Daughter of Uzbek Dictator Loses Defamation Case in Paris

July 4, 2011

The decision by a French court on July 1, 2011, to dismiss a defamation suit brought by the daughter of Uzbekistan’s president against an online French news agency highlighted Uzbekistan’s repressive approach to criticism, Human Rights Watch said. The Press Court in Paris dismissed the lawsuit brought by Lola Karimova, daughter of President Islam Karimov, against the NGO Rue89. Karimova had sought moral damages for a May 2010 article that called her the daughter of “dictator Karimov,” and alleged she was “whitewashing Uzbekistan’s image” through charity events. Karimova filed the suit in August 2010, seeking €30,000 in damages over an article with the headline, “AIDS: Uzbekistan Cracks Down at Home but Puts on Show at Cannes.

“Uzbekistan is widely known for its atrocious human rights record, including repression of free speech,” said Mihra Rittmann, researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Political figures like Karimova should never be able to abuse defamation laws to silence open and critical debate about government actions.” Uzbek authorities use spurious defamation suits to silence journalists and otherwise threaten and harass them.

The defamation hearing took place on May 19. Two well-known exiled human rights defenders from Uzbekistan testified for the defense. They are Mutabar Tadjibaeva, a former political prisoner and head of the Uzbek human rights group Burning Hearts Club, and Nadejda Atayeva, head of the France-based human rights organization Human Rights in Central Asia. In her testimony, Mutabar gave a detailed description of her repeated ill-treatment, including sexual violence, in Uzbekistan from 2005 to 2008, until she was unexpectedly released and allowed to leave the country as Laureate of the 2008 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

President Karimov’s government has a well-documented record of serious human rights violations, including severe political repression. Torture and ill-treatment are systematic in the criminal justice system. Opposition political parties cannot operate freely in Uzbekistan, and there has not been a single election since Uzbekistan’s independence in 1991 that international observers found to be free or fair. More than a dozen human rights defenders are in prison on fabricated charges. The government severely restricts freedom of expression. In a speech marking Uzbekistan’s Press and Media Day on June 27, Karimov cited the need to strengthen the environment for the media and to develop transparency laws, and noted the growing importance of the internet. Yet in practice, independent journalists are persecuted, detained, and tried on spurious criminal defamation charges that carry the prospect of prison time and huge fines. Websites containing information on sensitive issues or that are critical of the government are routinely blocked within Uzbekistan.

While in Uzbekistan the “authorities have repeatedly convicted journalists in Uzbekistan on spurious defamation charges for nothing more than writing articles perceived to be critical or insulting” (quoted from Rittmann HRW) the  Paris’ Press Court was not a (fixed) home match and shows that the independence of the judiciary protects HRDs.


3 Responses to “Daughter of Uzbek Dictator Loses Defamation Case in Paris”

  1. Alexandra Bisia Says:

    If she wanted to challenge, dispute, or question the “title” she was given, she should, in my opinion, have addressed the media, and not taken such drastic measures. After all, her father IS a dictator, is he not?
    I agree with Ms. Rittmann.

  2. […] Daughter of Uzbek Dictator Loses Defamation Case in Paris (thoolen.wordpress.com) […]

  3. […] rights violations and Karimova has fully played her role in this sorry state of affairs (see e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/daughter-of-uzbek-dictator-loses-defamation-case-in-paris/. Stroehlein of Human Rights Watch (which will publish next month a report on wrongfully imprisoned […]

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