahanov, an activist working for economic and social rights for the citizens of the city of Namangan, who was arrested in 1998 and found dead at the Sangorod Detention Centre on 19th June 1999, stating that he had died in hospital and that the doctor present had certified that the death was from natural causes.
[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]
43. See Annual Report 2001.
44. See Urgent Appeal UZB 001/0502/OBS 035.1.
45. See Urgent Appeal UZB 002/0201/OBS 015.02.
46. See Letter sent to the authorities on 24 September 2002.