This report provides information to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UN HRC) before the examination of Uzbekistan’s fifth periodic report on the country’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) scheduled to take place in March 2020. It focuses on violations of Uzbekistan’s obligations under Articles 2, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 22 and 26 of the ICCPR.
Since President Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power in 2016 he and his government have taken pains to improve Uzbekistan’s image in the eyes of the international community by announcing a programme of judicial reform, improving legal safeguards against torture and releasing over two dozen political prisoners and human rights defenders.1 However, reports indicate that the reform agenda is being implemented in a top-down manner, and it currently lacks both shared understanding and ownership in the broader governmental administration as well as among citizens.
In 2017 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Uzbekistan for the first time and the same year the UN Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion and belief was the first Special Rapporteur able to visit Uzbekistan since 2002. Since 2017 Uzbekistan has allowed representatives of international human rights NGOs such as Amnesty International, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, IPHR and Norwegian Helsinki Committee into the country.
However, cause for concern remains in relation to several key areas: judicial independence continues to be routinely undermined by the executive branch of power; President Mirziyoyev’s government continues to refute credible reports of torture and ill-treatment; past abuses have not been addressed; local human rights defenders, independent journalists and bloggers and others who voice criticism of the government continue to be at risk of reprisals; and consensual homosexual adult sex is an offence in Uzbekistan’s Criminal Code
At least four critics and activists remain behind bars after being convicted in unfair trials2, and although many people perceived to be Islamic fundamentalists were released from detention in 2016, thousands more continue serving prison terms which were handed down in unfair trials marred by allegations of torture at the hands of the State Security Services (Russian acronym – SNB or SGB).