Kyrgyzstan: increase in attacks on ethnic Uzbeks

The Osh office of the members of the ‘International independent commission for the investigation of the June events in the sourth of Kyrgyzstan’ closed on December 9 2010. The commission also responded to the claims of people who suffered in the next half year. Immediately after the commission left attacks and other illegal actions against ethnic Uzbeks increased, with members of the security services and civilians taking part. Below are some of the testimonies we have received from victims.   

Muzaffar Rahmatullaevich wrote to us on December 1 2010. His date of birth is January 13, 1976. He is a citizen of Kyrgyzstan, and lives in the city of Osh.

December 1 2010, on Gagarin Street, our car was overtaken and stopped by ethnic Kyrgyz whom we had never met before. They said they were staff members of the criminal investigation department of the Osh City GUVD (Main Department of the Interior Ministry). They illegally arrested myself and three of my friends and took us to the GUVD of the city of Osh, where we placed in the isolation ward. There members of the special forces unit placed us in a ‘G’ position (our heads against the wall) and beat us. They beat us on our torsos and legs so as to not leave marks. They constantly threatened that if we told anyone they would find and kill us. Apart from us there were another 15 people there. They wanted to accuse us of crimes we did not commit. They were not able to extract any statements from us and moved us to the GSNB (State Service of National Security) of the city of Osh.
Again we were beaten for no reason. I was heavily beaten. They threatened to put me on an electric chair and proceeded to do this. Then they poured water over my head. They said they would beat all the Uzbeks in turn and then charge them with various crimes. I was released at 0030. I could not take the steering wheel due to pain in my chest. I took a taxi home and left my car by the GUVD. The next day my friends went to get the car, and had to pay 20 000 Som (500 USD), to get it back. As far as I know,  the names of some of the members of the GUVD and GSNB of Osh are: Urmat, Omurbek, Marat and Asilbek. Next I went to the doctor to complain of pains in my breast cage. He sent me for an x-ray. It was discovered I had two cracked ribs. They also recorded several bumps and bruises. 

On the photo is part of a leg where we see torture marks. The victim had molten nails pressed to his body to force them to give false evidence. To safeguard the victim we do not reveal their name and only show part of the photo.

According to a witness, 5 people were arrested on December 11 2010 by aggressively inclined members of the police and people in civilian clothes.
On December 11 2010, at around 0930, in the suburb of Amir Temur, members of the traffic police of the city of Osh stopped a Mercedes Benz Universal driven by its owner Egamberdi Pazilov. The traffic police immediately began to search the automobile. They then falsely accused him of having a riflescope form a sniper rifle.

A short while later, at around 12:30-1300 they conducted a search at his home. They found nothing illegal at Agamberdi Pazilov’s home and arrested his nephew, Yusufbek Pazilov, for no reason. They accused him of being involved in a crime, but did not say what this crime was. His parents came to the police station, they were also told that he was a criminal without explaining anything.  

When members from the Department of the Interior Ministry were passing through the suburb of Amir Temur on their way back to their station, they arrested the completely innocent  Abdullo (surname unknown). His location is still not known. This arrest was made by traffic police and civilians in a ‘Daewoo-Nexia’ taxi. 

Abidjan Ahundjanov (DoB: March 8, 1934, born in the village of Shark, Karasujsk Area of the city of Osh) wrote to us on December 13 2010. He is a carpenter who has worked in Kyrgyzstan for forty years. He has raised six children, all of them educated people. 

On December 9, 2010, Abidjan Ahundjanov got on bus number 2 at the ‘State University’ stop, heading towards the south-east. He was hurrying home to make it to mosque for afternoon prayers. There were around fifty people on the bus. He was minding his own business and not paying attention to the other people on the bus. As soon as the bus got going he noticed some aggressively inclined persons had taken notice of him. Several people said to him: ‘What are you doing here, go home to your Uzbekistan!’

Ahundjanov answered that he had grown up here and was in his homeland. One young man started to beat him with all his might. He was beaten all over his body, especially on his head and face. Others simply observed  the beating. In answer to the question why he hadn’t appealed for help straight away Ahundjanov answered: ‘I felt helpless in the face of this injustice. After having given so many years to this country, to this city, I was suddenly a stranger…’
Specialists examined Ahundjanov at the city hospital and discovered he had concussion and marks from a beating. The OSCE, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights in Central Asia (France), Kalim Shami (Kyrgyzstan) were informed of this attack. 
Barno Raimdjanova appealed to us on 14 December 2010. Her date of birth is September 21, 1968. She is a citizen of Kyrgyzstan and lives in the Karasujsk area, Shark village council. She is a teacher, and works in the L. Tolstoy middle school.
 In her testimony she writes:

’12 December 2010 I went outside and saw two 16 year old Uzbek lads, my pupils, held up by a gang of Kyrgyz. I had to get involved when I heard them calling for help. I asked what was going on and was told to mind my own business. Then this group took me hostage until my pupils would bring their passports. My pupils left and I was called names I am ashamed to even mention. I was called a ‘sart’ (In Kyrgyzstan this word is used to humiliate Uzbeks, it means ‘settler’-ed.), and was told that us Uzbeks should die and we had no place in Kyrgyzstan. Then I was hit all over my body. I lost consciousness. I came to in the Osh Regional Hospital.’

Mahlie Umurzakova (DoB September 14, 1994) also wrote to us on December 14 2010. She is a citizen of Kyrgyzstan.

She wrote:

December 13, 2010, I went to the market to go  shopping. There two Kyrgyz girls caught hold of me and placed a knife against my body. They threatened to kill me. They cursed me and said that there is no place for Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan. I lost consciousness from their blows. They robbed me of 500 Som and left me by the bank of the river Uvam. My mother found me two hours later.’

On December 15 2010 alone our organization received 12 phone calls from victims in the south of Kyrgyzstan and their relatives. They related that anyone who looks Uzbek is stopped by the security services and arrested for any reason. Some are ‘found’ to have bullets on them. Others have something wrong with their documents, then they have to pay a bribe to be released. Often the reason for an attack is that an Uzbek has received help from an international body: a television, warm clothes, carpets, temporary accommodation. 

When victims are beaten they are humiliated for receiving these things. They are told that Uzbeks should be liquidated so they don’t receive humanitarian help from abroad. During all the acts of repression and attacks Uzbeks living in Kyrgyzstan are told by the Osh city authorities they have been disowned by Islam Karimov, that OSCE police will not enter the country, and that they can do whatever they want with the Uzbeks. Arrested Uzbeks hear this sort of thing even in the GUVD (Interior Ministry) offices. The security services always insult the Uzbeks by their nationality. Civilians attack Uzbeks right in front of bureaucrats and with the help of police. Both civilians and authorities conceal their names, often simply saying ‘Me: I’m your death’.  

The Association for Human Rights in Central Asia has sent this information to the general prosecutor’s office in Kyrgyzstan, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the OSCE and international human rights organizations. 

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia

Centre MBE 140, 16, rue de Docteur Leroy, 72000 Le Mans FRANCE

Tel.: +(33) 6 49 38 86 59; E-Mail:asiecentrale@neuf.fr


Kyrgyzstan: increase in the frequency of kidnappings of women in the city of Osh

Kidnappings of women have become more frequent in the city of Osh.  The victims are ethnic Uzbeks, and are kidnapped in order to extract a ransom or to be defiled. Human rights activist Ravshan Gapirov, who heads the Osh human rights centre ‘Justice-Truth’, has told us of two such kidnappings.

Zulunova Iroda was kidnapped from the street by her home on December 9 2010, approximately at 8:30. Her date of birth is 01.08.1994. She is married. We know the address where she is located. Relatives noticed her disappearance almost immediately and searched until they located her.  

December 12, approximately at 1430, Iroda phoned her mother from the town of Aravan, where she had been brought in a white automobile. Iroda’s mental state is critical. She is scared, and feels alarmed all the time.

Iroda said that she was kidnapped by two men and one woman of approximately 40 years, the woman looked like a Kyrgyz. The kidnapping took place in the following way: a car drove up to Iroda with a woman inside, she called Iroda over. Iroda approached, feeling no fear at all, and was sprayed in the face with an unknown substance, whereupon she lost consciousness.

Iroda cannot tell where she was held or for how long. She was savagely beaten, by the   woman especially, and was forced to take unknown medicines. Iroda has a bruise on her head, her shoulders have marks from a beating, there are knife wounds on her neck. Iroda says she was transported for a long time, she could hear the sound of water.

Nigora Maksudova was kidnapped October 30, 2010. She lives in Osh, on K. Datka Street. A few hours later she was found in a bad state in the suburb of Manas.

We know of other kidnappings of Uzbek women in November: one went missing from the territory of the merchandise market, another in the Shahid-tepe area, a third on Amur Timur Street. All of them ask not to be named, as they fear retribution from the kidnappers.

All these events took place in different parts of Osh, but rumours travel fast in the town. So far none of these events have led to a criminal investigation. Victims do not want any publicity and are even afraid to go to the hospital. 

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia

Centre MBE 140, 16, rue de Docteur Leroy, 72000 Le Mans FRANCE

Tel.: +(33) 6 49 38 86 59; E-Mail:asiecentrale@neuf.fr


Regarding human rights in Kazakhstan in the year of its presidency of the OSCE

In the next few days the OSCE summit will take place in Kazakhstan, with heads of state and government delegations participating. In 2007, in Madrid, when Kazakhstan assumed the presidency of the OSCE, representatives of Kazakhstan’s government promised to undertake democratic reforms: but the reality has been the opposite.
We, the undersigned, are concerned that the political regime in Kazakhstan is escalating its repression of independent journalists, human rights activists, political opponents and minority religious groups. Below is a list of the most common violations of human rights:

1. Torture in the prison system of Kazakhstan has become ‘a systemic punitive measure of criminal justice’: this is the conclusion of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak.  The work of human rights activists shows that there are no effective mechanisms for investigating allegations of torture and enacting criminal action against perpetrators.
Usually courts do not accept statements accusing the security services of forcing citizens to give evidence incriminating themselves (they were hit with plastic bottles filled with sand), even when such accusations are backed up with official medical reports.
·      During his investigation the academic and former head of ‘Kazatomprom’ Mukhtar Djakishev was subject to long interrogations, was put under psychological stress and did not receive timely medical assistance. As a result Mukhtar Djakishev was hospitalized. The court did not accept his statement regarding being abused. He is currently imprisoned.    
2. A growing trend for politically motivated criminal cases. The court system is utterly reliant on the executive branch of the state. The courts do not look at any proof of guilt, representatives of the country’s executive branch tell judges which sentence to pass.
·      Journalist Ramazan Esergenov was found guilty of revealing illegal activities at the Kazakhstan Committee for National Security, though formally he was charged with making secret materials public.
·      Human rights activist Evgeniy Zhovtis was found guilty of a crime committed by mistake. Despite the fact that the victims of the mistake have never made a move against E. Zhovtis, he has lost his freedom for four years, and was sent to a prison colony settlement.  During his sentence he is consistently being discriminated against for his beliefs, a breach of UN resolution 45/111, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 14 1990.
·      The academic and former head of ‘Kazatomimport’ Mukhtar Djakishev was sentenced to 14 years for ‘incorrect political contacts’ with the opposition figure M. Ablyazovim. The court’s decision concerning Djakishev is classified, which contradicts Republic of Kazakhstan law. 
·      Human rights activist Ermek Narimbaev was imprisoned for four years after publicly calling for the resignation of President Nursultan Nazarbaev.
The courts only support the prosecution’s version, and disregard the written applications of the defense.
Politically motivated sentences remain in place at every level of the appeals process. 

3.  Obstructing the work of the media, including independent internet portals.
Leading up to the OSCE Summit in Astana the following are suffering abuse:
·      The founding companies of the newspapers and publishers: ‘Shezhire Ltd’, ‘Kiyal & Co’, ADP Ltd, ‘Shabit-info’, DPA, ‘New Press Almaty’, ‘IAC Ayna’. The tax authorities have accused these companies of avoiding paying taxes, though the authorities have not made any of the relevant financial checks.
·      The editorial teams of ‘Vzglyad’,’Azat’, ‘Alga’, ‘Golos Republiki’, ‘Moya Respublika’ and the western Kazakh newspaper ‘Uralskaya Nedelya’
·      The printing press ‘Kometa S’ was closed, and its director Yulia Kozlova is facing a criminal investigation. She has been accused of artificially lowering the price of the newspaper and its taxable profits. The courts refused to entertain the printer’s retaliatory suit and ignore the defense’s case.  
·      There are many signs that criminal procedures are being prepared against the human rights activist Sergey Utkin and the leader of the unregistered ‘Alga’ party Vladimir Kozlov. Utkin supports the independent printing press that produces the ‘Republika’ newspaper.
4.  Concerning the abuse of political rights
Civil society activists are worried that in May 2011 parliamentary elections are to be held at the same time as an all-national referendum on prolonging the term of the current head of state. In connection with this we want to draw your attention to the artificial obstructions blocking the official registration of the ‘Alga’ Party, as well as its civic groups ‘Alga, D & K’, ‘D.V.K’, ‘Democratia- Vibor Kazhdovo’(‘Democracy- Everyone’s Choice’), ‘Demokratia Beremizge Kerek!’ (‘Everyone Needs Democracy’). The official reason for denying registration is the use of the word ‘democracy’ in the title of these organisations. The Kazakh Ministry of Justice motivates its refusal by claiming that the use of the word ‘democracy’ in the name of a civil society group is a tautology.    
The Kazakh authorities are suppressing political opposition and aim to completely control the elections and referendum. The tax and finance authorities are being used to execute this.     
·      The founder of the civil society group ‘Gastat’ Ajdos Sadikov is being persecuted for the organization of demonstrations defending civil and political rights.
·      On 11 October 2010 an attempt was made on the life of Tahir Muhamedyanov, deputy chairman of the civil society group ‘Shahterskaya Semya’ (Miner’s Family). Tahir actively defends the rights of miners whose health has been damaged as a result of their work. There was an explosion when Tahir went to his garage in the morning. A criminal case was launched, but the signs are that no investigation is taking place.   
5.  Concerning the mass discrimination of religious minorities.
Kazakhstan is breaking all its commitments guaranteeing freedom of religion, thought and assembly. Representatives of minority religious communities are systematically persecuted. Representatives of minority Islamic communities are persecuted as persons allegedly threatening national security, though there are no real proofs of criminal activities.
·      In 2006 over 200 members of an Islamic community left Kazakhstan. Of these 36 were victims of torture. 14 members were accused on false charges. Community members continue to be persecuted, and they continue to emigrate.
The existing law concerning the registration of religious organizations and their activities does not match the Constitution of the Republic and international legal norms. The law bars the activities of certain religious groups. Repression of religious groups and their members continues, including criminal trials of whole groups.

6.  On the violation of UN Conventions against the use of torture. Kazakhstan violates article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture by delivering foreign nationals to governments where torture is systemic and commonplace.
·      As of June 2010 29 Uzbek refugees are being threatened with extradition
·      4 refugees have already been extradited to Uzbekistan. They are not allowed to see lawyers or family.  
We call for the government of Kazakhstan and the heads of the OSCE member states to make their dialogue regarding the observance of the central rights and freedoms fixed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights more effective.
Of particular importance is
Creating conditions for the work of independent media, including internet publications, and the printing houses working with them. To review Kazakh laws limiting freedom of internet usage and privacy laws.
Free from prison journalist Ramazan Esergepov; human rights activist Evgeniy Zhovtis; academic and businessman, former head of ‘Kazatomprom’, Mukhtar Djakishev; human rights activist Ermek Narimabev - who have all suffered for their beliefs and professional activities. 
Lift tax charges against printing houses, independent media, political and civil society activists which have been motivated on political or civic grounds.
Bring the legislation of Kazakhstan in line with the norms of international law, including the decriminalization of libel, and a reduction in the sums editors and journalists are sued for emotional damages. 
Create the conditions necessary to implement the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak, and the OSCE representative on media freedom Dunja Miyatovich.

Respectfully Yours,

Ludmila Kozlovskaya, deputy director of the Open Dialog, Poland lyudmylakozlovska@odfoundation.eu

Leyla Yunus, director Institute of Peace and Democracy, Azerbaijan

Nadejda Atayeva, president of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, France asiecentrale@neuf.fr

Wolgang Templin, Director Heinrich Boell Fund, Poland
Marek Pavlovskiy, member of the Civil Platform party, Poland
Andzhej Schlivisnkij, NGO ‘Molodiye Demokrati’ (Young Democrats), Poland
Hikmet Gadji-Zade, FAR Centre, Azerbaijan
Matanat Azizova, Women’s Crisis Centre, Azerbaijan
Mirvari Gahramanli, Committee for the defense of oil worker’s rights, Azerbaijan
Hafiz Safihanov, Azerbajian Campaign to Ban Land Mines
Ivan Sherstuk, ‘Pora’ party candidate, founder of the ‘Open Dialogue’ Fund, Ukraine-Poland
Levan Zhorbenadze, founder of the ‘Dialogue for Development 2008’ Fund, Georgia
Yaroslav Pristash, editor-in-chief of the publishing house ‘Nashe Slovo’ (Our Word), Poland 
Alexey Tolkachev, president of the European Association of Ukrainians, Ukraine
Arif Yunusov, Conflictologist, Azerbaijan 
Michael Danieliyan, Helsinki Group, Armenia
Igor Vinyavskiy, editor of the ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Jodgor Obid, PEN-Club international member, Austria.
Dmitriy Belomestnov, representative of the ‘Human Rights in Central Asia Association’ in Russia
Diloram Ishakova, representative of ‘Mazlum’ Human Rights Centre, Uzbekistan
Bahtizhan Ketebaev, K-Plus Business Group, chairman of the board of directors, Kazakhstan
Ismail Dadadjanov, chairman of the Democratic Forum of Uzbekistan, Sweden
Hatam Hadjimatov, ‘Vatandosh Project’, http://jakob.clan.su/, author, Norway  
Alisher Taksanov, independent journalist, Switzerland
Bashorat Eshova, representative of the Uzbekistan Human Rights Society in Switzerland
Ulugbek Zajnobidinov, human rights activist, Sweden
Muzaffarmirzo Ishakov, human rights activist, Norway
Nasrullo Saidov, former Uzbek parliamentarian (Upper Council), Canada
Avaz Faizov, representative of the ‘Birlik’ Party, Sweden
David Petrosyan, journalist, informational holding company ‘Noyan Tapan’, Armenia
Tamara Kaleeva, President of the international fund for the freedom of speech ‘Aidil Soyuz’, Kazakhstan
Piotr Niziol, Director of Academic Incubators for Entrepreneurship, Lublin, Poland 
Olga Ushakova, NCO correspondent of the ‘Golos Respubliki’(Voice of the Republic) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Irina Petrushova, editor-in-chief ‘Respublika’ media group, Kazakhstan
Anastasia Novikova, multimedia editor ‘Respublika’, Kazakhstan
Ermurat Bapi, ‘Obschestvinnaya Positsiya’ (The Civic Position) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Ekaterina Nazarenko, editor-in-chief and co-founder ‘Gazeta nashevo goroda, Petropavlovsk kz’ (Our town newspaper, Petropavlovsk KZ), Kazakhstan
Nazira Darimbet, editor ‘Azat’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Nikolaev Nikolai, civic movement ‘InterSoyuz supporting labor migrants’, head of the Volga Basin department, Russia
Andrej Sheketa, chairman of the executive secretariat of the VMOO (Ukrainian Youth Civic Organisation) ‘Batkivschina Moloda’ (The Homeland is Young), Ukraine
Raushan Esergepova, deputy editor ‘Alma-Ata Info’, Kazakhstan
Oksana Makushina, editor ‘S Perom I Shpagoj’ (With a Quill and Sword) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Mikhail Sizov, editor-in-chief, ‘Alga’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Vitaliy Shabunin, head of the Foundation for Regional Initiatives, Ukraine
Sergey Utkin, Lawyer, Kazakhstan
Alexander Solontaj, parliamentarian of the 5th convocation of the Uzhgorod Oblast, expert at the Institute of Political Education, Ukraine
Pavel Sidorenko, head of the VMOO (Ukrainian Youth Civic Organisation) ‘Ukrainian Youth Information Agency’, Ukraine
Viktor Taran, head of the Centre for Political Studies and Analysis, Ukraine
Tatyana Trubacheva, editor ‘Golos Respubliki’ (Voice of the Republic) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Arthur Sakunts, Helsinki Citizens Assembly of Vanadzor, Armenia
Nikolai Suhomlin, media expert, member of the National Union of Journalists, Ukraine
Vladimir Radionov, deputy editor, ‘Vzglyad’ (The View) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Olesya Schelkova, correspondent ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Alexey Gostjev, correspondent, ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Igor Zenin, correspondent, ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Mikhail Korchevskij, correspondent, ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Anastasia Puchkova, correspondent, ‘Vzglyad’ newspaper, Kazakhstan
Sergey Zelepuhin, finance editor, ‘Golos Respubliki’ (Voice of the Republic) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Tatyana Panchenko, social policy editor, ‘Golos Respubliki’ (Voice of the Republic) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Ashat Ahmetbekov, journalist, ‘Golos Respubliki’ (Voice of the Republic) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Larisa Shtaba, journalist, ‘Golos Respubliki’ (Voice of the Republic) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Larisa Chen, Karaganda correspondent, ‘Golos Respubliki’ (Voice of the Republic) newspaper, Kazakhstan
Marianna Gurina, journalist, Kazakhstan
Polina Legina, independent journalist, Kazakhstan
Georgiy Shal, correspondent of internet-publication www.atyraunews.com, Kazakhstan
Ludmila Ekzarhova, journalist, Kazakhstan
Evegeniya Bodrova, journalist, media-portal ‘Stan.tv’, Kazakhstan
Ajsulu Kadirbaeva, social fund ‘Kuretamir’
Igor Kozlov, ‘Civic committee for human rights’, Kazakstan
Sergey Izmailov, ‘Civic Committee for human rights in SKO (North Kazakhstan)’, Kazakhstan
Perizat Kasimov, ‘Centre for the defense of human rights’, Kazakhstan
Yulia Ananyina, ‘Association for the defense of human rights and civic freedoms’, Kazakhstan
Danila Nosenko, ‘Union for the defense of civic rights and freedoms’, Kazakhstan
Hubert Bugajnij, member of the NGO ‘Young Democrats’, Serazh, Poland
Stefan Truschinskij, independent journalist and publicist, Poland
Alexander Zakletskiy, deputy chairman, ‘Ukrainian Youth Environmental League’, environmentalist, Ukraine 
Tulkin Karaev, member of the ‘Society for Human Rights in Uzbekistan’, Sweden 
Muborak Sharipova, Sociologist, PhD, Freelance Consultant on Central Asia and Russia, Co-Founder of Open Asia, Vice-Chairman of Danish Society for Central Asia

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia

Centre MBE 140, 16, rue de Docteur Leroy, 72000 Le Mans FRANCE
Tel.: +(33) 6 49 38 86 59; E-Mail:asiecentrale@neuf.fr


On the Uznews.net article: “Uzbek Religious Refugees: Pity Them or Fear Them?”

Twenty-nine Uzbek asylum seekers were arrested in Kazakhstan in June, 2010 on an extradition request from the country’s neighbour Uzbekistan. Seventeen of them were stripped of their status as UNHCR asylum seekers in August and face ill treatment, unfair trials and  possibly torture upon extradition to Uzbekistan. On November 1, Uznews.net published an article on these cases headlined “Uzbek Religious Refugees: Pity Them or Fear Them?”
No court has yet established the guilt of the Uzbeks in question, yet the article was written in an obviously accusatory tone. This is a classical example of violation of the presumption of innocence. The article provided no critical analysis of Kazakh immigration officials’ allegations that the detainees pose a threat to Kazakhstan’s national security yet the story's authors did criticize human rights defenders, who according to the story, failed to mentioned that the 29 detainees were "Islamic fundamentalists."
A campaign in defense of the refugees arrested in Astana was launched after the UNHCR refused to provide them with a lawyer for three months. Meanwhile, Kazakh prosecutors ordered detention facilities to prepare the inmates for extradition. Not all relatives have been allowed to visit the detainees and care packages and visitation rights are being restricted.

Meanwhile, evidence has emerged that some of the detainees may have been tortured in custody. This is not the first time Kazakhstan has complied with questionable Uzbek extradition orders. In November, 2005 Kazakhstan repatriated ten Uzbeks that were under its custody. All were subject to torture and given long-term prison sentences in Uzbekistan. They were coerced through torture to testify agains Imam Obdhon Qori Nazarov as well as people who had attended his sermons before the Imam himself fled Uzbekistan. The Imam and his sympathizers have been accused of "terrorism," a charge often used agains pious Muslims who don't adhere to government-backed mosques and preachers.

On the basis of testimony obtained through torture Uzbekistan sent extradition requests to Kazakhstan and Ukraine in June 2010 for a number of Muslim refugees residing in those countries. The request was followed up with a series of arrests of Uzbek refugees by Kazakh and Ukrainian law enforcement agencies.

In March 2010, the Human Rights in Central Asia Association received several reports from Uzbekistan that refugees extradited from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan in 2005 underwent torture after being sent home. In April 2010, state-owned Uzbek television station Uzbekistan released a documentary titled Khunrezlik (Bloodshed) accusing Imam Obidkhon Qori Nazarov and his followers of terrible crimes. It was clear that the documentary was filmed on orders from the Uzbek National Security Agency (SNB). We have drawn parallels between Khurezlik and the article that appeared in Uznews.net. Their similarity lies in an shared prejudice against Obidhon Qori and his associates.

The Uznews.net story endorsed the actions of the Kazkah authorities by claiming that the detainees were Islamic fundamentalists. However, Islamic fundamentalism is not a term used in international law or any national law that corresponds to international standards. Hate speech  and incitement of violence are recognized in law as crimes but none of the Uzbek refugees have been accused of either. Nor has any evidence been brought forward that would suggest they are complicit in incitement of violence or hatred.

One may like or dislike the views of the Uzbek Muslims detained by the Kazakh authorities. But human rights, including the right to a fair trial, should be protected regardless of political and religious affiliation. If the detainees are suspected of wrong-doing they are still entitled to a legal defense and a fair trail, neither of which is guaranteed in Uzbekistan.

The article's author points to the fact that the wives of the asylum seekers wore traditional Muslim head scarves as a criticism. But if there is no evidence that the women were forced to wear the head scarves such commentary is both inappropriate and irrelevant and serves only as a tasteless justification of the Kazakh authorities actions. We would happily condemn those who force women to wear traditional Islamic garb if there is evidence of this taking place. Uznews.net has presented no such evidence.  One of the detainees wives, who was given her husband's clothes for washing by prison officials, notices stains that resembled blood on a shirt.

Police in Oslo have a accused a trio of asylum seekers in Norway of attempting to blow up oil platforms as well as attacks on a Danish cartoonist who drew pictures of the prophet Mohammed. The accused are Muslims hailing from China, Iraq and Uzbekistan. The defendant from Uzbekistan denies the charges and a Norwegian court has not yet ruled in the case. However Uznews.net along with a  number of other internet publications have ambiguously linked the case to the arrest of the Uzbek refugees in Kazakhstan and further tarnished their reputations without questioning Kazakh assertions that the "group of Uzbeks belong to banned Islamic organizations and represent a threat to national security."

The Kazakh and Uzbek security services have used everything at their disposal to produce negative coverage of the Uzbek asylum seekers. Uznews.net appears to be part of this negative information campaign. Its editor, Galima Buharbaeva should expect to be rewarded handsomely for her efforts.

The refugees' efforts, however, to use international protections in their defense were also viewed negatively by the authors of the Uznews.net article. "How do we deal with Uzbek refugees who have radical Islamic ideas and only mention secular democratic principals when their own rights and freedom are under threat?  This question is more difficult than ever to answer," Uznews.net wrote.

Should this be interpreted as a call to forgo international law when dealing with the "bad guys" who, it stands to reason, deserve to be sent into the arms of dictators like Islam Karimov for re-education?

The answer is of course very simple: Every refugee deserves protection from forcible extradition, in accordance with international law. Even if the refugees violated the law and belong to banned groups, they still have the right to an independent and fair trail, protection from torture and ill-treatment, and access to a legal defense.

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia
Centre MBE 140, 16, rue de Docteur Leroy, 72000 Le Mans FRANCE
Tel.: +(33) 6 49 38 86 59; E-Mail: asiecentrale@neuf.fr


Teacher’s Day in Uzbekistan: Just another day of slave labour in the cotton field for teachers and school children

Every year Uzbekistan marks Teacher’s Day on October 1st. The country’s president Islam Karimov again promised to raise teachers’ salaries in a speech on the eve of the holiday. But the reality is that just as in the rest of the autumn, teachers and their pupils marked this holiday by picking cotton in the fields.

In all three provinces of the Fergana valley students ten years and older as well as adults have been mobilized to pick cotton since the middle of September, according to our correspondents in the area. Below is one of the latest letters we have received from Uzbekistan from a mother of two 12 and 13-year-old children.

“…One week had not passed since the beginning of the school year when children were sent into the fields. On Friday, they picked cotton all day although it was Teachers’ Day. Their teachers were with them. They were picking cotton on Saturday and Sunday too. The children have hardly enough time to do their schoolwork. Children from the younger years aren’t being sent out yet, but the older kids from grades 7, 8 and 9 were sent out and sleep [at the cotton picking sites]. Those poor kids had to walk to the fields and spend the whole day with their backs bent picking cotton. After work they had to walk home from the fields. The children are fed with noodles and sometimes Shavlya [Rice porridge with vegetable] without meat. They are half starving. Their nerves are frayed. There is no money for transport and the kids have to walk. Poverty is everywhere. At least the weather is holding out. The children used to dream about who they wanted to be when they grew up. Now all they talk about is where they will go after school to earn money.
“The parents have been forced to give written permission to allow their children to pick cotton. And everything is made to look like the children are going of their own will and the parents are not against it. Everyone is scared. If they try to stop their kids from going to pick cotton, the Makhala committee for welfare benefits will stop payments. Our children are growing up without rights; some of their parents are [political] prisoners and are being raised by their grandparents. If you try speaking out they will take you away and no one will find you. And what are they saying in the West? Do they know that the children are in the fields? The changes have been minimal. They used to just make everyone go into the fields openly [without any formalities] and now they get written permission, they make threats so that people don’t talk and send the kids to the fields anyway.”
Uzbekistan will hold its 6th annual international cotton fair in Tashkent on the 13th and 14th of October. Association "Human Rights in Central Asia" would like to call the attention of participants in the trade fair to the fact that the use of children in the cotton sector has not stopped.
We call on the European Union, the governments of democratic countries and UNICEF to press for the rights of children in Uzbekistan to be guaranteed. mother of two 12 and 13-year-old children.