Since taking power following the 2016 death of Uzbekistan’s first president, Islam Karimov, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has begun opening the country, improved relations with neighboring states, and launched a series of domestic reform initiatives. Previously under Karimov, Uzbekistan had gained a reputation for jailing opposition and human rights activists, and for restricting freedom of the media, civil society, and freedom of religion. Mirziyoyev has taken some positive steps over the past several years, such as releasing numerous political prisoners, opening access to previously banned websites, reversing currency restrictions, addressing child labor in the cotton harvest, and putting in place mechanisms to strengthen government responsiveness and accountability. However, restrictive policies remain that continue to hamper the development of civil society, religious freedom, independent media, the judicial system and a multi-party electoral system. The OSCE established the OSCE Liaison Office in Central Asia in Tashkent in 1995, which was converted to the OSCE Centre in Tashkent in 2000, and ultimately to the current Project Coordinator in Uzbekistan in 2006. The OSCE has conducted full election observations in Uzbekistan since 2016; prior to that it conducted only limited observation missions.
The Helsinki Commission has closely followed developments in Uzbekistan since its independence in 1991 and has held numerous hearings on the human rights situation in the country. The Commission also held several hearings related to the violence in Andijan in 2005 as well as events looking at politically motivated incarcerations and prison conditions in Uzbekistan.
Staff Contact: Janice Helwig, senior policy advisor