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Press Release: Release of human rights defenders a positive sign, others must follow

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UZBEKISTAN: Release of human rights defenders a positive sign, others must follow

Paris-Geneva, October 6,2017 - The recent release of human rights defenders Azam Formonov andSalijon Abdurakhmanov after long years in prison on spurious charges marks along-awaited first practical step in alleviating the plight of defenders inUzbekistan. The Observatory, a partnership of FIDH and OMCT (World OrganisationAgainst Torture), calls for their full rehabilitation and for an immediaterelease of other defenders still in detention.

The exact number of political prisoners in Uzbekistanis hard to establish due to closeness of the regime over last 28 years, markedby continuous impunity and repressions.

Since Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev took office as Presidentafter Islam Karimov's passing away in August 2016, eight government critics,including five human rights defenders[1], arereported to have been released, some after spending more than two decades inprison and one from psychiatric facility. However, two of them, includingjournalist and human rights defender Muhammad Bekjon, regained theirfreedom at the end of their prison term.

On October 3, 2017, Mr. Azam Formonov, defender of farmers’rights and former Chairman of the Syrdarya regional branch of the Human RightsSociety of Uzbekistan (HRSU), was released. He had been sentenced to nine years in prison in 2006 onfabricated charges of extortion. In 2015, days before the end of his prisonterm, he was sentenced to five additional years in prison for alleged prisonrules' violations.

On October 4, 2017, Mr. Salijon Abdurakhmanov,a human rights defender, journalist and contributor to the Institute for Warand Peace Reporting (IWPR), Radio FreeEurope and other media, was freed in turn. He had been arrested in 2008 ontrumped-up drug-related charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Both have been conditionally released.

"Lately President Mirziyoyev's regime sentseveral positive signs suggesting first liberalisation efforts to take placeafter an almost 30 year-long dictatorship. Yet more systemic and systematicchanges are now needed to prevent a roll-back effect and also to repair theinjustice, as none of them should never havebeen arrested and sentenced", commented the Observatory.

The Observatory hails the release of these twoprominent civil society actors, but reminds that other human rights defenders, including Ms. Zulkhumor Khamdamova and Messrs. IsrailKholdorov, Yuldosh Rasulov, AkzamTurgunov, Dilmurod Saidov, Gaybullo Jalilov, Ganikhon Mamatkhanov, MekhrinsoKhamdamova, Chuan Mamatkulov, and Farkhidin Tillaev, continueto be arbitrarily detained.

The Observatory calls upon the Uzbek authorities to releaseimmediately and unconditionally all detained human rights defenders as well as to ensure in all circumstances thatdefenders in the country are able to carry out their legitimate activitieswithout any hindrance and fear of reprisals.

The Observatory for the Protectionof Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and theWorld Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this program is toprevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDHand OMCT are both members of, the European Union HumanRights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

For more information, pleasecontact:

  • FIDH: Samuel Hanryon / Audrey Couprie: + 33143552518
  • OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41228094939

[1] Namely Messrs. Bobomurad Razzakov, Muhammad Bekjon, JamshidKarimov, Azam Formonov, and Solijon Abdurakhmanov.

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