On transparency and accountability of EU financial aid to Uzbekistan

Letter of Inquiry

To:  Catherine Ashton,
First-Vice-President of the European Commission,
High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

CC: Andris Piebalgs,
European Commissioner for Development
July 25, 2011

Dear Catherine Ashton,

It was brought to our attention that the European Union cooperates with the National Centre for Social Adaptation of Children (NCSAC) headed by Lola Karimova-Tillaeva, Uzbekistan’s representative to UNESCO, and also the daughter of the country’s president, Islam Karimov.

We would like to highlight the details of this case that holds valuable lessons as you further develop, in tandem, your External Action Service and its engagement with civil society, as well as the financial instruments for external action. Following the Commission's proposals for the 2014 to 2020 EU Budget, including a welcome increase in external spending, this case will no doubt be cited by those resisting such an increase. A clear, proactive response will help mitigate its broader impact on budget questions while ensuring that funds allocated for civil society reach their proper destination in Uzbekistan and elsewhere.     

In 2008 the European Commission allocated a grant to the NCSAC and in 2010 issued new funding to this organization for a Project entitled ‘Improving Inclusion for the Disabled.’ As it became clear from the letter of Europa House accredited in Uzbekistan (enclosed), in 2011 the European Commission once again allocated funding of €3.7 m for the Centre for 2011-2012.

Later on, the European Commission changed the language and described this funding as ‘technical assistance,’ rather than as a grant, and Europa House withdrew information about the funding to NCSAC from its website. This evidently was done in response to two press-releases issued by the Association ‘Human Rights in Central Asia’ on 01.06.2011 and 07.06.2011, which raised questions regarding this EU funding (enclosed).

The EU’s desire to help Uzbekistan’s disabled children is in principle laudable and worthy of support. However, our concerns and queries are caused by other issues involved in financing the Centre, as well as overall EU assistance programs to Uzbekistan. The following issues are of concern:

1. The NCSAC can by no means be considered a civil society institution. De facto and de jure this organization has been established by the government and is accountable to the government. The Centre was established under the Resolution of the Uzbekistan Cabinet of Ministers No. 419, dated 07.09.2004. In accordance with clause 2 of this Resolution the Director of the Centre is appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan and its activity is accountable to it. This raises the question of the legitimacy of the funding of NCSAC by a program that should be dedicated to supporting civil society organizations.

2. NCSAC is not only a governmental body -- it also holds a total monopoly in its sector. In Uzbekistan, the majority of non-governmental organizations formed by citizens, including those dedicated to helping disabled children, were shut down during  2004-2007during a government crackdown on civil society. According to research by the  Eurasia Foundation over the period of 2004-2007, 313 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were forcefully closed under threat of criminal investigation including NGOs working with special needs children (14),  with youth (8), women’s organizations (34) and healthcare NGOs (7) (the list of the NGOs shut down by the government is enclosed).

These genuine NGOs closed down by the government, not only have no chance of receiving EU funding, but are barred from working or existing as citizens’ associations. Even had they managed to maintain their legal status, they would still not be able to receive grants or technical assistance, as in 2004, the Uzbekistan authorities put in place laws and mechanisms whereby funding wired to NGO bank accounts requires clearance by state authorities. Permission may be granted only by, and at discretion of, a special commission under the Central Bank of Uzbekistan, which is controlled by the National Security Service (formerly the KGB under the Soviet rule).

3. The charitable activity of the aforementioned Centre and the foundation Sen Yolgiz Emassan, controlled by Lola Karimova-Tillaeva –– are used for her personal promotion. This is evidenced by the fact that information about the Centre is placed on the personal website of Karimova-Tillaeva, http://www.lolakarimova.cz, and not on the organizational website of the Centre, giving the impression that the Centre is financed by Karimova-Tillaeva, which it is not. Whereas on such a website, donors might expect to find details of the activities of the Centre, its governance, structure, funding and annual reports, no such transparency or accountability is evident on the site.

4. There are particular concerns about the misuse of funds from the European Commission and other donors. It emerged from court evidence filed under a libel suit brought by Karimova-Tillaeva against RUE89 (http://www.rue89.com/), that one of the charities controlled by Karimova-Tillaeva spent €230,000 in honoraria to movie stars attending a reception at the Palace de Versailles in February 2010. Evidence of such expenses was presented to the court. We do not know whether this money was spent from the budget of the NCSAC or Sen Yolgiz Emassan Foundation. However, both of these organizations are apparently recipients of major funding from international donors, including UNESCO and UNICEF. Irrespective of which of these organizations allocated funds for the Reception at Palace de VersaillesNCSAC or the Foundation – the very fact of such expenses provides an understanding of Karimova-Tillaeva’s use of funds allocated by international donors. It is most likely that budgets approved by the international donors did not include such expenditures.   

5. We are also concerned that the funds under  the EU’s Institution Building and Partnership Programme (IBPP), whose mission is to support civil society initiatives in post-Soviet countries,  may be used for funding institutions which are an integral part of the repressive and corrupt regime and, as such, are to be considered an enemy of civil society. Unfortunately, the website of the IBPP does not provide sufficient information about which NGOs in Uzbekistan have been funded by this program and which NGOs are supposed to receive these funds in future. The only information available to the public and even to Members of the European Parliament is that IBPP allocated €2.2 m for Uzbekistan twice – in 2008 and 2010. More detail should be provided about  EU funding to Uzbekistan.

In light of the above, we kindly request your help in placing these matters of highest concern before the attention of the European Union and launching an investigation into the transparency, accountability, and legitimacy of spending by charities controlled by Lola Karimova-Tillaeva. Such investigation should address the following questions:

1)      Whether any EU funds have been used by Karimova-Tillayeva towards the reception at Palace de Versailles in February 2010.
2)      Whether the Foundation Sen Yolgiz Emassan has been also beneficiary of EU funding either in the form of a grant or as a recipient of technical assistance. 
3)      To which extent the aforementioned NCSAC and the Foundation Sen Yolgiz Emassan controlled by Karimova-Tillayeva meet the standards of transparency, and provide sufficient information to the public about the sources of their funding, budget, and its implementation.
4)      To what extent the NCSAC and the Foundation Sen Yolgiz Emassan can be considered legitimate and eligible recipients of IBPP or any other EU assistance.

We urge the European Commission to put on hold any financial assistance to these two charities, NCSAC and the Foundation Sen Yolgiz Emassan, until satisfactory answers are received to this inquiry.

We kindly ask the European Commission to provide more detail on how the budget lines of assistance programs to Uzbekistan are being used, who the recipients of these programs are, how they have been selected, and how they implement their projects.

In our view, the European Commission should revisit its programs to support civil society initiatives to make sure it incorporates an adequate understanding of the concept of civil society and operationalizes it in the daily activity of relevant programs such as the IBPP. The IBPP should be more open to stakeholders and periodically invite them for discussions and evaluation of its grant and technical assistance programs.

We would like to stress that none of us, undersigned here, are against the policy of engagement with Uzbekistan. The question is what we understand by the word, ‘engagement’. Does it mean engaging only with governmental elites and their families? Does it imply compromising the principles and values the European Union is built on? Do we apply the same or different standards when we are dealing with other parts of the world? We hope that real engagement and dialogue would not require the European Union to accommodate Orwellian standards of truth when dealing with regimes like the one in Uzbekistan. Events in North Africa have shown that such short-sightedness serves the European Union little in the longer term. EU tax payers’ money should help people of Uzbekistan make progress on the path of democracy as well as it should help the European Union to be on the right side of history.

We look forward to receiving an expedite response and clarification on what the European External Action Service is doing together with relevant Commission services towards addressing the aforementioned issues. 

The collection of signatures under this letter of inquiry is going on.


Lena Kolarska-Bobinska, Member of European Parliament, Group of the European People's Party (Poland)

Sonia Alfano, Member of European Parliament, Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (Italy)

Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, Member of European Parliament, Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance (France)

Michael Laubsch, Executive Director, Eurasian Transition Group, E-mail: mike@eurasiantransition.org

Nadejda Atayeva, President, Association Human Rights in Central Asia (France), E-mail: asiecentrale@neuf.fr

Lyudmyla Kozlovska, Vice-President, “Open Dialog” Foundation (Poland), lyudmylakozlovska@odfoundation.eu                                                       

FREEDOM LEGALITY AND RIGHTS IN EUROPE  Roberto Forte, Executive Director, FLARE Network (Italy), roberto.forte@flarenetwork.org 

Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Professor of Democracy Studies, National School of Administration and Political Science of Bucharest; the initiator and academic director of the Civil Society Against Corruption project. 


Selected list of Uzbek NGOs liquidated during 2004-2007:

Children and disabled NGOs:
  1. Andizhan club of invalids’ parents “KRIDI”
  2. Bukhara regional for supporting children of invalids “Orzu”
  3. Centre of women and children - invalids (Dzhizak)
  4. Children's Centre “Semourg “, Kokand 
  5. Tashkent Centre of women and children “Sabot” (Tashkent region)
  6. Fund of children-invalids (Karakalpakstan)
  7. Rehabilitation Centre of children-invalids (Karakalpakstan)
  8. Fund of assistance to children- invalids (Samarkand region)
  9. Centre of support of women and children-invalids (Syr-Darya region)
  10. Association of sportsmen-invalids (Tashkent region)
  11. NGO “Aridi” (Karakalpakstan)
  12. NGO “KRIDI” (Karakalpakstan)
  13. Centre “Nekuz “ (Kashkadarya)
  14. Invalids Rehabilitation Centre “Umid” (Samarkand region)

Youth NGOs:
  1. Youth Centre “Iqbol” (Tashkent region) 
  2. Youth Centre “Maksad” (Khorezm region)
  3. Centre “Yoshlar kanoti” (Surkhandarya region)
  4. Centre “Barkamol avlod” (Surkhandarya region)
  5. Centre of youth initiatives “Jaslar” (Karakalpakstan)
  6. Youth Centre “Oltyn Kabutlar” (Samarkand region)
  7. College of youth problems (Surkhandarya region)
  8. Crisis Centre “Source” (Samarkand region)

Women NGO:
  1. Consulting Centre of women-lawyers “Family and Law” (Samarkand region)
  2. Centre of confidence “Аёл ва Замон” (Andizhan region)
  3. Centre of support of women “Марварид” (Andizhan region)
  4. Cntre of business women and craftswomen “El-Ayol “ (Andizhan region)
  5. Women Resource Centre (Bukhara region)
  6. NGO “School of housewives” (Karakalpakstan)
  7. NGO “Women and Aral children” (Karakalpakstan)
  8. NGO “Woman and health” (Karakalpakstan)
  9. Women Resource Centre (Kashkadarya region)
  10. NGO “Women In progress” (Kashkadarinskai region)
  11. Centre of support of women “Azizs” (Khorezm region)
  12. Women Centre “Yangi Khayot” (Khorezm region)
  13. Women Centre “Ikhlos” (Khorezm region)
  14. Women Centre “Marjon” (Khorezm region)
  15. Women society “Orom” (Khorezm region)
  16. Women Centre “Mansura” (Khorezm region)
  17. Civic Centre of Women Initiatives (Khorezm region)
  18. Women Centre “Najot” (Khorezm region)
  19. Women Centre “Umida “ (Namangan region)
  20. Women Centre “Sharq Guzali” (Namangan region)
  21. Union of women-leaders “Сардор” (Navoi)
  22. Women Centre “Zebuniso” (Navoi)
  23. Women Centre “Umida” (Navoi)
  24. Women Centre “Мавтуна” (Navoi)
  25. Centre of social adaptation of women Navoi region
  26. Centre “Oila “ (Navoi)
  27. Centre of women-leaders “Sardor” (Navoi)
  28. Samarkand region Union of Women NGOs(Samarkand region)
  29. Centre for Protection of  rights and interests of women (Samarkand region)
  30. Tashkent Centre of women-leaders (Tashkent region) 
  31. Centre “Gender - Innovations and progress” (Tashkent region)
  32. Women Centre “Mekhri” (Tashkent region)
  33. NGO “Mehnatkash Ayol” (Tashkent region)
  34. Club of Women-Invalids “Intilish” (Tashkent region)

Medical NGOs
  1. Association of young physicians (Bukhara region)
  2. Centre “Avicena” (Fergana region)
  3. Association of doctors-volunteers “Revival” (Navoi)
  4. Association of medical students (Samarkand region)
  5. “Lainus Poling”  Centre of  medical information (Samarkand Region)
  6. Centre for psychological and legal assistance “ Mehr Yogdusi” (Tashkent region)
  7. Centre for social adaptation and reproductive health (Tashkent region)


Turkey: Uzbek refugees beaten up in the Istanbul airport

21 July 2011 at 7:00 am an Uzbek refugee family arrived in the Istanbul airport from
Almaty (Kazakhstan). The head of the family could not pass passport control as he was on the wanted persons list. While being arrested he, his wife and a 14-year old daughter were beaten up by the airport staff. They all face forced deportation to Uzbekistan where torture is systemic.
All members of the Gazievs family were born in Kokand (Uzbekistan). Early morning of 21 July 2011 they arrived in the Istanbul airport. The passport of the head of the family – Shavkat Gaziev – raised questions at the passport control. When he told the officer that he was asking for political asylum, the airport staffers started beating him up. After that they attacked his wife who had a two-year old child on her hands. And then a 14-year old daughter Dordonakhon took her mother’s side. Doctors established that she and her parents had beating marks on their bodies. 10-year old daughter watching this scene was very scared and could not calm down for a long while. Adult members of the family were coerced for several hours and, as a result, signed documents, whose content is unknown to them. All texts were in the Turkish and English languages. They were all placed on the premises for persons awaiting deportation on the territory of the airport. On the same premises another citizen of Uzbekistan, Shakhlo Jalalalova, born 1980, is being held since 14 July 2011. Her husband Ulugbek Jalalov was extradited among 28 asylum seekers on 9 June 2011 from Almaty, Kazakhstan, to Uzbekistan. During the arrest the Turkish law enforcement organs informed her that law enforcement bodies of Uzbekistan have charged her with “complicity in terrorism” and put her on the wanted persons list. Her three young children are with her. 

Irritated police officers are not allowing this group of Uzbek refugees arrived from Almaty to approach UNHCR and are trying their best to have them leave Turkey. 

  • Background information on the refugee
Shavkat Gaziev was bord 28 September 1971 in the city of Kokand. He is married with four children. Since 1996 before immigration to Kazakhstan he worked as a truck driver. He never was a member of any political or non-governmental organizations. In 1995 the harassment against his brother – Akmal Gaziev – was started, who worked in the main mosque of the city of Kokand, which was labeled as a “Wahhabi mosque” by the authorities. Later on, Akmal Gaziev was granted political asylum in France. Authorities worsened pressure on all adult Gaziev brothers as well as on all who attended that mosque. Many were jailed under charges of grave crimes. 

Shavkat Gaziev calls himself a Muslim, practicing religion in good faith. In February 2008 he requested asylum via UNHCR in Almaty. 

All members of his family are under the threat of forced deportation to Uzbekistan:
- Gaziev, Shavkat, born 1971;
- Gazieva Feruza Abdullaevna, born 1976, (wife);
- Safoeva Durdonakhon, born 1994, (daughter);
- Safoeva Mubinakhon, 2001, (daughter);
- Safoev Ismail, 2010, (son).

  • Emigration from Uzbekistan to Turkey via Kazakhstan
Over the past several weeks four Uzbek refugee families came from Almaty (Kazakhstan) to Turkey. They asked for political asylum in Kazakhstan earlier on.

New migration rules introduced in Kazakhstan since March 2010 worsened the situation of refugees considerably. Kazakhstan is declining requests of Uzbekistan citizens for asylum, refusing to take into consideration the information from victims and human rights advocates on the systemic use of torture in that country as well as ignoring the recommendation of the UN Committee on Torture.

The position of the UNHCR in this situation appears to us as cynical. It denies protection to the seekers applying for it. Since May 2010 it has been making unjustified concessions to the government of Kazakhstan.

As a result, 9 June 2011 Kazakhstan extradited 28 asчеylum seekers. The same fate is awaiting their wives and all those included in the wanted persons list circulated by the country of origin, i.e. Uzbekistan.

Citizens of Uzbekistan are eligible to enter Turkey without visas. Uzbek refugees come to Turkey from various countries including Kazakhstan, and then Turkey extradites them to Uzbekistan. Normally they approach the UNHCR representations and ask for protection. However, in countries of Central Asia UNHCR representations delay the consideration of their cases or simply deny support. Refugees are compelled to seek protection in other countries. 

As it became evident, 22 July 2011 Muhayo Makhmudova arrived in the Istanbul airport, the wife of Saidjon Vakhobov, one of the 28 asylum seekers extradited from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan. Five children arrived together with Mukhayo Makhmudova. She was subject to interrogation, humiliation and coerced to “voluntary” departure from Turkey.

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia calls on the government of Turkey to fulfil its international obligations under:
  • UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
  • UN Convention on Status of Refugees;
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

This communication has been sent to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Arrests.


Kazakhstan: authorities are up to violent reprisals against oil workers on strike

In the Mangistau province of Kazakhstan a real threat has emerged to the security and safety of thousands of oil workers participating in a collective action – a strike – which they started 11 May 2011. Taking part in the strike are oil workers of “OzenMunayGaz”, “Karazhanbasmunay” and “Ersay Caspian Contractor”, the latter is part of the Italian holding ENI. The workers are continuing an action of civic protest of indefinite duration. The workers on strike are being joined by more and more employees of auxiliary production units and relatives. According to the observers, over the months 8 to 15 thousand persons took part. During the strike some 900 workers were fired. We have already wrote about it in the press release “Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan: inactivity of the authorities pushes oil industry workers to suicide!” of 14 June 2011.

This collective action was a response to the inaction of the employers – foreign owners of oil deposits and local authorities. Neither of these parties are reacting to the workers’ demands. 

Demands of the industrial action are the same:
To allow creation and functioning of the independent trade unions and their structures including the work of the trade union “Karakiyak”;
To revise the collective agreement based on the principle of equality of parties and taking into consideration the interests and rights of the workers;
To raise the wages of the workers by 100% as the current one does not provide for the factual minimum living standards;
To bring wages and other working conditions in accordance with the International Labour Standards.
Over the last days alarming events are unfolding in the cities where the enterprises are located and where the employees have gone on strike.
8 July 2011 in the city of Zhanaozen at about 16:00 unexpectedly and without explanation or warning a unit of fully armed special police landed and attacked peaceful citizens . Without negotiations or demands policemen started to disperse the gathered people, beating them with clubs, overturned the woks with food, which was prepared by relatives, tore off the roof of a makeshift tent, where people were sitting. According to the witnesses the police officers’ behaviour was aggressive; they were doing this on purpose in order to provoke confrontation. Men and women taking part in the strike tried to stop the police officers but were severely beaten up.  About 30 persons were forcibly brought to the local hospitals. As of 12 July a number of the arrested persons could have managed to escape from the hospitals.

Realizing that the forces are unequal a group of 60 oil workers who are on hunger strike poured petrol over their bodies and announced that they were ready to burn themselves up as a sign of protest against the lawlessness and violence of the police.

Over a thousand of protesting oil workers was rounded up by the police on the territory of the “OzenMunayGaz” enterprise. Special police unit is hindering their communication with the outer world.   More than 4,000 people gathered in the square of Zhanaozen to express their solidarity with the protesting oil workers. 

9-10 July 2011 after a violent action against the fired employees of “OzenMunayGaz” now n hunger strike a mass meeting followed in the city of Mangistau. Following the violent dispersal of the hunger strike participants and sympathizing colleagues, who all this time were gathering on the territory of the “OzenMunayGaz” enterprise, the city residents started spontaneously flowing into the square in front of the local akimat (city administration) including the elderly people, women and children. At a short distance a fully equipped special police unit brought here on several coaches was watching over it. 

According to the workers on strike the excuse for the mass discontent was the behaviour of the special police unit, who tried to obstruct the traditional “sadaqa” ceremony on the territory of the Directorate No.5 in charge of the oil wells (UOS-5). It was to the worst point where policemen overturned the wok with food and started the dispersal of the people present at the ceremony with clubs.

11 July 2011crowds of people gathering in the square in front of the administration of the city of Zhanaozen consisted of families including the elderly people and children. At that very time special police units with special equipment were stationed at the nearby schools Nos. 9, 18, and 19. According to our information, a water-jet, 18 firefighting trucks, 3 military KamAZ trucks, and 4 coaches with special policemen are hidden in the Kazakhstan gas processing plant (KazGPZ) and ready to start reprisals at any moment. 

The unfolding situation is posing threat to the health and safety of active strike participants:
- since 25 May 2011 the lawyer of the trade union of the “Karazhanbasmunay” shareholding company Natalya Sokolova, was detained under Article 164 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan for “inciting social discord”. There is no information about her condition; she is being denied access to lawyers, relatives or her husband;
- Kuanysh Sisenbaev, leader of the trade unions of the workers of “Karazhanbasmunay” has been subject to the pressure from authorities since 1 July 2011 in the city of Aktau. He is being blamed of organizing a protest march of oil workers, which took place in Aktau on 5 June 2011. During the violent reprisals several demonstrators were arrested by the police. Kuanysh Sisenbaev and his two colleagues were driven to suicide, as a result of which they were taken to a hospital. Sisenbaev has been charged under Article 373 of the Administrative Delinquency Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan “Violation of legislation on the order of organizing and conducting peaceful gathering, meetings, marches, pickets and demonstrations”;
- 3 July a leader of the trade union “OzenMunayGaz” Akzhanat Aminov was arrested under Article 164 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan “for inciting social discord”. Aminov suffers from diabetes and in constant need to medical care. Currently he is totally isolated in a SIZO; he is denied medical care, meetings with relatives and a lawyer, which is a form of cruel treatment with the aim of exercising pressure over the workers on strike;
- Natalya Azhigalieva, activist of the “OzenMunayGaz” workers on strike, the 5th tier operator of the oil-and-gas production directorate (NGDU) of “OzenMunayGaz” was fired. She was among the 30 detained oil workers who went on hunger strike and who were forcibly taken to a hospital on 8 July in the city of Zhanaozen. In the morning of 11 July she managed to escape from the hospital, which is under the surveillance of the special police unit. Criminal charges are being fabricated against her under Article 164 of the CC of RK “for inciting social discord”.
According to our observations, in breach of its international obligations the Republic of Kazakhstan took the side of the employer in the industrial dispute and is using law enforcement bodies against trade union activists and workers on strike, violent reprisals against strikes and peaceful protests.

According to our information, during the strike the oil workers offered to start negotiations on peaceful settlem bent of the dispute. However, the Kazakhstan authorities are going to ignore the demands of the workers on strike despite the obligations assumed by the state.

The provisions of international agreements violated by Kazakhstan are as follows:
     – Article 19 (the right to express one’s opinion), Article 21 (freedom of peaceful gatherings), Article 22 (freedom of association) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

     – 19 Conventions of the International Labour Organization including the fundamental ones: 
Convention 81 Labour Inspection, 1947, pursuant to which the state in the person of state labour inspection shall undertake relevant measures in case the human rights at work are violated; 
Convention 87 Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, 1948,  pursuant to which the state shall allow the organization of trade unions of workers created for the protection of their lawful interests and shall recognize them;
Convention 98 Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949, pursuant to which employers shall conduct negotiations with workers’ representatives and the state shall be the guarantor of the consultative process;
Convention 111 Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958, pursuant to which it shall be prohibited to discriminate on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin, which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation;

There is a well-founded concern that oil workers on strike will be driven to despair and to extreme measures inflicting harm to their health and the authorities will bring violent reprisals against them ignoring their lawful and reasonable demands.  

We most earnestly ask for your help in launching the positive response of the national bodies in the field of human rights protection to the full extent.

Lyudmila Kozlovska, Open Dialog Foundation lyudmylakozlovska@odfoundation.eu
Nadejda Atayeva, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia n.atayeva@gmail.com 

Uzbekistan: Was human rights activist Gulshan Karaeva assaulted by provocateurs?

8 July 2011, in the evening, human rights activist Gulshan Karaeva was coming home from Tashkent to Karshi. She was beaten up in the car by two commuters as a response to her remark, when they started drinking alcohol and distract the driver. Law enforcement organs are not accepting her statement on this incident.  
Gulshan Karaeva
Gulshan Karaeva was in a private taxi-car (DAEWOO Nexia cherry colour, plate number 30 37 55). In her opinion the fact that the two men took the same car was not by accident as they started provoking a conflict from the very beginning.  She restrained herself until their behaviour was getting dangerous. About 22:00 not far from Karshi city when the car was passing by Kungirtag Karaeva asked the passengers to behave themselves. As a response to her remark they physically assaulted her beating various parts of her body. The driver saved her. Upon return Karaeva went to the Karshi city hospital emergency unit. Traumatology doctor Sayora Amirkulova examined her and noted bruises on her body and face. The doctor asked about the cause of the injury, but refused to attest them as she realized that Karaeva wanted to file a statement to the law enforcement organs. 

The human rights activist thinks the assault was not an accidental one. That day she visited the Embassy of France applying for the visa to participate in the meeting of the French society of human rights in Uzbekistan, which became the head office of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan founded in 1992. The organizers of the meeting were planning to discuss the perspective development of the organization and some organizational issues. After visiting the embassy Gulshan went to see the journalists Saodat Amonova and Malokhat Ishankulova, who started a hunger strike against corruption, nepotism, censorship at the state TV of Uzbekistan. According to the journalists and human rights activists who visit them, the house is under surveillance of the National Security Service. His became obvious when on 7 July a press conference was appointed to take place. There at the entrance of the apartment block where the journalists are having the hunger-strike and where the parking of heavy vehicles is prohibited a big truck was standing blocking the way, all persons entering the building had their documents checked and only residents of the apartments of that entrance were allowed to pass. 

According to the observations of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, the human rights defender has been persecuted since 2005 for her criticism of the Uzbek authorities. She indents to insist on opening a criminal case for the bodily injuries she received. Gulshan Karaeva is confident that if the law enforcement organs wanted to investigate the case they could establish the location of criminals and hold them responsible.

Association Droit de l’Homme en Asie Centrale
16, rue de Docteur Leroy, 72000 Le Mans France;

Uzbekistan: unlawful forcible displacement of residents of Urgench

Photo: UrgenchAl-Khorezmi Street,
a half-demolished house with residents inside
In the near future the leader of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov will visit the Khoresm Province. Local authorities want to show him that the reconstruction of the province capital Urgench is in full swing. 

In May 2011 Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyaev had a working tour to Khoresm. He came out with a string of four-letter words and blows using his fists while expressing his dissatisfaction with the course of construction.From the beginning of June 2011 more than 300 residents of private and two-storey houses in Al-Khoresmi Street were subject to forced displacement. Their houses were demolished. In exchange for their houses they were offered plots in remote areas of the city and monetary compensation of 25 to 35 m Uzbek Soum (UZS) (equivalent of 10,000 – 14,000 USD). The authorities are not taking into account a difficult economic situation of the majority of them. It is impossible to build or buy a dwelling of the same size in the same area of the city. Residents were forced to accept the terms of move under a threat of court prosecution. 

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia has reliable information of such court proceedings whereby a city administration sued an ill, elderly and retired woman (we do not mention her name pursuant to the wish). She is being forced to accept a monetary compensation of 12,800 USD. A dwelling of the same size in the same residential district costs 2 – 2.5 times more. A house where an elderly woman lives at the moment has destructions of both sides. Her apartment is disconnected from water supply and electricity, she is in need to hospitalization, but is afraid of leaving her apartment. Her daughter, a citizen of Ukraine, is being threatened with deportation by law enforcement bodies. In such a case the retired woman will lose her home and presence of a close person. 

Authorities managed to suppress the moods of dissent among the majority of the displaced persons. The remaining group consists of residents who positively refused to accept humiliating terms of exchange of their dwellings to other apartments, which are not even suitable for living. They are offered to move to dwellings, which are in the emergency state and are planned for demolition in two or three years. 

Such actions of the local authorities contradict the annex of the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan of 29.05.2006. 

It says that “In the event of demolition of the residential premises (houses, apartments), which constitute the property of citizens, for withdrawal of their land for state or public needs such citizens, members of their families and citizens permanently residing  in these houses (apartments) shall be offered upon their choice and by mutual agreement of the parties a dwelling of equal value and convenience of the size not less than the public norm of dwelling and compensation for plants they had on their plots or compensation is paid for the houses (apartments), other buildings and plants subject to demolition. 

“The equal value of the offered dwellings shall be defined as a value equal to the price of the demolished house (apartment). In case the value of the demolished house (apartment) is higher than the value of the offered house (apartment) the difference shall be compensated to the owner”. 

Officials are not answering the complaints of the displaced citizens. Even a complaint to the Director of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan Akmal Saidov has not been granted an answer. The evidence of that is a photocopy of one of the complaints, receipt of which by the Centre is confirmed by the signature of his assistant A.Fazylov as of 27 May 2011. 

The practice of demolition of dwellings without prior consent of residents is inherited from the former Soviet Union. This is how all Soviet cities were built, and that is how the look-alike cities appeared on the territory of the former Soviet Union. This practice is very much in use in Uzbekistan. Under the pretext of city development projects the government is dealing blow after blow to the whole communities eradicating the appearance of well-off layers of the society as well as dispersing the communities – property owners who have reached a relatively stable economic situation due to generations of savings. First, they are moved to unsuitable dwellings, which are planned for demolition in a couple of years from now. Then after a few years when those dwellings are demolished the compensation is literally next to nothing, because of the inventory price of the dwellings. In this situation the citizens have no choice: either an unsuitable dwelling now and in two or three years from now – next to nothing, or a land plot well outside the current areas of living and a small compensation not enough for building a house at the market price of construction materials. 

The quoted government Resolution does not mention that for demolished buildings a refund should be commensurate to the market price. However, the text of the resolution about compensation is based on the values generated through technical inventory bureaus (BTI), which calculate the cost of the building, which has little to do with its market value. 

Needless to say that such government resolution should undergo public hearings before adoption. This situation is a direct consequence of the puppet parliament in Uzbekistan, which was established through thoroughly undemocratic and false elections, criticized by so many international observers.  Therefore the parliament of Uzbekistan can adopt any and every anti-constitutional legislation, which is also in breach of the international obligations of Uzbekistan. 

Such displaced residents come under the definition of the internally displaced persons and should under the protection of the UNHCR and High Commissioner for Refugees. Unfortunately, just like Human Rights Watch the UNHCR office in Uzbekistan was closed a few years ago.  The consequences of such closures are out of anybody’s control. 

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia notes the violation of civil and social rights of people provided by the following international agreements ratified by Uzbekistan:
Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which provides that the state shall recognize the right of every person to a sufficient living standard for him/her and his/her family, including adequate nutrition, clothing and dwelling and to continuous improvement of the living conditions,
Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides that no one shall be subject to arbitrary and unlawful interference in private and family life, arbitrary or unlawful encroachment of inviolability of the dwelling. Every person shall be eligible to legal protection against such interference or such encroachment, Article says.

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