By law a judge must review any decision to arrest accused individuals or suspects. Judges granted arrest warrants in most cases. Defendants have the right to legal counsel from the time of arrest. State-appointed attorneys are available for those who do not hire private counsel. Officials did not always respect the right to counsel and occasionally forced defendants to sign written statements declining the right. A September law authorizes the use of house arrest as a form of pretrial detention.
Detainees have the right to request hearings before a judge to determine whether they remain incarcerated or are released. The arresting authority is required to notify a relative of a detainee about the detention and to question the detainee within 24 hours of arrest. There were complaints that authorities tortured suspects before notifying either family members or attorneys of their arrest in order to gain confessions that could be used as the basis for convictions.
Suspects have the right to remain silent and must be informed of the right to counsel. Detention without formal charges is limited to 72 hours, although a prosecutor can request an additional 48 hours, after which time the person must be charged or released. Authorities held suspects after the allowable period of detention. The judge conducting the arrest hearing is allowed to sit on the panel of judges during the individual’s trial.
The law requires authorities at pretrial detention facilities to arrange a meeting between a detainee and a representative from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office upon the detainee’s request. Officials allowed detainees in prison facilities to submit confidential complaints to the Ombudsman’s Office and the Prosecutor General’s Office.
Once authorities file charges, suspects can be held in pretrial detention for up to three months while investigations proceed. The law permits an extension of the investigation period for up to one year at the discretion of the appropriate court upon a motion by the relevant prosecutor, who may also release a prisoner on bond pending trial. Authorities frequently ignored these legal protections. Those arrested and charged with a crime may be released without bail until trial on the condition they provide assurance of “proper behavior” and that they will appear at trial.
A decree requires that all defense attorneys pass a comprehensive relicensing examination. Several experienced and knowledgeable defense lawyers who had represented human rights activists and independent journalists lost their licenses after taking the relicensing examination. As a result several activists and defendants faced difficulties in finding legal representation. Although unlicensed advocates cannot represent individuals in criminal and civil hearings, courts have the discretion to allow such an advocate if s/he belongs to a registered organization whose members are on trial.
Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities continued to arrest persons arbitrarily on charges of extremist sentiments or activities and association with banned religious groups. Local human rights activists reported that police and security service officers, acting under pressure to break up extremist cells, frequently detained and mistreated family members and close associates of suspected members of religious extremist groups. Coerced confessions and testimony in such cases were commonplace.
In May the Russian Embassy in Tashkent informed the Interfax news agency that Russian businessman Aleksandr Pozdeyev, president of the West-Ural Machine-building Group, was detained for 10 days in Tashkent and that government officials prevented access to a lawyer or consular officials, ostensibly in an effort to recover the $36 million debt his Uzbek partners owed to Uzbekistan. Following a strident Russia-backed media campaign, authorities allowed Pozdeyev to leave the country.
There were reports that police arrested persons on false charges of extortion, drug possession, or tax evasion as an intimidation tactic to prevent them or their family members from exposing corruption or interfering in local criminal activities.
Pretrial Detention: Prosecutors generally exercised discretion over most aspects of criminal procedures, including pretrial detention. Detainees had no access to a court to challenge the length or validity of pretrial detention. Even when authorities did not file charges, police and prosecutors frequently sought to evade restrictions on the length of time persons could be held without charges by holding them as witnesses rather than as suspects. During the year pretrial detention typically ranged from one to three months. The government did not provide information regarding the number of persons held in pretrial detention centers.
In February media reports claimed that the daughter of President Karimov, Gulnara Karimova, had been placed under house arrest. In September the country passed a law allowing house arrest as a legal form of pretrial investigative detention. Within a week, the Prosecutor General’s Office confirmed that Karimova’s connection with an organized criminal group was under investigation.
Amnesty: In December the Senate approved the annual prisoner amnesty. According to its terms, women, underage offenders, men over 60, foreign citizens, and persons with disabilities or documented serious illnesses were eligible for amnesty. The bill also included first-time offenders convicted of participation in banned organizations and the commission of crimes against peace or public security who “have firmly stood on the path to recovery.” As in previous years, the amnesty foresaw (with some exceptions) reducing sentences by one-third for all convicts sentenced to up to 10 years’ imprisonment and by one-fourth for those sentenced to more than 10 years. The resolution excludes from the amnesty persons sentenced to life and “lengthy” terms in prison, repeat offenders, and those who “systemically have violated the terms of incarceration.” Amnesty options included release from prison, transfer to a work camp. Courts were also permitted to dismiss criminal cases at the pretrial or trial stage.
Amnesty for those eligible would actually be implemented in the coming year, subject to official, case-by-case review. Local prison authorities had considerable discretion in determining who qualifies for release, as they determine whether a prisoner is “following the way of correction” or “systematically violating” the terms of incarceration. Officials often cited “violation of internal prison rules” as a reason for denying amnesty and for extending sentences.
Human rights activists expressed concern that individuals imprisoned for religious extremism or political grounds were not released under the amnesty, although they met criteria for inclusion. In March, for example, the family of Ganikhon Mamatkhanov, a representative of the Fergana region International Society for Protection of Human Rights, reported that officials extended his sentence by three years for allegedly disobeying the orders of the prison administration by using the toilet three times without asking. The government stated that, during his incarceration, Mamatkhanov “did not step on the path of correction, systematically disrupted the incarceration regime and internal institution rules” and therefore received an additional sentence of 27 months following a trial. Other examples included Salijon Abdurakhmanov, Isroil Holdarov, Murod Juraev, and Agzam Turgunov.
According to government statements, almost 69,000 persons were eligible under the 2013 amnesty implemented in the first quarter of 2014. The vast majority of individuals had cases dismissed in the investigative phase or received reduced sentences if already imprisoned, but 2,095 individuals were released from incarceration.