Uzbekistan Must Stop Intimidating Human Rights Workers
Freedom House today protested ongoing harassment and intimidation of its staff in Uzbekistan by government authorities.
In the most recent case of intimidation, authorities under the direction of a local government official, Hakim Rustan Ismatulaev, prevented Freedom House from holding a training session for human rights defenders in Namangan, in the Ferghana Valley, on November 21. The authorities, and an incited civilian mob, surrounded and threatened Freedom House staff.
Freedom House considers the harassment by local government officials and Uzbek security forces to be in direct response to its work in Uzbekistan in assisting local human rights monitors in their work in the Ferghana Valley and elsewhere.
"The Uzbek government must immediately call on its local authorities to desist from this campaign of intimidation of both Freedom House and the Uzbek human rights community," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor. "That this type of harassment occurs in Uzbekistan only underscores how dire the human rights situation is in the country, and how vital it is for Uzbekistan's human rights defenders to be fully supported," she said.
The day before the training session, local government authorities (known as "Hakimiat") informed Freedom House that the session was not allowed to take place because some of the participants had taken part in peaceful public protests. Hakimiat officials ignored government documents showing Freedom House was registered to operate in Uzbekistan.
On the day of the scheduled training session, several cars followed, and then blocked, a car containing Freedom House staff, preventing them from reaching the Freedom House office in Namangan. The local chairman of a collective farm organized a mob of 80 local citizens to confront the Freedom House staff, who were verbally abused and threatened with physical violence.
These latest acts of intimidation follow increasing surveillance over the last several weeks by agents of the Uzbek National Security Services (SNB) of Freedom House's office and staff in Namangan, and routine harassment of human rights activists throughout the country. Security agents often sit outside the Freedom House office to watch who enters and leaves.
In it's latest report on Uzbekistan, Freedom House rated the country "Not Free."
Freedom House background reports on Uzbekistan are available online:
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.