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Uzbekistan
16.09.10
Urgent Interventions

Open Letter to Mr. Islam Abduganiyevich Karimov, President of Uzbekistan: Concern about health conditions of arbitrarily detained human rights defenders and obstacles to the freedom of assembly

Open Letter to Mr. Islam Abduganiyevich Karimov,
President of Uzbekistan

Paris-Geneva, September 16, 2010

Re: Appalling health conditions of arbitrarily detained Uzbek human rights defenders and obstacles to the freedom of assembly

Excellency,

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), expresses its deepest concern about the appalling health conditions of Messrs. Norboy Kholjigitov, over 60-year-old member of the Ishtikhan regional branch of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU), Khabibulla Okpulatov, member of the Ishtikhan regional branch of HRSU, both detained since June 4, 2005 and Mr. Alisher Karamatov, Head of the HRSU branch in the Mirzaabad district and detained since April 29 2006, in retaliation to their human rights activities[1].

Messrs. Kholjigitov, Okpulatov, Karamatov have been suffering a serious deterioration of their health due to the poor conditions of detention and the ill-treatments they have been subjected to in prison.

Mr. Kholjigitov, who suffers from diabetes, has seen a sharp deterioration of his health condition over the past months while detained at the U/Ya 64/49 colony in Karshi. On December 7, 2009, suffering from bronchial asthma and developing a gangrene on his left leg and hand as well on his face, the latter had to be transferred to the hospital of the U/Ya 64/18 colony in Tashkent[2], and was sent back to the Karshi colony in early January 2010.

On May 5, 2010, Mr. Kholjigitov wrote an open letter to your Excellency. In this letter, he mentioned, inter alia, that his health status had deteriorated seriously, that he had lost lot of weight and that he felt difficulty to walk. We were appalled to learn that Mr. Kholjigitov was then interrogated about this letter, and subsequently accused of violating eight internal rules of the prison, and notably “wearing dirty clothes” and “having dirty bed sheets”.

The restrictions posed to the visits of his relatives are also an element of serious concern. On August 11, his wife was indeed authorised a two-days visit with one of their sons but was asked, in the end, to leave after the first day. Furthermore, on her arrival at the prison, she was interrogated by the security services (SNB) about the letter her husband sent to your Excellency and she was threatened. In addition, she was not able to convey to her husband all the supplies she had brought with her, as the prison guards took away all the high-calories products and spilled some of them on the floor so that she could only give biscuits and five litres of water bought at the prison store.

The Observatory also received alarming information about the health condition of Mr. Okpulatov, detained in Navoi prison No. 64/29 since December 11, 2006, and then transferred to the U/Ya 64/45 colony, in Tashkent, Almalyk area. His family visited him on July 26, 2010 for two days, and reported a deterioration of his eyesight, his significant loss of weight and his difficulty to walk due to the loss of sensivity of his right leg. Mr. Okpulatov said that he was subjected to constant threats and humiliation.

Moreover, the Observatory was informed on Mr. Karamatov's extremely worrying health condition. On January, 4, 2010, he wastransferred back from the U/Ya 64/18 medical facility where he was treated after he developped tuberculosis to his first place of detention, the U/Ya 64/49 colony in Karshi. Since then, his health conditions have reportedly deteriorated. On August 10, his wife visited him and was informed that she had only a right of two-hour visit instead of the three days she was normally entitled to, allegedly because of a too great number of visitors. In fact, the conversation between Ms. and Mr. Karamatov lasted only 40 minutes, behind a glass barrier. However, his wife could see that his health continues to deteriotate and notably reported that he had lost weight, he felt constantly tired and has difficulty to walk, he coughed a lot and feared his lung wounds may open again, and festering sores begun to appear on his body.

He reported to his family that he does not receive appropriate medical care, and that the prison serves bad, insufficient food and salted water to the detainees. He told his wife that he was not authorised to call his home whereas each prisoner is normally entitled to four calls per year.

Messrs. Kholjigitov, Okpulatov and Karamatov are in a critical health condition, and the Observatory require immediate release and transfer to adequate health facilities in order to receive all the appropriate medical care they need.

The Observatory further recalls that a number of human rights defenders remain arbitrarily detained because of their legitimate human rights activities, including[3]:

  • Mr. Salijon Abdurahmanov, human rights activist and journalist
  • Mr. Yusuf Juma, poet, writer and Head of the human rights organisation “Sahroiy Sherlar” (Lions of the Deserts)
  • Mr. Agzam Turgunov, Executive Director and Founder of “Mazlum” human rights centre
  • Mr. Abdurasul Hudoynazarov, Chairman of the Angren city branch of the "Ezgulik" human rights society, Tashkent region
  • Mr. Nasim Isaqov, member of the Djizak regional branch of HRSU
  • Mr. Jamshid Karimov, member of the Djizak regional branch of HRSU
  • Mr. Zafar Rahimov, member of the Kashkadarya regional branch of HRSU
  • Mr. Yuldash Rasulev, member of the Kashkadarinskii regional branch of HRSU
  • Mr. Dilmurod Sayidov, journalist and member of "Ezgulik" human rights society
  • Mr. Farkhodkhon Mukhtorov, member of the human rights organisation “Alliance of the Human Rights Advocates of Uzbekistan”
  • Mr. Ganikhon Mamatkhanov, member of the Committee for the Protection of Individual Rights as well as of the Independent Human Rights Society in Uzbekistan
  • Mr. Gaybulla Jalilov, member of the HRSU Karshi regional branch and defender of the right to freedom of conscience in Uzbekistan, sentenced on January 18, 2010 to nine years' imprisonment
  • Mr. Azamjon Formonov, Chairman of the Syr-Darya regional branch of HRSU.

Excellency, the Observatory also denounces the latest repression and campaign of intimidation against human rights defenders and the infringement on citizens' freedoms to peacefully assemble ahead of the "day of independence", on September 1. Citizens were reportedly placed under a strict control by the authorities and faced several acts of harassment on the days preceding the event.[4]

On August 27, two young men were arrested by three policemen, Mr. Achirov and two others matriculated under numbers 4485 and 4572, who confiscated their passports. Ms. Tatiana Dovlatova, member of the Human rights alliance of Uzbekistan (Pravozashithiy Alliance of Uzbekistan - PAU) and another woman , witnesses of the scene, tried to protest. As a result, all four were brought to the Iakkassarai police station of Tashkent where they were detained for two hours before being released. On August 29, Ms. Elena Urlaeva, member of PAU, was intimidated and threatened by policemen after she took pictures of abusive acts carried out by the latter in the street.

On August 31 and September 1, several human rights defenders, including Ms. Elena Urlaeva, Ms. Tatiana Dovlatova, Mr. Gulchan Karaev, member of PAU in the city of Karshi, Kashkadapinski region, Mr. Bakhodyr Namazov, member of the Committee for the Release of Prisoners of Conscience, Messrs. Akromhodja Moukhitdinov and Dmitri Tikhonov, members of PAU, and Mr. Abdullo Tadjibai Ugly, working for the promotion of fair and transparent elections were put under house arrest or strictly placed under control by the secret services agents.

Furthermore, on September 3, at 11 am, members of the human rights organisation "For free and fair elections", including its leader Mr. Abdullo Tadjibai-Ugly, as well as members of PAU including Ms.Dovlatova, gathered in front of the presidential building to picket in favour of the release of political prisoners. Law enforcement officials confiscated all the posters.

The Observatory condemns these arrests and acts of intimidation carried out as a means to sanction any human rights activity, in blatant violations of international human rights standards.

Accordingly, the Observatory calls upon the Uzbek authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all above-mentioned human rights defenders, and demands the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained, in accordance with international and regional human rights standards, in particular the 1998 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

We express our sincere hope that you will take these considerations and requests into account.

Yours sincerely,

Souhayr BELHASSEN
FIDH President

Eric SOTTAS
OMCT Secretary General

[1] For more information about the repression of Uzbek human rights defenders since the Andijan events, see Annual Reports 2005 to 2010 of the Observatory. Mr. Norboy Kholjigitov has been serving a six years' imprisonment term since 2005. Under the Amnesty Act of 2005, the prison sentence of Mr. Khabibulla Okpulatov had been reduced to four years, but shortly before his scheduled release on September 30, 2009, the latter was sentenced to an additional three years’ imprisonment by the Navoi Regional Criminal Court on the basis of charges of systematic violation of the prison’s internal rules. The hearing took place in the absence of Mr. Okpulatov’s lawyer, who was informed of the hearing only on the day of the trial that his client had been found guilty of six violations of the prison regulations, in particular on the grounds that he did not take part in “educational lessons”. The sentence was confirmed on November 26 by the Navoi Regional Criminal Court, here again in the absence of the defendant. Mr. Alisher Karamatov was sentenced on June 16, 2006 to nine years in prison. On October 12, 2008 he was transferred to the U/Ya 64/18 medical facility due to his alarming health status.

[2] Located on Okhangrabo Street nr. 1, Kouylyuk area. The Director of this colony, Mr. B. S. Matnazarov, can be contacted at the following numbers: +99871 290 36 29, +99871 290 78 14.

[3] Cf. 2010 Annual Report of the Observatory and Press Release of May 26, 2010.

[4] For example, it is forbidden for non-residents of the capital to stay in town otherwise they can be arrested and detained. The police is patrolling, arresting people to check the identities, sometimes extorting money.

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