A number of domestic human rights groups operated in the country, although the government often hampered their activities by creating fear of official retaliation. The government frequently harassed, arrested, and prosecuted human rights activists. As in the previous year, there were no reports that activists were under house arrest or strict control of law enforcement officers around the September 1 Independence Day holiday. In June, however, there was a report that activists from Ezgulik were subject to house arrest, ostensibly to prevent them from participating in a demonstration outside the embassy of Kyrgyzstan.
The government officially acknowledged two domestic human rights NGOs: Ezgulik and the Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan. Others were unable to register but continued to function at both the national and local levels. For example, in November the Humanitarian Legal Center in Bukhara submitted its sixth registration application in the past three years and was denied without explanation. The NGO continued to conduct activities, however, and local authorities participated in round table discussions on certain topics.
Organizations that attempted to register in previous years and remained unregistered included the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, the Expert Working Group, and Mazlum (Oppressed). These organizations did not exist as legal entities but continued to function, despite difficulty renting offices and conducting financial transactions. They could not open bank accounts, making it virtually impossible to receive funds. Unregistered groups were vulnerable to government prosecution. In rare cases, however, government representatives participated with unregistered groups in certain events.
Government officials spoke informally with domestic human rights defenders, some of whom noted that they were able to resolve cases of human rights abuses through direct engagement with authorities.
The government required that NGOs coordinate their training sessions or seminars with government authorities. NGO managers believed that this amounted to a requirement for prior official permission from the government for all NGO program activities.
Police and security forces continued to harass domestic human rights activists and NGOs. Security forces regularly threatened and intimidated human rights activists to prevent their activities and dissuade them from meeting with foreign diplomats. Occasionally police and other government authorities ordered activists to cease contact with foreigners.
There continued to be occasional attacks against human rights activists.
On July 25, human rights defender Akromhodja Mukhitdinov from the Yangiyul District of Tashkent Region died of stab wounds inflicted during an allegedly unprovoked attack by several men. Human rights contacts expressed concern that the attack was related to Mukhitdinov’s human rights activities. Police arrested four suspects but eventually released three of them. There was no further information available regarding accountability for Mukhitdinov’s death.
Several human rights defenders alleged that they were subject to spurious criminal and administrative charges and other retribution in response to their activism.
In July the IGIHRDU reported that the Yangiyul Criminal Court in Tashkent Region convicted one of its activists, Gulnaza Yuldasheva, of extortion and sentenced her to two years in prison following a closed trial on July 10; the sentence later was increased to seven years on appeal. In May 2011 Yuldasheva accused a number of local and law enforcement officials in the city of Chinoz of complicity in the trafficking of persons, including two of Yuldasheva’s brothers, to neighboring Kazakhstan. The government reported that Yuldasheva repeatedly extorted money from doctors at the Chinoz District Medical Center, allegations supported in open court by eyewitness testimony and other evidence.
On July 20, the Jizzakh Municipal Court found Ziyodullo Razokov, chairman of the International Society for Human Rights of Uzbekistan branch in Jizzakh Region, guilty of “swindling” and fined him the equivalent of two million soum ($1,000). The charges stemmed from a 2006 incident. On January 21, Bahtiyor Elmuradov, director of School Number 1 in the Zarbdar District of Jizzakh Region, fired Razokov, a teacher at the school, for “insubordination and gross violations of the terms of his employment.” Razokov alleged that Elmuradov fired him in retaliation for a November 2011 Jizzakh District Criminal Court decision which found Elmuradov guilty of inflicting minor injuries after he attacked Razokov for giving an interview regarding the involvement of his students in the cotton harvest. Elmuradov previously fired Razokov on January 12, but the local prosecutor reinstated him.
In 2011 the local office of Human Rights Watch ceased operations following a Supreme Court decision. The organization had not been able to obtain accreditation for an international staff person.
UN and Other International Bodies: The government continued to restrict the work of international bodies and severely criticized their human rights monitoring activities and policies.
Although the OSCE has been able to do only limited work on human rights issues since 2006, the government approved several proposed OSCE projects during the year, including in the “human dimension,” the human rights component of the OSCE’s work.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office stated that its goals included promoting observance and public awareness of fundamental human rights, assisting in shaping legislation to bring it into accordance with international human rights norms, and resolving cases of alleged abuse. The Ombudsman’s Office mediates disputes between citizens who contact it and makes recommendations to modify or uphold decisions of government agencies, but its recommendations are not binding. However, in June representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office, in response to an IGIHRDU report, successfully assisted in gaining the reinstatement of a group of teachers from the city of Parkent, whom local police had forced to resign based on accusations of religious extremism.
The National Human Rights Center is a government agency responsible for educating the public and officials on the principles of human rights and democracy and for ensuring that the government complies with its international obligations to provide human rights information.
On July 30, the government created an interagency working group (IWG) headed by the minister of justice to study the status of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms by law enforcement and other government bodies. The text of the government decree creating the IWG indicated that civil society representatives would be members of the group but did not specify how the selection process would occur.