Uzbekistan Continues to Persecute Political Activists
Freedom House today protested against ongoing persecution of political activists in Uzbekistan.
In the most recent cases of harassment, police in the Uzbek capital Tashkent unlawfully detained peaceful political activists and human rights defenders.
On October 13, 2003, Tashkent police detained for over seventeen hours Oygul Mamatova and Abdulhoshim Gofurov. Ms. Mamatova is a former member of the Uzbek parliament and both she and Mr. Gofurov are members of the banned democratic political party, Erk (Freedom). Police searched their cars, confiscating party posters and literature.
Police also searched their residences without a prosecutor's warrant, seizing computers, books, and party funds. They also seized documents related to Mr. Gofurov's human rights activities. Police investigators announced that the confiscated documents and electronic files would be examined to determine if their contents violate the Uzbek Constitution.
Ms. Mamatova and Mr. Gofurov filed a complaint with the prosecutor-generals office in Tashkent and police have since detained a group of fourteen human right defenders and Erk party leaders who held a peaceful protest outside the prosecutor-generals office building. Two of the activists were sentenced to five days imprisonment for disturbing public order.
"These cases seem to constitute a clear violation by Uzbek authorities of freedom of speech and assembly," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor. "Freedom House calls on the government of Uzbekistan to initiate an independent investigation of these and other cases of political persecution, and to permit democratic political parties to function openly and to participate in the political process," she said. "The government must immediately stop the harassment and detention of all Uzbek citizens who are working for democracy and the rule of law."
Ms. Mamatova has told Freedom House she believes her arrest and the confiscation of party materials was intended to intimidate Erk activists and prevent the party's fifth congress, scheduled to take place October 22. Ms. Mamatova began a hunger strike Monday evening to protest her arrest and confiscation of her property.
The Uzbek government has persecuted the Erk party since 1993. Many party members are currently jailed as political prisoners. One third of Erk's membership lives in exile, including party leader Muhammad Solih. Mr. Solih was sentenced in absentia on dubious charges of terrorist activities in 1999. His two brothers have been imprisoned.
In its latest report on Uzbekistan, from Freedom in the World 2003, Freedom House rated Uzbekistan "Not Free," noting that "no genuine political opposition groups function legally or participate in the government,"and that "permits for public demonstrations, which must be approved by the government, are not routinely granted, and fear of police persecution makes such rallies uncommon occurrences."
Freedom House background reports on Uzbekistan can be found online at:
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.