On 24 June 2019, the fifteenth round of the EU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue will take place in Brussels. A briefing paper prepared for the dialogue by Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) and International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), highlights our main concerns about the ongoing harassment of human rights defenders, violations of freedoms of expression and association as well as torture and ill-treatment. The briefing paper provides key recommendations in these areas that AHRCA and IPHR urge the EU to raise with the government of Uzbekistan during the Human Rights Dialogue.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s government has announced an ambitious programme of judicial reform, improved legal safeguards against torture in detention and released over two dozen government critics, human rights defenders, journalists as well as many people perceived to be Islamic fundamentalists who were serving prison terms handed down in unfair trials, often marred by allegations of torture. According to some estimates, since President Mirziyoyev came to power, several hundred new normative acts and legal amendments, directives, presidential orders and decrees have been passed into law. The number of legislative amendments passed in such a short time inevitably creates difficulties for implementation on a national scale, especially given poor internet coverage and the fact that printing is often used to distribute information on legislative changes. This leads to a delay in implementation, often in the regions.
It remains to be seen whether the authorities are committed to improving the country’s human rights record and implementing much needed systemic reforms in practice. In the meantime, credible reports continue about violations of fundamental rights including freedoms of expression and association and about ongoing torture and ill-treatment in prisons. The independence of the judiciary is yet to become a reality and will require more time and a complete overhaul of the system, including further training and education of judges and prosecutors, as well as representatives of the executive.
The briefing paper prepared by AHRCA and IPHR discusses the issues outlined above in more detail. It can be downloaded here.