Uzbek human rights defenders protest against enforced disappearances

International community and partners of Uzbekistan should urge Uzbek government for accountability and transparency concerning the fate of victims of enforced disappearances.

The UN General Assembly had declared August 30 the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances back in 2011.

Enforced disappearances are part of the strategy for establishing atmosphere of terror and, according to the experts of the UN General Assembly, this practice has turned into a global problem. Cases are associated primarily with dictatorial regimes and the situation of enforced disappearances in Uzbekistan is no exception.

Enforced disappearances in Uzbekistan began in the mid 1990s and it was mostly democratically-minded political and religious opponents of the Uzbek authorities who had fallen victims of these disappearances.

Victims of enforced disappearances in Uzbekistan during the period under review can be divided into two categories: a) members and activists of democratic political opposition, human rights activists and independent journalists; b) activists and leaders of independent religious groups.

The following specific characteristics of enforced disappearances of people from the above mentioned groups in Uzbekistan should be noted:

– enforced disappearances are always part of illegal struggle of the political elite of Uzbekistan against its opponents and critics, and they are always carried out as a clandestine operations by Uzbek special services and law enforcement agencies; they are the work of the state authorities and not some third parties or individuals, acting either with or without orders coming from the state power;
– while the cases of enforced disappearances of activists and leaders of the opposition, human rights defenders, leaders of independent religious groups, independent journalists almost always draw public attention because of the social prominence of these figures, the hundreds of cases of enforced disappearances of ordinary peaceful Muslim believers almost always remain unreported – their relatives are very afraid to publicize this information, it is difficult for human rights organizations and journalists to get in touch with them, and in general there are very few human rights defenders in Uzbekistan;

– the general public suffers from a feeling of indifference and despair as to the facts of enforced disappearances, it is no longer surprised with this phenomenon and its will to resist has disappeared, because everyone knows that the government is behind this and if a person doesn’t pretended that he hadn’t noticed this wrongdoing, he or she can become the next victim;
– the scale of the problem of enforced disappearances in Uzbekistan have not been studied well enough and only random information reaches the public concerning these cases, while only the most famous cases get reported; another reason why the actual extent of the problem has not been studied is that the government successfully masks this phenomenon by declaring it part of the fight against terrorism, which should justify any violation of human rights.

Staring July 29, 2015 the Coordinating Council of civil society in Uzbekistan “Alternative Uzbekistan” began to study and gather information on the most notorious cases of enforced disappearances in the country and this is just the first step in this direction.

We started this on the day of the 20th anniversary of the enforced disappearance of well-known Uzbek theologian Abduvali-kori Mirzayev and his student Ramazan Matkarimov, both of whom disappeared without a trace back in 1995.

Already the first results of our work are rather impressive, and by now we have collected data on more than 20 cases of enforced disappearance in Uzbekistan. Currently we compile a list of persons abducted during the twenty-five years of independence of Uzbekistan, whose fate is still unknown to this day.

The collected materials are available here (in Uzbek) and include the list of cases of enforced disappearances:

(Zurlik ostida va gayriihtiyoriy goyib bulganlar ruyhati)

Today, on the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the Coordinating Council of civil society in Uzbekistan “Alternative Uzbekistan” calls upon the international community, including the United Nations Organization, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, international partners of Uzbekistan including Western democracies such as the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and others, to demand from the Uzbek authorities a comprehensive and impartial investigation, transparency and establishment of truth in all cases of enforced disappearances in the country which had taken place over the years since declaration of the country’s independence.

Perpetrators of enforced disappearance should be established, brought to justice, while victims of enforced disappearances should be immediately returned to their families, if they are still alive, and both them and their families should receive appropriate compensation for their sufferings.

Uzbek government should guarantee protection from similar cases of enforced disappearance in the future.

Coordinating Council of civil society in Uzbekistan “Alternative Uzbekistan”

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