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Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Denounces Death of Uzbek Held in Police Custody

WASHINGTON – United States Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) today condemned the death-in-detention of former Uzbek parliamentarian Shovriq Rusimorodov, an activist with the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan.

“The death of Shovriq Rusimorodov was a preventable tragedy that shames the Uzbek Government,” Smith said. “On June 15, Uzbek authorities arrested Mr. Rusimorodov – again – in violation of due process and the rule of law. He was held incommunicado until his death, cut off from lawyers, independent medical assistance, and his family. Less than a month later, on July 7, his body was delivered to his grieving family.”

“Just over a year ago, I spoke out regarding the case of Mamadali Makhmudov, another activist who is also imprisoned in Uzbekistan. I said there is serious reason to fear that he would not survive the conditions of his incarceration. The death of Shovriq Rusimordov illustrates how valid those concerns still are – for Makhmudov, for Elena Urlaeva, and for others who are being tortured in Uzbekistan.”

Shovriq Rusimorodov was elected to the Uzbek parliament in 1990. After joining the Birlik (Unity) party, he was arrested three times for his opposition activities (1991, 1998, and 2001).

Mamadali Makhmudov, a renowned Uzbek writer, was convicted in August 1999 in a trial marred by violations of due process. He has been tortured in prison and denied contact with independent non-governmental representatives. He is reportedly in grave condition.

Opposition activist Elena Urlaeva has been incarcerated in a psychiatric institution, recalling the tactics of Soviet-era brutality.

“Just a few days ago,” continued Mr. Smith, “at the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Paris, I introduced a resolution calling for the complete ban, in law and in practice, of incommunicado detention, a practice that denies detainees contact with the outside world. Incommunicado detention is the hand-maiden of torturers everywhere, helping them to engage in their nefarious practices by stealth. It must be stopped.” “Accordingly, I call on the Government of Uzbekistan:

• to allow representatives of the OSCE and International Committee of the Red Cross to meet with Makhmudov, Urlaeva, and others who are reportedly tortured;
• to permit those in the custody of the government to have access to representatives of independent, non-governmental bodies, such as Amnesty International, Doctors without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and Physicians for Human Rights;
• to allow independent forensic experts to examine the body of Shovriq Rusimorodov;
• to conduct a transparent and impartial investigation into the death of Mr. Rusimorodov and to hold accountable those who have violated the law;
• to adopt, in law and in practice, a complete prohibition on incommunicado detention; and
• to undertake a transparent review of all cases where persons may be incarcerated for political or religious views with a view to releasing those wrongly imprisoned.”

The Declaration of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, including Co-Chairman Smith’s resolution on the prevention of torture and abuse will be posted at

Uzbekistan adopted the OSCE Charter for European Security in 1999, which states:

“We are committed to eradicating torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment throughout the OSCE area. To this end, we will promote legislation to provide procedural and substantive safeguards and remedies to combat these practices. We will assist victims and co-operate with relevant international organizations and non-governmental organizations, as appropriate.”

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