Posts Tagged ‘MEA Laureate 2008’

Uzbekistan: Murod Juraev free after two decades in jail – what about the others?

December 29, 2015

 For more than two decades, Murod Juraev languished behind bars in Uzbekistan and was subjected to torture and ill-treatment so bad that all his teeth fell out. After 21 years in detention — one of the world’s longest imprisoned political activists — Juraev was released in November 2015.  [Juraev was a member of the Erk opposition party and a former local mayor in southern Uzbekistan when he was jailed, in 1994.]  Juraev had his jail term extended four times to keep him in jail — in 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2012 — after authorities found he had broken prison rules, including “peeling carrots incorrectly”, “failure to lift a heavy object” andwearing a white shirt.”

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Mutabar far from her Uzbekistan continues her struggle

March 27, 2015

Today , 27 March 2015, the FIDH published a moving portrait of Mutabar Tadjibaeva, the well-known Uzbek human rights defender, under the title “If I were told that I only have one day left to live, I would spend it fighting for human rights.” A statement that in her case is not an exaggeration!

mutabar in berlin zoo Duco oct 2008

“If I were told that I only have one day left to live, I would spend it fighting for human rights,” says Mutabar Tadjibaeva, President of the organization Fiery Hearts Club. The 52-year-old Uzbek journalist and activist arrived in France in 2009 as a political refugee. She is no longer welcome In her native country, which has been governed for a quarter of a century by the dictator Islam Karimov. In Uzbekistan, Mutabar investigated drug trafficking, corruption and human rights violations. She endured threats, prison, torture and rape; her fight came at a high price.

In 2002, while this activist was fighting to make publicly known the case of Alimuhammad Mamadaliev, who had been tortured and killed by the police, she herself ended up behind bars for several days. In April 2005, was kidnapped by secret service agents and subjected to horrific treatment. These men would never worried about having to answer for their deeds. But even in the face of such injustice, Mutabar Tadjibaeva continued her activism and journalism until she was imprisoned three years later, on 7 October 2005, just before boarding a plane headed for Dublin where she was to participate in an international conference on human rights. She was arrested by police and, a year later, sentenced to eight years in prison, where she was subjected to torture. She was accused of engaging in illegal activities against the State during demonstrations where several hundred people had lost their lives in May 2005 in Andijan, an industrial city. It is clear to Mutabar that her arrest was for purely political reasons. She was one of many victims of State repression that followed the events of 2005.

“I know very well what prison in Uzbekistan is like and the torture. That is why I have decided to devote me life to fighting for human rights. When I was in jail, I dreamt that one day I would be free. I would tell the prison guards that I would get out of there and write a book on what I had lived through,” she recalls. On 18 May 2008, while still in prison, she was granted the Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders. She was released a few months later and, on 10 December of that same year, Mutabar Tadjibaeva came to Paris where she accepted the Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité Award on behalf of the Fiery Hearts Club. Banned from Uzbekistan for almost ten years, the organisation took shelter in France in 2011. It will celebrate the 15th year of its existence this year. Every day, dozens of people come to her in search of assistance. She seeks out lawyers and funding, prepares reports and files individual complaints to the UN. Despite the modest means at her disposal and a state of health weakened by the torture she suffered, Mutabar wants to help those who are in same situation as she was in ten years earlier. Her wish is that human rights defenders take more of an interest in the situation in Uzbekistan. Mutabar Tadjibaeva has enjoyed the support of FIDH, and her organisation is now officially a member. “It is thanks to the support of the FIDH that I was able to keep my promise, that is, write my book entitled “Prisoner of the Island of Torture.” I worked with an Uzbek journalist and it is thanks to those recordings that I was able to tell my story. Otherwise, it would have been too hard psychologically,” Mutabar recalls. In the book, which has been published in Uzbek, Russian, French, and English, she shares her memories of prison and decries the cruelty of the regime.

For Mutabar, the challenge lies not in Karimov’s departure, but in regime change. “His departure could set off a war among the clans. The country is corrupt, there is no respect for the law. Karimov the dictator is not the only one to blame for the fact that people are being killed in prisons and tortured; the politicians who support the regime are also to blame. I want Uzbekistan to become a democratic country and dissidents like me to be able to return there and live,” she said. However, as Mutabar sees it, a return to her country is not within the realm of the possible.

On 29 March, Islam Karimov will be running for President for the fourth time, thereby violating Article 90 of the Constitution, which does not allow more than two terms. Mutabar Tadjibaeva and her friends have set up a virtual electoral commission to organise a vote on the Internet. This alternative platform has rejected the candidacy of the president.
 
“When I decided to come to France as a political refugee,” she concluded, “I was afraid that I would not be able to do anything for my country remotely. But, now I see that if you are motivated and supported, anything is possible.”

“If I were told that I only have one day left to live, I would (…).

 

for more on Mutabar, see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/mutabar-tadjibayeva/

MEA Laureate Mutabar continues to press for diplomatic action on Uzbekistan

November 7, 2014

Mutabar Tadjibayeva, MEA Laureate 2008 and now living in exile in Paris has as President of International Human Rights Association “Fiery Hearts Club” wrote an Open Letter in advance of the meeting between the French and Uzbek Ministers of Foreign Affairs in France. Here follows the full text of the letter:

Mr. Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs
37, Quai d’Orsay
F – 75351 PARIS

Members of the French Senate and National Assembly
Palais du Luxembourg
15, rue de Vaugirard
75291 PARIS Cedex 06

Dear Minister Laurent Fabius, Dear Members of the Senate and National Assembly:

In advance of your meeting with Mr. Abdulaziz Kamilov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan, we write to encourage you to urge the Uzbek government to sincerely address the serious, systematic and ongoing human rights violations of the Uzbek people, including the situation of civil society activists, religious prisoners, transparency and openness in France-Uzbekistan dialogue, the recent undemocratic initiatives of president Karimov to amend the Uzbek Constitution, and state-orchestrated forced labour of children and adults during annual cotton harvesting season.

The situation of civil society

In your meeting with Mr. Kamilov we urge you to raise the situation of imprisoned civil society activists who make up one of the most vulnerable categories of inmates in the Uzbek penitentiary system. The number of imprisoned civil society activists has remained almost unchanged for many years because of two reasons: there are not so many independent civil society activists operating in Uzbekistan because of the government’s continued repressive policy and ongoing persecutions against the activists, and in place of one released imprisoned activist the government tends to send to jail two more civil society activists. Different independent observers and international rights groups mention from 15 to 30 civil society activists who remain in prison.

Our organization has studied well the cases of at least the following civil society activists who were sent to jail under trumped up criminal cases and who are serving their lengthy prison terms: Murod, Juraev, Solijon Abdurakhmonov, Azam Farmonov, Mehriniso Hamdamova, Zulkhumor Hamdamova, Isroiljon Kholdorov, Nosim Isakov, Gaybullo Jalilov, Abdurasul Khudoynazarov, Erkin Kuziev, Ganikhon Mamatkhonov, Zafarjon Rakhimov, Yuldash Rasulov, Dilmurod Saidov and Akzam Turgunov. Whereabouts of journalist Jamshid Karimov who has been kept forcedly in a psychiatric clinic for five years and then released in 2011 is unknown. Soon after his release from the psychiatric clinic he has disappeared. His colleagues suggest he has been forcedly placed into the psychiatric clinic again.

We urge you to raise the issue of the above mentioned political prisoners in your talks with the Uzbek Minister and call on the Uzbek government to immediately release those civil society activists from prison out of urgent humanitarian concerns. But specifically we urge you to request immediate release of the following imprisoned civil society activists who are elderly and experiencing dire health problems: Murod Juraev, Dilmurod Saidov, Solijon Abdurakhmonov, Agzam Turgunov, Ganihon Mamatkhonov and Mehriniso Hamdamova. In February several human rights defenders from Uzbekistan were allowed by the authorities to visit Murod Juraev, Dilmurod Saidov, Solijon Abdurakhmonov and Agzam Turgunov in prison. The visits have confirmed their poor health conditions and lack of access to proper medical treatment in prison. The fact that the Uzbek activists were allowed by the authorities to visit the imprisoned colleagues is unprecedented but we don’t yet what underlying reasons have pushed the Uzbek authorities to do so. Nevertheless we can accept this fact as a good sign.

Ganikhon Mamatkhonov, another elderly human rights activist, who was convicted under trumped up criminal charges in 2009 to 4,5 years was expected to leave the prison on March 10, 2014 because his prison term ended. But on the eve of his release the prison administration has accused him of disobeying orders and rules of prison administration and put into a solitary confinement. Mamatkhonov has experienced heart attack three times, the last time it happened during his detention. We think the Uzbek authorities have deliberately accused Mamatkhonov of disobeying prison orders and rules and sent him to a solitary confinement in order to prolong his prison sentence. This is a popular method used by the Uzbek authorities to keep “unwanted” inmates in prison under prolonged sentences. For instance, an opposition activist Murod Juraev was convicted to 12 years in prison in 1995, but his sentences ever since been prolonged up to four years each time in 2006, 2009 and 2012. An inmate accused of disobeying prison orders and rules becomes automatically non eligible for annual amnesty acts. Mehriniso Hamdamova is a women religious scholar and activist convicted to 7 years in prison in April 2010. She has hysteromyoma and needs an urgent surgery. This type of surgery and post-surgery medical treatment can’t be provided in prison.

During your talks with Minister Kamilov we urge you to call on the Uzbek authorities to immediately release the above mentioned small group of political prisoners out of humanitarian concerns. We also take this opportunity to stress that the Uzbek authorities keep sending more civil society activists to prison under clearly trumped up charges. In 2013 Bobomurod Razzakov of “Ezgulik” Human Rights Society was sent to prison. In March 2014 two members of “Erk” political opposition party Fakhriddin Tilloev and Nuriddin Jumaniyozov were convicted to 8 years and 3 months in prison.

Religious prisoners

Under religious prisoners or prisoners of conscience we understand those inmates who are convicted for religious extremism, fundamentalism, terrorism, crimes against the constitutional system. Today religious prisoners are the most vulnerable massive group of inmates in Uzbekistan. Numerous accounts of independent observers point out that the vast majority of the religious prisoners were convicted to lengthy prison terms as a result of self-incriminating confessions extracted under torture and similar ill-treatment. Among them there are many family members and close relatives.

The government policy against religious extremism targets in most cases peaceful religious practice and is based on a primitive maxim that if there is one religious extremist in the family, then all members are automatically labeled as extremists. For most religious prisoners torture and similar ill-treatment continues even when after they are convicted and sent to prison facilities for serving their sentences. They rarely fall under annual amnesties, in most cases the authorities accuse them of disobeying prison orders and rules and prolong their sentences. Independent observers think there are from 6.000 to 10.000 religious prisoners but this data can’t be corroborated because the penitentiary system in Uzbekistan is completely closed. The issue of religious prisoners and gross human rights violations they are facing does rarely become a subject of discussions between Uzbekistan and its international interlocutors because of its sensitive character but we think France should be concerned with this issue as well if the bloc cares about the security situation and human rights in this Central Asian nation.

France – Uzbekistan dialogue

In its dialogue with the Uzbek government France should be careful to be dragged too much to different ends affected by the various views among the EU member-states. This trend could continuously affect the implementation of the EU strategy towards Uzbekistan because of the lack of precise set of benchmarks which makes independent monitoring / evaluation difficult. Moreover, we are afraid that the whole process of the dialogue between France as well as the EU and Uzbekistan has mostly been an “insiders’ game” and elite driven, neither France and the EU nor the Uzbek government have consulted members of the civil society organizations (CSOs) in Uzbekistan. Lack of public information over France’s and the EU’s strategy and relations with Uzbekistan logically leads into a virtually non-existent public awareness of it in Uzbekistan. Information on the France and the EU – Uzbekistan dialogue is kept behind closed doors meetings.

While pointing to human rights, democracy, good governance and rule of law as one of the first priority issues, senior EU officials (e.g. the EUSR and his staff) are at the same time careful in avoiding “double standards” by singling out less criticism on human rights record in Uzbekistan. This, however, from local viewpoint means that in terms of democracy and human rights even longer patience is needed as the strategy does neither pressure the Uzbek regime nor advises to ease the social tension by adopting new practices. Such an attitude merely allows Tashkent choosing among priorities what fits to their own policy path, Thus Tashkent can continue playing

its own regular role in a new framework as well: each time an important international interlocutor (e.g. the UN or EU) adopts a set of specific recommendations addressed to the Uzbek government, the Uzbek authorities respond by adopting a National Action Plan on the implementation of the recommendations. No practice changes in the end.

In advance of elections Uzbek president aims at amending the Constitution again

In advance of expected parliamentary and presidential elections in December 2014 and March 2015 Uzbek president Karimov has initiated amendments to articles 32, 78, 93, 98, 103 and 117 of the Constitution. The government controlled mass media reported about the president’s initiative on March 14, 2014 but the substance of suggested amendments to the constitutions was missing in publications. However quick analysis of the suggested amendments demonstrate that the president is most probably aiming at amending the constitution to allow himself to be appointed as a life-time president through a referendum.
Moreover, he has already used such tactic of entrenching himself in the power in the past several times during presidential elections and referendums he has himself orchestrated in the past. There is also a bad precedent in the Central Asian region – Nazarbaev of neighboring Kazakhstan has appointed himself a life-time leader through similar constitutional amendments without any hesitation several years ago.

We think the EU should be concerned seriously with such trends in the political life of Uzbekistan which further entrenches an authoritarian system in the country and further increases political uncertainty with security situation in this Central Asian nation.

Forced labor

Despite continuous international protests and criticism the Uzbek authorities keep on practicing massive state-orchestrated forced labour of children and adults during annual cotton harvest season. In the fall of 2014 as well the Uzbek authorities forced more than million of different groups of citizens, including schoolchildren, students, teachers, personnel of medical facilities, owners of small and medium businesses, to harvest cotton in abusive conditions under the threat of punishment. As in the previous years during 2014 cotton harvest season independent observers have again documented over 10 cases of death in the cotton fields of the people forced to this type of labor mainly because of failing technical and labor security standards, incidents and lack of proper medical treatment. The Uzbek authorities kept harassing local activists and journalists who tried to report on the issue.

We appreciate your attention to these matters and welcome the opportunity to discuss them with you.

Sincerely,
Mutabar Tadjibayeva
President of International Human Rights
Association “Fiery Hearts Club”

How the mighty fall in Uzbekistan: Gulnara Karimova asks human rights protection

August 22, 2014

Gulnara Karimova

Gulnara Karimova (pictured above), the glamorous daughter of Uzbekistan’s president, used to be one of the more powerful people in Central Asia. But now, in secret recordings obtained by the BBC, she says she and her teenaged daughter are being treated “worse than dogs” and need urgent medical help since she has fallen out with her dictator father President Islam Karimov. The BBC news correspondent Natalia Antelava on 21 August reports on this exceptional story.  Natalia Antelava reports that in March 2014, she received and authenticated a handwritten letter from Karimova, in which she said she and her daughter had been placed under house arrest and now the short audio recordings were smuggled out of Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan has a history of human 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 people in the country) is understandably cautious when it comes to Karimova’s recent concern for human rights in Uzbekistan, since it follows a decade-long period when the woman known as “Googoosha” wielded immense power in the country. “She almost certainly had top-level regime access to critical information regarding serious and systematic rights abuses in Uzbekistan, and she has had many opportunities to hand that information over to journalists and human rights groups,” he says . “She hasn’t.” 

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MEA Laureate Mutabar Tadjibayeva appeals to politicians not to sit next to Putin

May 31, 2014

On the eve of celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings, MEA Laureate 2008 Mutabar Tadjibayeva speaks out through her exile-based NGO “Fiery Hearts Club”. She passionately appeals to Western politicians invited to the ceremony not to sit next to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the honor podium. The text is below is reproduced as is (it exists also in Russian):

We see the following solid arguments that have pushed us to make this appeal.
 
Firstly, it is continuing policy of Putin’s intervention in the internal affairs of Ukraine that has given rise to the so-called “Ukrainian events”, has led to increased ethnic strife between the fraternal Slavic peoples of Ukraine and escalation of the armed conflict, has resulted in many casualties on both sides of the incomprehensible, artificially stirred up conflict, has led to separatism and threat of the collapse of the independent, sovereign nation.
 
One of these days the Ukrainian people democratically elected their new president. Despite this, the situation in Ukraine causes serious concerns and is far from stability. Putin’s policy of interference and provoking conflicts continues and poses a serious threat to achievement of the peacebuilding process and stabilization of the situation in the country. Western leaders should make it clear to Putin that such interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine is intolerable. They must refuse sitting next to him during the celebrations in Normandy, which is an excellent diplomatic opportunity to express such a stance.
 
Secondly, the major concern is the situation with the civil society in Russia under Putin. Following overall Putin’s “hunt for foreign agents” represented by Russian human rights organizations, the government put the “foreign agent” label on any independent public activity. Russian human rights activists argue that the sign “foreign agent” is offensive for human rights, environmental and social organizations. Their goal is to deliver assistance to people, defend generally valid, legal and democratic principles. This way they serve the country and the peoples of Russia.
 
Human rights activities are not possible without an appeal to the government and the public opinion, without involvement of activists into civic campaigns. The “foreign agent” label in the current social atmosphere of xenophobia and hatred towards the West undermines the very idea of the civilian control because it makes any public activities of non-governmental organizations senseless and first of all their appeals to officials for the sake of interests of individuals and the society. With such a label, work of human rights organizations has no sense, provokes and justifies public hatred towards human rights defenders, and pushes human rights organizations to liquidation or disbandment.
 
How can Putin, the initiator of all-out struggle against “foreign agents” among Russian human rights activists and the oppressor of free activities the of Russian civil society, sit on the podium next to the honorable leaders of democratic countries during the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy? It is beyond our understanding.
 
Thirdly, the next reason, which pushed us to make this appeal, is associated with the recent tragic deaths of well-known Russian human rights activist Andrei Mironov and Italian journalist Andrea Roccella in Ukraine during armed conflicts. Italian journalist Andrea Roccella and his translator Andrei Mironov were killed on the night of May 25 in the village of Andreevkaunder Slavyansk. According to preliminary data, their car came under a mortar attack. During the accident, French correspondent William Rogulon was wounded. Although both sides of the conflict, the official Ukrainian armed forces and the separatist armed groups supported by Russia, blame each other for the tragedy, it has been widely discussed in the Internet the version according to which the group of journalists could be attacked by separatists.
 
OSCE has called the death of Roccella and Mironov a terrible reminder of how little is done in the east of Ukraine to protect journalists risking their lives in the conflict zone. This and all other deaths of innocent victims of the Ukrainian conflict require immediate and thorough investigation and punishment of those responsible for casualties. We believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin is personally responsible for what is happening in Ukraine, including the tragic deaths of the Italian journalist and the Russian human rights activist. The solemn events in Normandy is also dedicated to the memory of million victims of World War II, and Putin as one of the main perpetrators of human casualties occurring in Ukraine, is just not worthy to take part in the celebrations in Normandy.
 
Fourthly, it is under Putin’s ruling that numerous cases of kidnapping and illegal extraditions of Uzbek citizens temporarily residing on the territory of Russia occur as well as those who seek asylum from persecution of the Uzbek authorities in third countries, including Uzbek labor migrants, whom the Uzbek authorities want to describe as “religious extremists and terrorists”. It is Putin that allows the Uzbek authorities increase their unauthorized surveillance and monitoring of millions of Uzbek labor migrants working in Russia through their agent intelligence networks.
 
Cases of unauthorized detention and abduction of Uzbek labor migrants in Russia by the Uzbek security services have increased. Sometimes the Uzbek security services work through official channels, make official requests to the Russian authorities, for instance, they make requests for extradition of those, who are suspected of religious extremism in Uzbekistan. The Russian authorities arrest Uzbek labor migrants and extradite them to Uzbekistan, very often even when their complaints are under consideration of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and/or the Court ordered the Russian authorities not to extradite Uzbek citizens.
 
It is under Putin’s regime that ethnic nationalism is growing in Russia against immigrants or non-indigenous ethnic groups of Russia and numerous fascist and ultranationalist groups conduct their activities with impunity. Every year, these groups murder with impunity and physically maim over a hundred representatives of other ethnic groups residing in Russia. The Russian enforcement agencies do not investigate most of such cases and do not punish those responsible for such crimes.
 
Websites of fascist groups openly promote violence and methods of punishment, torture against “visitors”, and majority of materials of the Russian media are full of discriminatory, one-sided approach to coverage of events related to non-indigenous residents of Russia. Rights of migrant workers from the former Soviet countries are grossly violated in Russia not only by fascist groups, but also by employers, government and administrative bodies and officials. Most of such cases are not investigated and perpetrators remain unpunished.
 
We call Western politicians to refuse sitting next to Putin during the celebrations in Normandy.
 
The U.S.A. President Barack Obama and President of France Francois Hollande will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 5, 2014 on the eve of the celebrations in Normandy. We call the Presidents of the United States and France to take it seriously and demand that Putin provides clarifications on the above-described human rights violations.
 
Western politicians should pay special attention to the issue of violation of human rights in post-Soviet countries, who are under the influence of Moscow’s policy and the role of Putin’s government in these offenses against citizens of post-Soviet countries, like, for instance, cases of abductions and extraditions.
 
Fiery Hearts Club International Human Rights Organization also intends to organize a protest near the venue of the celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy and in the French capital. We also invite to participate in the planned protest actions those, who will support our appeal.
 
We also call our partners, international organizations, non-profit organizations, ordinary citizens, including citizens of France and other democratic countries of the world, young people in these countries to support our appeal and express their support by signing this appeal.
 
In order to support our appeal, by signing it and/or taking part in the protest, please contact us by email mutabartadjibaeva[at]gmail.com
 
Thank you in advance for your support!
 
Sincerely,
Mutabar Tadjibayeva,
Head of “Fiery Hearts Club”
International Human Rights Organization

28 may 2014
France, Paris
    

http://jarayon.com/en/index.php/component/k2/item/249-we-appeal-to-politicians-not-to-sit-next-to-putin