Uzbekistan: Defender of farmers' rights Azam Formonov spends 10th birthday behind bars
- December 15, 2015 - The Observatory for the Protection of Human
Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT), FIDH member organisation "Fiery Hearts
Club", the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia,
the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, Front Line Defenders and the
International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) join Azam Formonov's
family in wishing Azam strength for his 37th birthday which he spent
locked up in prison. The health of Uzbek human rights defender has
degraded remarkably during the ten years he has spent behind bars.
Unless the international and business communities dealing with
Uzbekistan make a decisive breakthrough in urging the government to stop
maltreating its citizens and liberate Azam Formonov along with dozens
of prisoners of conscience, he will languish in prison for at least
another four years. His only crime is his activism in the association
Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU).
Head of the regional branch of the HRSU, Mr. Azam Formonov
has worked to defend farmers' rights. A few days before his arrest in
April 2006, he intended to help two farmers defend their rights against a
state-owned petrol company. Once detained, Azam Formonov was held
incommunicado for weeks and tortured to confess to charges of extortion.
Investigators suffocated him with gas masks, and beat him repeatedly
with clubs for over a week. Stripped of the right to legal defense of
his choice, he was sentenced to nine years in prison in June 2006.
reiterate our urgent call to countries and corporations dealing with
Uzbekistan to use their leverage in order to liberate Azam Formonov and
all those who languish in prisons for having stood up for citizen's
rights", insisted FIDH President Karim Lahidji.
few days ahead of his due release in April 2015, he was tried without
legal representation for allegedly violating detention facility rules
and sentenced to another five years and 26 days on fabricated charges.
Azam Formonov thus joined other Uzbek prisoners of conscience, whose
prison sentences have been arbitrarily extended on the basis of vague
accusations of “violating prison rules”. The sentences of some human
rights defenders have been prolonged so many times that their prison
terms have become de facto life imprisonment.
practice of extending sentences for alleged violation of prison rules
is a severe breach of human rights. The relevant article of the Criminal
Code must be repealed as a matter of urgency ", stressed Mutabar Tadjibaeva, President of "Fiery Hearts Club".
in a detention facility in Jaslyk known as the "death zone" for its
extremely harsh climate and severe detention conditions, Azam Formonov
has reported being tortured, beaten and often placed in solitary
confinement with no heating. He suffers from severe kidney pains, that
are exacerbated by the harsh, cold weather, and poor heating in cells in
winter, while in summer the temperature can go up to 40 degrees,
unbearable in tiny, overcrowded and poorly ventilated cells.
his nine-years' imprisonment, Mr. Formonov has been spreading the
information about the ill-treatment in his jail without possibility to
appeal to any authority. In a letter written in May 2015, he described
the terrifying conditions of detention and tortures he endured. We are
extremely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Azam
Formonov and other human rights defenders in jail ”, said Mary Lawlor, director of Front Line Defenders.
lack of any sort of investigation into the ill-treatment of Mr.
Formonov is completely unacceptable and evidences the catastrophic
situation of human rights in the country”, declared Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.
Formonov is not receiving the necessary medical treatment. His wife,
caring for their two children alone, is permitted to visit her husband
less often than specified in the prison rules. She spends days in the
prison zone before being allowed to see her husband.
situation in Uzbekistan remains perilous for human rights defenders who
are constantly persecuted, denied their right to a fair trial and
imprisoned on fabricated charges. The authorities’ fierce grip on
society eliminates any critical voices that could expose the country's
violations of human rights: forced labour and continued child slavery in
cotton fields, forced sterilisation of women, the absence of
independent media and political participation, arbitrary detentions, and
torture. The Russian human rights watchdog Human Rights Center
"Memorial" puts the figure at 10,000, while Uzbek human rights
organisations report more than 12,000 people detained on politically
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) was created in 1997 by FIDHand the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).
The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy to
situations of repression against human rights defenders.