Association for Human Rights in Central Asia - AHRCA is deeply saddened at the news that human rights lawyer Polina Braunerg died today, on 19 May 2017, in hospital, seven days after being admitted to hospital after suffering a stroke.
The Uzbek authorities’ refusal to give Braunerg permission to leave the country undoubtedly played a role in the deterioration of her health as she was in need of urgent medical examination and treatment abroad. Over the last three years Braunerg applied several times to the Ministry of Internal Affairs for an “exit visa”, permit to exit the country given for two years, a practice inherited by the Karimov regime from the totalitarian past. But her requests were refused without explanation. Polina Braunerg complained to the Prosecutor’s office but in July 2016 her passport was returned to her and the authorities’ threatened her with arrest if she did not write a statement officially withdrawing her application for an exit visa.
In February 2017, under President Shavkat Mirziyoyev Polina Braunerg again applied for an exit visa but did not get a positive response. Had Polina been allowed to travel for medical treatment it is possible that she would be with us today and able to continue her important work.
Polina BRAUNERG was born on 11 October 1948 in Kazakhstan. She studied law and then moved back to Uzbekistan and worked for three years as an investigator in the police department in Almalyk before pending the next 40 years working as a lawyer. Polina was one of the first human rights lawyers in Uzbekistan to support the initiative to abolish the death penalty in Uzbekistan.
In 2002, she met with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Theo van Boven during his official visit to Uzbekistan, and briefed him on cases of her clients who included victims of torture, forced sterilization and contemporary forms of slavery, political prisoners, persecuted human rights defenders and independent journalists. Even when her personal safety was at risk, she raised issues of human rights violations in Uzbekistan and provided invaluable information to international human rights bodies. Polina represented several well-known civil society activists who were subjected to political repression, including imprisoned human rights activists Fakhriddin Tillayev and Nuraddin Djumaniyazov, as well as former political prisoners Murad Djuraev and Muhammad Bejhanov.
She continued her human rights work, despite the difficult conditions in Uzbekistan, where she was often subjected to harassment by the authorities because of her professional activities, as they attempted to isolate her from the outside world, three times refusing her permission to travel to attend the OSCE Human Dimension civil society conference from 2014 to 2016. The ban on Polina Braunerg going abroad for treatment, her isolation, persecution and the pressure on her by law enforcement agencies led to a serious deterioration in her health.
The pressure exerted by the Uzbekistani authorities on citizens who dare to speak out about human rights abuses, including the shameful practice of restricting freedom of movement, has regrettably not noticeably changed since President Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power.
Association for Human Rights in Central Asia - AHRCA extends its deepest sympathies to Polina Braunerg‘s relatives, colleagues and friends.