Human rights defender Farmonov’s jail sentence extended; time for Rapporteur on Uzbekistan

May 29, 2015

Human Rights Defender Azam Farmonov, imprisoned since 2006. © Tolib Yakubov
Uzbek authorities should immediately and unconditionally release the imprisoned human rights defender Azam Farmonov, whose sentence has been arbitrarily extended for five years by an Uzbek court, Human Rights Watch said on 28 May. In a related press statement NGOs call on the UN Human Rights Council to mark the 10th anniversary of the Andijan massacre to establish a special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Uzbekistan to hold the government accountable for ongoing, egregious abuses and the ensure sustained scrutiny and public reporting on human rights developments in the country. The Uzbek government’s serious, systematic violations and persistent refusal to cooperate with the UN’s human rights mechanisms-including by denying access to special procedures, and failing to implement key recommendations made by treaty bodies and UN member states under the Universal Periodic Review-warrant resolute Human Rights Council action.

[The arbitrary extension of Farmonov’s prison term shortly before his scheduled release date for allegedly “violating prison rules,” came to light on May 21, 2015. The EU and the UN Committee against Torture have previously called for Farmonov’s release. “Azam Farmonov has already lost nine years simply for being a human rights activist in Uzbekistan,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The cruel addition of five more years to his sentence is yet another sign that the Uzbek government should be made to pay a price for its abysmal human rights record.”]

Human Rights Watch has documented the practice of arbitrarily extending the sentences of people imprisoned on political charges. The action is often taken just days before the person is to be released, on bogus grounds such as possessing “unauthorized” nail clippers, saying prayers, or wearing a white shirt and may result in years of additional imprisonment.

Farmonov’s family also revealed that they had received a note Farmonov had written on toilet paper in which he appeals to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to raise the issue of his unjust treatment directly with President Islam Karimov and senior officials in the Uzbek government.  Ban is scheduled to visit Uzbekistan from June 9 to 11 and should urge President Karimov to uphold Uzbekistan’s international human rights commitments and release all those held on politically motivated charges.

The EU, the UN Committee against Torture, and other bodies have earlier called for Farmonov’s release. In an official statement by then-European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, at a January 2011 meeting in Brussels with Karimov, Barroso raised specific human rights concerns, including Farmonov’s unjust imprisonment and ill-treatment. In its 2014 human rights dialogue with Uzbekistan, the EU noted its concern with the authorities’ practice arbitrarily extending sentences. But an EU statement on May 18 following a meeting of the EU-Uzbekistan Cooperation Council reads: “the EU welcomed Uzbekistan’s readiness to discuss about human rights with the EU in an increasingly open fashion within the Human Rights Dialogue.” “The extension of an unjust sentence for a human rights defender, not Uzbek officials’ hollow rhetoric, is the real test of whether the government is ‘ready’ to improve human rights,” Swerdlow reacted

Uzbekistan: 5 More Years for Jailed Activist | Human Rights Watch.

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