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Text of Letter from United States Helsinki Commission Members to President Karimov

March 7, 2002

His Excellency Islam Karimov
President of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Dear President Karimov:

We write in anticipation of your upcoming visit to the United States, to convey our deep concern over ongoing human rights violations in the Republic of Uzbekistan. While the recent convictions against four police officers in Tashkent are welcome, systematic abuses by law enforcement authorities persist.

The ongoing and systematic abuses by Uzbek authorities against Muslims, which has been well documented by non-governmental organizations and the U.S. Department of State, are especially troubling. It is currently estimated that over 7,000 individuals are jailed for alleged crimes related to their religious affiliation or beliefs. Once in custody, many held in incommunicado detention are reportedly tortured and beaten in hopes of securing self-incriminating statements or evidence against other suspects or simply disappear.

Also of serious concern are the extrajudicial executions that occurred over the past year. Human rights organizations have reported on the deaths of at least five individuals while in police custody. Despite some Uzbek Government reports listing the cause of death as “heart attack” or “brain tumor,” the open wounds, broken bones and multiple bruises on the corpses tell a very different story. We urge you to give priority attention to ending such practices and bringing those responsible to justice.

While the harassment, imprisonment and mistreatment of religious believers constitute the most urgent human rights concern in Uzbekistan, there are numerous others. Uzbek registration laws severely frustrate the ability of non-government organizations, including human rights and religious groups as well as media outlets to operate legally. The 1999 amendments to the Criminal Code, allowing for up to 20 years imprisonment for merely attending an “illegal” or “prohibited” religious group, are especially extreme. Overall, these laws and regulations have a chilling effect on Uzbek society, and we urge you to act to facilitate the registration of groups, including the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, in a manner consistent with OSCE commitments.

Nearly a decade after Uzbekistan joined the OSCE, a pattern of clear, gross and uncorrected violations of fundamental OSCE principles on democracy, human rights, and the rule of law continues. Against this backdrop, recent pronouncements out of Tashkent about a renewed commitment to address longstanding issues of democratization and human rights will continue to ring hollow unless they are matched by concrete deeds. Mr. President, we urge you to provide the necessary leadership to fulfill such promises.

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