1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
U.S. Department of State, February 25, 2000
Uzbekistan is an authoritarian state with limited civil rights. The Constitution provides for a presidential system with
separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. In practice President Islam Karimov and the
centralized executive branch that serves him dominate political life. Chosen president in a 1991 election that most observers
considered neither free nor fair, Karimov had his stay in office extended to 2000 by a 1995 plebiscite. Parliament
subsequently voted to make the extension part of Karimov's first term, thus making him eligible to run again in 2000. The
executive branch dominates the Oliy Majlis (Parliament), which consists only of members of parties that support the
President. Despite constitutional provisions for an independent judiciary, the executive branch heavily influences the courts
in both civil and criminal cases.
There is effective civilian control over the military. The Ministry of Interior (MVD) controls the police. The police and other
MVD forces are responsible for most normal police functions. The National Security Service (NSS)--the former
KGB--deals with a broad range of national security questions, including corruption, organized crime, and narcotics. The
police and the NSS committed numerous serious human rights abuses.
The Government has stated that it is committed to a gradual transition to a free market economy. However, continuing
restrictions on currency convertibility and other government measures to control economic activity have constrained
economic growth and led international lending organizations to suspend or scale back credits. The economy is based
primarily on agriculture and agricultural processing; the country is a major producer and exporter of cotton. It is also a
major producer of gold and has substantial deposits of copper, strategic minerals, gas, and oil. The Government has made
some progress in reducing inflation and the budget deficit, but government statistics understate both, while overstating
economic growth. There are no reliable statistics on unemployment, which is believed to be high and growing. The
Government is taking some modest steps to reduce the host of formal and informal barriers that constrain the nascent
The Government's poor human rights record worsened, and the Government continued to commit numerous serious
abuses. Citizens cannot exercise their right to change their government peacefully. The Government has not permitted the
existence of an opposition party since 1993. Election laws restrict the possibility of any real opposition parties arising or
mounting a campaign. Minor changes enacted in August to the presidential, parliamentary, and local election laws did not
ensure that future elections would be free and fair.
There were credible reports that security forces committed killings. Security force mistreatment resulted in the deaths of
several citizens in custody. Police and NSS forces beat, tortured, and harassed persons. The security forces arbitrarily
arrested or detained human rights activists, pious Muslims, and other citizens on false charges, frequently planting narcotics,
weapons, or forbidden literature on them. Prison conditions are poor, and detention can be prolonged. Police and NSS
forces infringed on citizens' privacy, including the use of illegal searches and wiretaps. Those responsible for documented
abuses rarely are punished.
After five terrorist bombs exploded near government targets in Tashkent on February 16, security forces launched a
particularly wide-ranging campaign of arrests and intimidation against all those whom the Government perceived as a threat.
Among those arrested and tried were some persons with close links to avowed Islamist Uzbeks abroad who, the
Government believes, were responsible for the bombings. However, other victims of the crackdown included members of
the secular opposition, human rights activists, and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of overtly pious Muslims and members of
Islamist political groups. While it is not possible to estimate the number of those arrested, observers believe that the scale
surpasses any previous such action. Some human rights activists assert that tens of thousands of persons were arrested and
remain in custody.
The judiciary does not always ensure due process and often defers to the wishes of the executive branch. The Government
severely limits freedom of speech and the press, and an atmosphere of repression stifles public criticism of the Government.
Although the Constitution expressly prohibits it, press censorship continues, and the Government sharply restricts citizens'
access to foreign media. A new decree requires all Internet service providers to route their connections through a
government server. The primary purpose of this measure, according to the Government, is to prevent access to what the
Government considers harmful information. The Government limits freedom of assembly and association. The Government
continues to ban unauthorized public meetings and demonstrations. A new law improves the formal legal framework for the
formation, registration, and operation of nongovernmental organizations; however, the Government also continues to deny
registration to opposition political parties as well as to other groups that might be critical of the Government. For example
the Ministry of Justice repeatedly has denied the application for registration of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan
(HRSU) and the Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan (IHROU) have repeatedly applied for
registration, citing technical deficiencies. Unregistered opposition parties and movements may not operate freely or publish
their views. The Government limits freedom of religion. The Government harassed and arrested hundreds of Islamic leaders
and believers on questionable grounds, citing the threat of extremism. The Government tolerates the existence of minority
religions but places strict limits on religious activities. Although the Government registered nearly 150 minority religious
communities by year's end, several others were prevented from registering by local officials. There were cases in which
university authorities expelled female students for wearing Islamic dress.
The Government continues to voice rhetorical support for human rights, but does not ensure these rights in practice.
Although the election, religion, and media laws contain elements that theoretically support human rights, in reality the
Government does not respect such provisions. The Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman, which was formed in 1997,
reports that it is assisting hundreds of citizens in redressing human rights abuses, the majority of which involve allegedly
unjust court decisions and claims of abuse of power by police. The ombudsman's office issued reports identifying the most
serious types of violations of human rights by government officials; however, most of the successfully resolved cases
appear relatively minor.
Domestic violence against women is a problem, and despite a constitutional prohibition, there continues to be significant
traditional societal discrimination against women. Trafficking in women and girls for the purposes of prostitution occurs.
Workplace discrimination against some minorities persists. There are some limits on worker rights.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no confirmed reports of political killings; however, security forces committed several killings. Security force
mistreatment resulted in the deaths of several prisoners in custody.
On June 25, a Human Rights Watch representative viewed the body of Farkhod Usmanov, who was arrested on June 14 for
the possession of a leaflet from the Islamic political group Hezbut Tahrir (Party of Liberation). The bruises and other
markings on the body suggested that Usmanov, son of a well-known imam, died from torture while in custody. Officials
claimed that he died of heart failure. Akhmadhon Turakhanov died in custody on June 19, reportedly because prison
authorities refused to treat his diabetes. Turakhanov was a member of the unregistered Birlik Democratic Movement and the
unregistered Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan. Although Turakhanov was not religious, officials
accused him of being an Islamic extremist and charged him with hooliganism and conspiracy against the constitutional
order. There were unconfirmed but credible reports of at least 13 other deaths by torture or beating. In one case, a man from
Nukus, Azim Khodjaev, allegedly was beaten to death at a then-secret prison in Karakalpakstan in mid-July because he
would not reveal the whereabouts of his sons whom the police were seeking. According to witnesses in Nukus, his body
was bruised and missing its fingernails. Authorities gave the cause of death as heart failure.
Between August and early October, Uzbek security forces provided assistance to the Kyrgyz Government in dealing with
an incursion into Kyrgyzstan from Tajikistan by a group of armed ethnic Uzbek militants. As part of the operations against
the militants, a number of air strikes were carried out against their positions in southern Kyrgyzstan. In the first of these on
August 15, the Uzbek Government acknowledged that its air force had responded to a direct request from the Kyrgyz. This
incident resulted in no casualties. A subsequent strike on August 29 reportedly caused the accidental deaths of up to 12
noncombatants in a Kyrgyz village; however, the Uzbek Government never admitted responsibility for this incident, and its
involvement remains unconfirmed.
The Government conducted no further investigation of the death in custody on October 30, 1998, of outspoken Muslim
cleric Qobil Muradov.
There were no reported developments in the 1995 killing of Bokhtiar Yakubov, a witness linked to an opposition activist.
On February 16, 5 bombs detonated in downtown Tashkent and killed 16 persons. The perpetrators are believed to have
been terrorist members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) or related groups. At year's end, the Government
reported that it tried and convicted 128 persons in connection with this attack; 11 were sentenced to death. The first trial of
22 suspects in June was open to journalists and international observers, but subsequent trials were closed and held in secret.
In a March 30 bus hijacking, terrorists killed three law enforcement agents. In November four forest rangers and three
police officers were killed by a group of IMU members that they encountered in a mountainous region near Tashkent. In
the subsequent manhunt, 3 police special forces officers and 15 suspected insurgents were killed.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
It is now widely believed that Imam Abidkhon Nazarov, missing since March 5, 1998, fled the country to avoid arrest and
was not abducted by security forces. There were no reported developments in the 1995 disappearance of Imam Abduvali
Mirzaev, the 1997 disappearance of his assistant, Nematjon Parpiev, or the 1992 disappearance of Aboullah Utaev, leader of
the Uzbekistan chapter of the outlawed Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP). Most independent observers believe that the three
missing Islamic activists are either dead or in NSS custody.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Although the law prohibits these practices, police routinely beat and otherwise mistreat detainees to obtain confessions.
Both police and the NSS used beatings and harassment against citizens.
Six citizens convicted for their links to the outlawed Erk Democratic Party and its leader Mohammed Solikh released a
statement in August alleging that their captors tortured and beat them during 5 months of incommunicado detention from
late-February to mid-July, in order to force them to sign incriminating statements. Police methods included use of electric
shocks, near suffocation, and beatings with rubber sticks and plastic bottles filled with water. One of the defendants, noted
writer Mamadali Makhmudov, released a separate statement, saying that police threatened to rape his wife and daughters in
his presence before killing him.
Police detained, arrested, beat, and harassed members of various religious groups, including hundreds of Muslims and at
least two groups of evangelical Christians (see Sections 1.d. and 2.c.).
Police routinely planted false evidence on citizens to justify arrests or extort bribes (see Section 1.d.).
Prison conditions are poor, and worse for male than for female prisoners. Due to limited resources, prison overcrowding is
a problem. Human rights activists reported that the incarceration of 10 to 15 people in cells designed for 4 is common.
Tuberculosis and hepatitis are endemic in the prisons, making even short periods of incarceration potentially deadly.
Reportedly there are severe shortages of food and medicines. Political and religious prisoners often are not allowed visitors
or any other form of contact with family and friends. There is a new prison complex in a remote area of the Republic of
Karakalpakstan near the city of Jaslik. The Government has allowed family visits to a single facility in that area that houses
250 prisoners. Although prisoners are treated well prior to visits by relatives, conditions at the facility are reported to be
poor, and as many as 17 prisoners allegedly died from mistreatment since May. There are rumored to be additional prison
facilities nearby housing a large but unknown number of inmates. It appears that most of the prisoners transferred to Jaslik
were convicted for their participation in unauthorized Islamic groups. In August police prevented a Human Rights Watch
representative who attempted to view the complex from entering the area. The Government operates labor camps, but little is
known about them; however, conditions of incarceration have been reported to be less severe than in prisons.
Akhmedin Turakhanov died in custody, reportedly due to prison authorities' refusal to treat his diabetes (see Section 1.a.).
The Government does not permit prison visits by human rights monitors such as the International Committee of the Red
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Security forces continued to arrest and detain individuals arbitrarily, without warrant or just cause. A Soviet-era detention
law provides that police may hold a person suspected of committing a crime for up to 3 days. At the end of this period, the
detained person must be declared officially a suspect, charged with a crime, or released. A person officially declared a
suspect may be held for an additional 3 days before charges are filed. A prosecutor's order is required for arrests but not
for detentions prior to the filing of charges. In practice these legal protections frequently are ignored. In some cases, police
circumvent the rules by claiming that the detainee is being held as a potential witness and not as a suspect; there are no
regulations concerning the length of time witnesses may be detained. A court date must be set within 15 days of arrest (or
filing of charges) and the defendant may be detained during this period. A defendant may not have access to counsel while
in detention but only after the first interview with an investigator. Once the trial date is set, detainees deemed not to be
violent may be released on their own recognizance pending trial. No money need be posted as bond, but in such cases the
accused usually must sign a pledge not to leave the city. In practice this procedure rarely is used. During the period between
arrest and trial, defendants are almost always kept in pretrial detention, which has been known to last as long as 2 years. In
ordinary criminal cases, the police generally are capable of identifying and arresting only those reasonably suspected of the
crime. However, both the police and NSS are far less discriminating in cases involving perceived risks to national security.
In the immediate aftermath of the February explosions in Tashkent, police arbitrarily detained hundreds of those whose
religious or political inclinations made them suspect in the eyes of the security forces (also see Section 2.c.). The majority
of those detained were released after questioning and detention that lasted as long as 2 months. Prosecutors have brought
charges against 128 persons in connection with the bombings, and at year's end 11 had been sentenced to death.
Police routinely plant small amounts of narcotics, weapons, ammunition, or Islamic literature on citizens either to justify
arrest or to extort bribes. The most frequent victims of this illegal practice are suspected members of nonofficial Islamic
organizations such as Hezbut Tahrir. The first of numerous alleged Hezbut Tahrir members tried during the year was
sentenced on May 14. The authorities convicted 11 of the 12 defendants--whose average age was 26--of possession of
narcotics or weapons that their families claim were planted by the arresting officers. Most also were convicted of conspiracy
against the constitutional order. They were sentenced to an average of 12 years in prison. Subsequent sentences against
Hezbut Tahrir members were even harsher. The total numbers of those either tried and convicted or still in pretrial detention
are unknown, but human rights activists contend that there are well over 1,000 and perhaps several thousand. Many of those
in detention are political detainees. Police also allegedly have planted drugs on four persons in two Christian denominations
in order to arrest them.
In the crackdown after the bombings, it was common for police to arrest, hold, beat, and even try family members of the
suspects that the police actually were seeking (also see Section 1.f.). There were numerous reports of individuals
surrendering to police in order to save their families. Police detained the wife, mother, brother, uncle, and brother-in-law of
missing Imam Abidkhon Nazarov within a month of the bombing. While Nazarov's mother was released after brief
questioning, his wife was held for 10 days (ostensibly for resisting the police) and the three males ultimately were given
prison terms. Nazarov's brother Umarkhon was sentenced in Namangan to 11 years in prison on May 20. On the same day,
his brother-in-law Abdurashid Nasriddinov also was sentenced to 11 years and his uncle Akhmadali Salamov to 4 years.
All allegedly possessed extremist religious literature. The men allegedly were beaten during pretrial detention and
repeatedly asked the whereabouts of the imam. Similarly, the police arrested three brothers of exiled Democratic Opposition
leader Mohammed Solikh (see Sections 1.c. and 3).
Police detained, arrested, beat, and harassed various religious groups (see Sections 1.c. and 2.c.).
The Government does not use forced exile.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Although the Constitution provides for an independent judicial authority, the judicial branch takes its direction from the
executive branch and has little independence in practice. Under the Constitution, the President appoints all judges for 5-year
terms. They may be removed for crimes or failure to fulfill their obligations. Power to remove judges rests with the
President, except for Supreme Court judges, whose removal also must be confirmed by Parliament.
The system of courts of general jurisdiction is divided into three tiers: district courts; regional courts; and the Supreme
Court. In addition a Constitutional Court is charged with reviewing laws, decrees, and judicial decisions to ensure their
compliance with the Constitution. Military courts handle all civil and criminal matters that occur within the military. There is
a system of economic courts on the regional level that deals with economic cases between judicial legal entities.
Decisions of district and regional courts of general jurisdiction may be appealed to the next level within 10 days of ruling.
The Criminal Code has reduced the list of crimes punishable by death to murder, espionage, and treason, eliminating the
economic crimes punishable by death in the former Soviet code. Officially, most court cases are open to the public but may
be closed in exceptional cases, such as those involving state secrets, rape, or young defendants. However, except for the first
trial in June, all trials of those suspected of involvement in the February 16 terrorist bombings were closed to international
observers and the public on security grounds. In similar fashion, many trials of alleged Islamic extremists have been closed.
State prosecutors, called "procurators," play a decisive role in the criminal justice system. They order arrests, direct
investigations, prepare criminal cases, and recommend sentences. If a judge's sentence does not agree with the prosecutor's
recommendation, the prosecutor has a right to appeal the sentence to a higher court. (There is no protection against double
jeopardy.) Judges whose decisions have been overturned on more than one occasion may be removed from office.
Consequently, judges rarely defy the recommendations of prosecutors. As a result, defendants usually are found guilty.
Uzbekistan still uses the Soviet practice of trial by a panel of three judges: one professional judge and two lay assessors
who serve 5 year terms and are selected from workers' collectives. The judge presides and directs the proceedings.
However, in practice, judges often defer to the Government and its prosecutors on legal and other matters. Defendants have
the right to attend the proceedings, confront witnesses, and present evidence. The State provides a lawyer without charge,
but by law the accused also has the right to hire an attorney. In practice the right to an attorney often is violated and there
are numerous examples of denial of the right to counsel. In a July 13 trial, human rights activist Mahbuba Kasimova was
denied the right to hire her own attorney. She was invited to a meeting with the judge that day only to discover when she
arrived at the courthouse that she would be tried immediately. She requested to have her attorney present, but her request
was denied; she was provided a court-appointed lawyer for the trial, which lasted only 3 hours before the judge sentenced
her to 5 years in prison (see Section 4). On appeal the judge rejected the argument that she had been denied right to
counsel, ruling that the state-appointed lawyer had represented her. In addition Human Rights Watch reported that several
families of those accused in connection with the February 16 bombings hired their own defense lawyers, but the lawyers
were denied access to their clients, both before and during the trial.
In practice most defense lawyers are unskilled at defending their clients. Courts often do not allow all defense witnesses to
be heard, and written documents are given more weight than courtroom witnesses. In the first trial of those accused of
involvement in the terrorist bombings, defense attorneys argued only that the defendants were sorry for their crimes and did
not dispute the procurator's version of events.
The Constitution provides a right of appeal to those convicted, but such proceedings usually are formalistic exercises that
confirm the original conviction. For example the appeal of Mahbuba Kasimova on August 17 lasted only 45 minutes, and
the judge did not permit testimony. Kasimova was not allowed to be present at the appeal.
Authorities arrested and tried unfairly relatives of suspects and members of opposition groups (see Sections 1.d. and 3).
In September HRSU released a list of 505 "possible political prisoners," many of whom are political dissidents, human
rights activists, or Hezbut Tahrir members who can be regarded as political prisoners. Many of them were associated with
the Birlik or Erk opposition organizations in the early 1990's. Others were involved in independent Islamic activities. Many
were convicted of nonpolitical offenses such as tax evasion, misappropriation of funds, or illegal possession of narcotics or
firearms (also see Section 2.c.). It is widely believed that in the latter cases, arresting officers planted the incriminating
material. The Government has rejected explicitly that any of the 162 individuals on an earlier HRSU list are political
prisoners and denies that any prisoners held in the country can be classified as "political."
Abdurauf Gafurov, an Islamic activist imprisoned since 1996, was scheduled for release in May 1998; however, his
sentence was extended for an additional 3 years based on testimony from fellow prisoners. He was amnestied and released
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Authorities infringe on these rights. By law only a prosecutor may issue a search warrant or authorize electronic
surveillance. There is no provision for a judicial review of such warrants. Security agencies routinely monitor telephone
calls and employ surveillance and wiretaps in the cases of persons involved in opposition political activities.
The religion law (see Section 2.c.) prohibits private teaching of religious principles. There have been reports of students
being expelled from or harassed and forced to leave various universities and secondary schools for wearing traditional
Islamic dress. Human Rights Watch issued a report in October 1999 describing 28 confirmed cases from 1997 and 1998.
In addition a group of 15 female students from Fergana State University claimed that they were forced to leave school in
March (see Section 2.c.). Police arrested a number of men who wore beards, a traditional sign of Islamic piety (see Sections
1.d. and 2.c.).
Police arrested, detained, and beat family members of suspects that they were seeking (see Sections 1.a., 1.c., 1.d., 1.e., and
The Government does not allow general distribution of foreign newspapers and other publications. However, two or three
conservative Russian newspapers and a variety of Russian tabloids and lifestyle publications are available. There is a
modest selection of other foreign periodicals available in Tashkent's major hotels, and authorized groups can obtain foreign
periodicals through subscription. Although publication of local editions of many foreign publications, including
newspapers such as Izvestia and Pravda, remains suspended, Moscow editions of Izvestia, Pravda, and other Russian papers
currently are sold in newstands. The authorities do not permit rebroadcast of Russian programming that is critical of the
Government (see Section 2.a.).
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Although the Constitution provides for "freedom of thought, speech, and convictions," the Government continues to limit
these rights severely.
A 1991 law against "offending the honor and dignity of the President" limits the ability to criticize the President. Ordinary
citizens remain afraid to express views critical of the President and the Government in public. The 1998 mass media law
formally provides for freedom of expression, protects the rights of journalists, and reiterates the constitutional ban on
censorship. Nonetheless, several articles of the law, and the lack of due process provided for in their implementation, allow
the Government to use the law to silence critics. One provision makes journalists responsible for the accuracy of the
information contained in their news stories, potentially subjecting them to prosecution.
Another law permits authorities to close media outlets without a court judgment. Yet another prohibits stories that incite
religious confrontation and ethnic discord. Finally, the law prohibits the registration of organizations whose purposes
include subverting or overthrowing the constitutional order (see Section 2.b.).
All media outlets must be registered by a 17-member interdepartmental government commission. A media organization
must provide information about intended content or programming, sources of funding, means of distribution, technical
capabilities, founders, and sponsors. The media outlets registered by January 1 as required by law but paid higher annual
fees and conformed to certain technical standards. Information remains very tightly controlled. Although the Constitution
prohibits censorship, it is widely practiced and the Government tolerates little, if any, criticism of its actions. The last
opposition newspaper to be published was that of the Erk Democratic Party, which has been banned within the country
since 1993 but is published sporadically abroad.
There are no private publishing houses, and government approval is required for all publications. Newspapers may not be
printed without the approval of the Committee for the Control of State Secrets. All newspapers are printed by state-owned
printing houses, which refuse to print any newspaper whose editor does not confirm that the Committee has cleared the
issue a few hours before being submitted. Journalists who want to ensure that their work is published practice
The Uzbekistan Information Agency cooperates closely with the presidential staff to prepare and distribute all officially
sanctioned news and information. Nearly all newspapers are government-owned and controlled; the key newspapers are
organs of government ministries. Private persons and journalist collectives may not establish newspapers unless they meet
the media law's standards for establishment of a "mass media organ," including founders acceptable to the Government.
Two private newspapers (one in Samarkand and one in Tashkent) are permitted to operate without censorship. They have
no editorial content and consist of advertising, horoscopes, and similar features.
Limited numbers of foreign periodicals are available, but the Government does not allow the general distribution of foreign
newspapers (see Section 1.f.).
Four state-run channels that fully support the Government and its policies dominate television broadcasting. A cable
television joint venture between the state broadcasting company and a foreign company broadcasts the Hong Kong-based
Star television channels, including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Deutsche Welle, and Cable News Network
world news, to Tashkent and a few other locations. Access to cable television is beyond the financial ability of most citizens.
There are between 30 and 40 privately owned local television stations and 3 privately owned radio stations. Generally,
broadcasters practice self-censorship and enjoy some leeway in reporting critically on local government. Samarkand
Independent Television, which operates four channels, is known for such reporting. However, it is clearly sensitive to
political concerns from the Government and concentrates on nonpolitical news, yet it denies that it is censored formally. In
late November, the Government denied the annual reregistration of two independent television stations and suspended their
licenses. One, in Urgench, allegedly failed to take required security measures; the other, in Guliston, allegedly had
substandard equipment. Officials claimed that there was no political element to these decisions and that registration would
be reconsidered when the stations comply with the regulations. Foreign observers noted that these two stations are among
the most independent of the commercial stations and interpreted the closings as a warning to other broadcasters not to upset
the Government during the election season. The Urgench station, which now has filed a suit against the Government for
damages, also had lost its registration temporarily in 1997, allegedly for technical violations of regulations. It was believed
widely at the time that the real reason for the 1997 closure was that the owner had been a member of the Erk political party.
Enforcement of the registration and licensing requirements can be strict, and the Government's implementation of the media
law does not function smoothly. Because the registration committee meets irregularly and because regulations require
annual reregistration, up to one half of independent television stations have been forced to operate with expired licenses,
meaning the Government could shut them down at any time. Owners reportedly believe that the Government intentionally
delays registration in order to ensure that the stations broadcast nothing unfavorable.
Private radio and television broadcasters formed an independent professional association in 1998 (ANESMI). The
association resisted both generous incentives and heavy pressure from the Government to elect the Government's candidate
as chairman. Government officials openly threatened members of the group and the opposition candidate who was elected.
Since that time, the Government has denied arbitrarily the group's registration application on four occasions since its
founding, twice during the year. Ministry of Justice officials reportedly advised the group privately that it never would be
registered. The lack of registration effectively restricts ANESMI's ability to attract international funding and operate legally.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of America are not permitted to broadcast from within the country, despite
the Government's 1992 contractual agreement to allow this activity. The Government allows both organizations to have
correspondents in the country. The BBC world service was required to broadcast on a very low FM frequency that most
radios would not be able to receive, and then only after the BBC agreed in June to self-censorship. It is permitted to
broadcast only 2 hours per day: 1 hour in Uzbek 5 days per week; 30 minutes in Uzbek the other 2 days; and 30 minutes in
Russian 7 days per week.
On February 5, the President signed a decree directing all Internet service providers to route their connections through a
state-run server. The avowed main purpose of this directive was to prevent the transmission of what the State considers as
harmful information, including material advocating or facilitating terrorism, material deemed hostile to the constitutional
order, and pornography. By year's end, the Government had connected all but four providers, but did not yet possess the
equipment and expertise necessary to complete implementation of the decree. Government officials said that they foresaw
connecting the remaining providers and introducing content filtering during 2000.
The Government has granted academic institutions a degree of autonomy, but freedom of expression still is limited. Most
institutions are modernizing their curriculums, but find up-to-date textbooks too costly.
According to press reports, the Ministry of the Interior announced on June 18 that police had detained a large number of
Hezbut Takhrir leaflet distributors in Tashkent. The leaflets severely criticized President Karimov and propagated a Muslim
teaching banned in the country. Other arrests of leaflet distributors occurred throughout the year. A group of 15 female
students at Ferghana State University were harassed and ultimately forced to leave school over the issue of religious dress
(see Sections 1.f. and 2.c.).
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for the right of peaceful assembly; however, it also states that the authorities have the right to
suspend or ban rallies, meetings, and demonstrations on security grounds. In practice the Government restricted the right of
peaceful assembly. The Government must approve demonstrations but does not grant permits to demonstrators routinely.
In November a group of 30 to 40 veiled Moslem women gathered in front of the office of the Tashkent hokim (local
governor) to protest the incarceration of their relatives. The police ordered them to disperse after refusing their request to
meet with the hokim. Some members of the group report that they have been under intermittent surveillance since that time.
A peaceful demonstration of approximately 1,000 residents of Jizzak, that was held in May to protest an economic policy
measure taken by local authorities, occurred without government interference.
The Constitution provides for the right of freedom of association, but the Government limits the exercise of this right by
refusing to register opposition political parties and movements. The Constitution places broad limitations on the types of
groups that may form and requires that all organizations be registered formally with the Government in accordance with
procedures prescribed by law. A 1996 analysis by foreign legal observers concluded that, while the Law on Political Parties
provides theoretical protections for minority parties and permits a wide range of fund raising, it also gives the Ministry of
Justice broad powers to interfere with parties and to withhold financial and legal support to those opposed to the
Government. There are no registered opposition parties (see Section 3).
In the early 1990's, the Government repeatedly denied the attempts by the Birlik Movement and Erk Party to register.
Harassment by security forces drove the leaders of these organizations into voluntary exile. These organizations made no
attempt to register during the year, reportedly because their remaining adherents were afraid of government reprisals.
Many of the activists not already imprisoned or exiled were victims of the latest wave of repression (see Section 3).
The Constitution and a 1991 amendment to the law on political parties ban parties of a religious nature. Authorities cited
these measures in denying registration to the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) in 1992. In the early 1990's, opposition
activists announced the formation of the Adolat-True Path Party but never pursued formal registration, claiming that their
members were afraid of government reprisals.
The Law on Public Associations as well as the Law on Political Parties prohibits registration of organizations whose
purpose includes subverting or overthrowing the constitutional order, as well as organizations whose names already are
registered. In the past, officials have used the latter provision to block human rights NGO's and independent political parties
from registering by creating another NGO or party with the identical name; however, the authorities did not take such action
during the year.
The Government has refused to register two of the major independent human rights organizations. The Human Rights
Society of Uzbekistan (HRSU), a group with close ties to exiled opposition figures, has sought registration unsuccessfully
since 1992. The Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan (IHROU), headed by longtime human rights
activist Mikhail Ardzinov, held its founding convention and filed registration papers in 1997, but the Government has not
yet formally approved or denied the application. In both cases, the Government claims that the registration applications were
not made properly and need to be resubmitted. Neither the HRSU nor the IHROU resubmitted applications during the
year; there was no indication that they would be registered. The Government's repeated refusals to register these
organizations appear politically motivated. The Government has approved the registration of only one human rights NGO,
the Committee for Protection of Individual Rights, which was formed with government support in 1996.
The process for government registration of NGO's and other public associations is also difficult and time consuming, with
many opportunities for obstruction. Although unregistered organizations often can disseminate literature, hold meetings,
and use letterhead stationery without government interference, they do not exist legally and have no real access to the media
A law on nongovernmental, noncommercial organizations passed in April provides a relatively benign legal framework for
their registration and functioning. In particular the requirements for registration are simpler than they had been under
previous legislation. However, the law contains several vaguely worded provisions that, in practice, may result in arbitrary
enforcement of decisions harmful to NGO's. The real effect of the law depends on the implementing regulations, which had
not yet been promulgated by year's end.
Nonpolitical associations and social organizations usually may register, although complicated rules and a cumbersome
government bureaucracy often make the process difficult. Some evangelical churches (see Section 2.c.) found it difficult to
obtain registration or reregistration.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and for the principle of separation of religion and state; however, in
practice, the Government only partially respects these rights. The Government perceives unofficial Islamic groups or
mosques as extremist threats and outlaws them. During the year, the Government arrested hundreds of members of such
groups and sentenced them to between 15 and 20 years in jail. The Government also restricts recently arrived religions that
either the Government does not understand or that proselytize. However, the Government permits persons affiliated with
mainstream religions, including approved Muslim groups, Jewish groups, the Russian Orthodox Church, and various other
denominations, such as Catholics and Lutherans, to worship freely. Despite the principle of separation of church and state,
the government-controlled Spiritual Directorate for Muslims (the Muftiate) funds some Islamic religious activities.
In May 1998, the Parliament passed two laws that restrict religious activity. The Law on Freedom of Conscience and
Religious Organizations provides for freedom of worship, freedom from religious persecution, separation of church and
state, and the right to establish schools and train clergy. However, the law also restricts religious rights that are judged to be
in conflict with national security, prohibits proselytizing, bans religious subjects in school curriculums, prohibits private
teaching of religious principles, forbids the wearing of religious clothing in public by anyone other than clerics, and
requires religious groups to obtain a license to publish or distribute materials. The law also requires that all religious groups
and congregations register and provides strict criteria for their registration. In particular it stipulates that each group present
a list of at least 100 Uzbek citizen members compared with the previous minimum of 10 to the local Ministries of Justice.
This provision enables the Government to ban any group simply by denying its registration petition. Government officials
designed the law to target Muslims worshiping outside the system of state-organized mosques. As of year's end, the
Government registered 1,831 religious congregations and organizations, 1,664 of which were Moslem. An additional 335
applications were denied, 323 of which were from Moslem groups.
The number of officially sanctioned mosques is significantly increased from the 80 or so permitted during the Soviet era,
but has decreased from the 4,000 that reportedly opened after the country gained independence.
There were a variety of reasons that churches could not register. Some could not meet the requirement of having 100 Uzbek
citizen members, while others could not afford the registration fees. The most frequent problem is determining a
satisfactory legal address. In order to register, groups must report in their charter a valid juridical address, but local officials
frequently contend that a building does not meet fire or building codes, has a disputed title, or other problems.
A presidential commission created in August 1998 may grant exemptions to the Religious Law's strict requirements and
register groups that have not been registered by local officials. Through November 1, the commission granted exemptions
to 51 such groups, including congregations with fewer than 100 Uzbek members. However, no formal procedures or
criteria have been established to bring a case before this commission. In August the Government registered 20 minority
religious groups that had been having difficulty being registered by local officials.
The second law passed in May 1998 consisted of a series of revisions to the criminal and civil codes, which stiffened the
penalties for violating the religion law and other statutes on religious activities. It provided for punishments for activities
such as organizing a banned religious group, persuading others to join such a group, and drawing minors into a religious
organization without the permission of their parents. The Criminal Code was amended again in May with two changes that
affected religious freedom. The changes draw a distinction between "illegal" groups (which are those not registered
properly) and "prohibited" groups (which are banned). The first measure makes it a criminal offense punishable by up to 5
years in prison to organize an illegal religious group or to resume the activities of such a group (presumably after being
denied registration or ordered to disband), or to participate in the activities of such a group (punishable by up to 3 years in
prison. The second measure sets out stiff penalties up to 20 years in prison and confiscation of property for organizing or
participating in the activities of religious extremist, fundamentalist, separatist, or other prohibited groups.
Although authorities tolerate many Christian evangelical groups, government officials often harass those that openly try to
convert Muslims to Christianity. Although the distribution of religious literature by duly registered central offices of
religious organizations is legal, missionary activity and proselytizing is not, and the requirements for establishing such
central offices are burdensome (only five have been registered to date). The Government is often intolerant of those groups
that officials believe are cults; engage in missionary activity; or otherwise do not conform to the requirements of the religion
Although authorities tolerate many Christian evangelical groups, the Government often harasses those that openly try to
convert Muslims to Christianity. Some evangelical churches found it difficult to obtain registration and reregistration.
Among those religious groups whose applications for legal registration have not been approved are a number of Jehovah's
Witnesses congregations throughout the country, the International Protestant Church of Tashkent, a Baptist congregation in
Urgench, the Full Gospel Pentecostal Church in Nukus, and Seventh-Day Adventist congregations in Akhangaran and
Almalyk. Government officials stated that many of the unregistered groups could not meet the requirement of 100 Uzbek
members. They added that Jehovah's Witnesses were denied because they proselytize and do not recognize secular
authority, and that another unregistered group, the Reformed Baptists, simply refused to register.
On the other hand, the Committee on Religious Affairs has approved the registration of 167 minority religious groups
including 32 Russian Orthodox, 23 Baptist, 26 Pentecostal ("Full Gospel"), 10 Seventh-Day Adventist, 47 Korean
Christian, 8 Jewish, 5 Bahai, 2 Jehovah's Witness and 2 Krishna Consciousness. Several of these congregations had fewer
than the required 100 members but received exemptions from the requirement. The Roman Catholic Monsignor reports that
his church has received permission to operate, but that formal registration was pending the resolution of some difficulties
regarding documentation. Denis Podorozhny's Word of Faith Pentecostal Church near Tashkent, which lost its registration
in 1998, was reregistered.
On numerous occasions, the Government restricted the right to religious freedom through use of the religion law and other
statutes. Police have often broken up meetings of unregistered groups. Pastors or group leaders can be subject to fines or
For example as many as 10 Jehovah's Witnesses congregations have been fined for illegal gatherings, dissemination of
printed matter, or missionary activity. A judge of the city court of Karshi said on state television on March 28 and 30, that
Jehovah's Witnesses was a dangerous sect bent on usurping government power. One member of Jehovah's Witnesses,
Sergei Brazgin of Uchkuduk, was arrested on February 22, shortly after police broke up a Bible reading in his home. Police
declared a Bible discussion in which he participated on February 14, to be an illegal activity. He was subsequently
sentenced to 2 years in prison on three counts of illegal religious activity but released on August 20. Press reports indicate
that a Christian was arrested in June after reportedly giving out several Christian tracts in the Karakalpak language at an
airport. Reportedly, he was fined but not imprisoned.
In March authorities in Nukus arrested Pastor Rashid Turibayev of the unregistered Karakalpak Full Gospel Christian
Church and his associates, Farkhad Yangibayev and Yasif Tarashev. Police allegedly planted narcotics on them to justify the
arrests. The court convicted all three on June 9. Turibayev was convicted of the narcotics charge as well as three counts of
violating the religious law and sentenced to 15 years in prison. His associates were sentenced to 10 years each for narcotics
but were not charged with religious offenses. Turibayev previously had been sentenced to 2 years of hard labor in May
1997 for leading illegal church services, but subsequently he was amnestied and released. Na'il Asanov of the Bukhara
Church of Christ was arrested in May after police allegedly planted narcotics on him. He was sentenced on June 30 to 5
years in prison. Pastor Ibrahim Yusupov of an unregistered Tashkent Christian church was sentenced on June 24 to 1 year
in prison for proselytizing.
Central government officials, as well as many Christian leaders, view these and other incidents of harassment as isolated
cases of local officials misapplying the law.
On August 20, the President pardoned and ordered the release of Brazgin, Asanov, Yusupov, and Turibayev and his two
colleagues. There were reports that since their release, certain church members continued to be harassed. Pastor Turibayev
of the Karakalpak Full Gospel Christian Church is heading his church again. However, the Church is not yet registered and
the prosecutor has threatened to confiscate it. Local militia summoned Turibayev twice at the end of September to question
him further regarding his alleged possession of drugs. The militia also failed to return Turibayev's passport, claiming that it
was lost. The lawyer for released Jehovah's Witnesses prisoner Sergei Brazgin reportedly said that after his release from
prison, Brazgin remained under permanent pressure from the local police.
On October 10, the police raided the annual harvest celebration at a Baptist Church in the city of Karshi (the church is one
of several Baptist congregations that due to religious conviction had not attempted to register). The police detained and beat
many of the participants. Authorities sentenced two of the group's organizers to 10 days incarceration and were forced to
pay fines. The Government investigated the incident and some officials acknowledge that the Karshi police acted
improperly; however, no disciplinary action had been taken against the officers involved by year's end.
The most serious abuses of the right to religious freedom were committed against Muslim believers. While tolerant of
moderate Muslims, the Government seeks to control the Islamic hierarchy and is intolerant of Islamic groups that attempt to
operate outside the state-controlled system. The Government seeks to control the content of imams' sermons, and the
volume and substance of published Islamic materials. At the beginning of 1998, the Government ordered the removal of
loudspeakers from mosques in order to prevent the public broadcasting of morning and evening calls to prayer. The
Government closed several hundred nonauthorized mosques during 1998. Although the Government has not closed
additional mosques, loudspeakers remain banned.
The Government is determined to prevent the spread of ultra-conservative or extremist varieties of Sunni Islam, which it
labels "Wahhabbism" and considers destabilizing. President Karimov frequently has declared the Government's intention to
rid the country of Wahhabists and underground Islamic groups such as Hezbut Tahrir, which it views as extremist. The
Government considers such groups as political and security threats and represses them severely. Hezbut Tahrir members
admit that they desire an Islamic government but deny that they advocate violence. Dissident Islamic figures deny that they
are extremists and claim that they are being persecuted for their unwillingness to support the Government. Speaking on
state television on April 4, Interior Minister Zakirdjon Almatov said that young Uzbek men who have embraced radical
Islam in certain countries abroad can avoid punishment if they voluntarily turn themselves in to authorities. Almatov added
that any who fail to do so would be punished severely, and that their fathers also would be held legally responsible.
The security forces have detained and harassed Muslim leaders for perceived acts of insubordination and independence.
Islamic activist Abdurauf Gafurov, whose sentence was extended by 3 years in 1998, was finally released in October. In
1996 the government-appointed mufti fired a number of independent clerics and closed their mosques. The Andijon Friday
mosque, where Imam Abduvali Mirzaev (see Section 1.b.) formerly preached, has been closed since mid-1995.
A leading independent Muslim cleric, Imam Abidkhon Nazarov, has been missing since March 5, 1998, when dozens of
police and security agents raided and searched his home. Although his family claims that the security services abducted
him, the Government and many observers believe that he fled to avoid arrest.
Since Imam Abidkhon Nazarov disappearance, the Government has persecuted his family harshly (see Section 1.d.). In
February just after the terrorist bombing in Tashkent, authorities detained Nazarov's wife, Minnura Nasretdinova, for 10
days on charges of hooliganism. An associate of Nazarov's, Mukhtabar Akhmedova, was arrested and sentenced on March
4 to 10 days' imprisonment for assaulting an undercover police officer who had broken into her courtyard and confiscated
her computer and other office equipment. In March Nazarov's brother, Umarkhon Nazarov, his uncle, Ahmadali Salomov,
and his brother-in-law, Abdurashid Nasretdinov, were arrested and charged with planning a coup d'etat. On May 20, his
brother Umarkhon was sentenced in Namangan to 11 years in prison, and his uncle Akhmadali Salamov and brother-in-law
Abdurashid Nasriddinov each were sentenced to 4 years in prison. Police reportedly planted Islamist literature on the
Nazarov relatives in order to justify their arrest and beat them during interrogation. At present, all male members of
Nazarov's close family are in prison. Human rights observers believe that their only real offense was being related to
On January 8, a Tashkent court sentenced Oqihon Ziehanov and four other alleged "Wahhabist" associates of missing
Imam Abidkhon Nazarov to between 2 to 12 years on a variety of charges including possession of narcotics and
ammunition. Two of the defendants were convicted of conspiring to overthrow the constitutional order. The defendants
claimed credibly that the police had planted the narcotics and ammunition and that the cases against them had been
fabricated. In mid-year four of the five defendants reportedly were transferred to the new prison facility near Jaslik,
Karakalpakstan (see Section 1.c.). The arrest of Nazarov's relatives, the January conviction of Oquilhon Ziehanov and four
other associates of Nazarov, and the December 1998 conviction of 15 alleged followers of Mirzaev were characteristic of
the Government's campaign, waged through much of the 1990's, to rid the country of so-called Wahabbists." Several
human rights observers reported that prison officials confiscated all Korans and religious literature and banned prayer in
Several persons arrested for religious reasons apparently died from mistreatment in custody. On June 14, police arrested
Farkhod Usmanov for possession of a Hezbut Tahrir leaflet. Usmanov apparently was beaten or tortured to death in
custody. Usmanov was the son of former Iman Nosir-Kori Usmanov. According to Human Rights Watch, after holding
him incommunicado for 11 days, officials returned his body, which showed bruises and injuries, to his family on June 25,
claiming that he had died of heart failure.
Akhmadhon Turahonov died in custody on June 19, reportedly because prison authorities refused to treat his diabetes.
Thrahonov was a member of the Birlik Democratic Movement and a human rights activist, and was not religious. Officials
nonetheless accused him of being a Wahhabist and charged him with hooliganism and conspiring to overthrow the
Constitution. In addition to these three cases, there were unconfirmed reports of at least five other deaths by torture or
An outspoken Muslim cleric, Qobil Muradov, apparently was beaten to death in prison on October 30, 1998. His body
showed severe bruising, his teeth were knocked out, and his collarbone and several ribs were broken. Officials alternately
claimed that he had fallen accidentally from a wall and that other prisoners had beaten him. Like many persons whom the
Government considers to be enemies he was arrested for possession of narcotics, which probably were planted on him by
police. He had not been tried at the time of his death.
According to press reports in June, Ministry of Interior police arrested several dozen persons in Tashkent for distributing
Hezbut Tahrir leaflets allegedly "propagating an extremist Muslim teaching" that was banned.
There were no reported developments in the 1995 disappearance of Imam Abduvali Kori Mirzaev; the 1997 disappearance
of his assistant, Nematjon Parpiev; or the 1992 disappearance of Aboullah Utaev, leader of the outlawed Islamic
The February Tashkent bombings prompted the Government to reinvigorate its campaign against Islamic fundamentalism.
Although no group claimed responsibility for the bombings, the President blamed Islamic extremist groups. He said that up
to 3,000 youths had been corrupted by studying Islam at foreign madrassas (Muslim religious schools), where they may
have received terrorist training. He pledged to bring charges against these persons--and against their fathers--if they did not
confess and repent to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. By the end of April, the Government claimed, over 1,000 had taken
advantage of this offer.
As after the Namangan murders, from February to April, police detained, without due process, scores of those whose
religious piety made them suspect in the eyes of the security services. The majority of those detained were released after
questioning and detention that lasted as long as 2 months. On June 28, the Supreme Court sentenced six men to death for
their role in the bombings. Prison sentences were handed out to 16 others.
Beginning in April the Government launched a series of unannounced trials throughout the country of members of Hezbut
Tahrir. Police allegedly planted narcotics and weapons on many of them in order to justify arrest (also see Section 1.c.). By
year's end, the Government had arrested at least 1,500 and the number convicted was believed to exceed 1,000. The total
number in pretrial detention is unknown but could be several hundred. Human rights activists contend that the number is
over 1,000 (see Sections 1.c. and 1.d.). Most defendants have acknowledged membership in the group but claim that they
believe in peaceful change. Others appear not to be members of the group but to have been caught in the net because of
their religious piety. While the Government has not charged that Hezbut Tahrir was involved in the bombings, group
members usually are accused of acting to overthrow the constitutional order and of belonging to a prohibited religious
organization. Police also allegedly planted drugs on various members of Christian denominations in order to arrest them.
The Government does not consider this repression to be directed against religious freedom itself but instead against those
who desire to overthrow the secular order. However, authorities are highly suspicious of those who are more pious than is
the norm: frequent mosque attendees; bearded men; and veiled women. In practice this approach results in mistreatment of
many devout Muslims for their religious beliefs.
In 1999 Human Rights Watch compiled a list of 28 confirmed cases from 1997 and 1998 in which university and
secondary school students have been expelled for wearing religious dress (see Section 1.f.). Several of these students from
Tashkent's Oriental Studies Institute brought suit in civil court to be reinstated but were unsuccessful. A further group of 15
female students at Ferghana State University were harassed and ultimately forced to leave school in March.
Synagogues function openly; Hebrew education (long banned under the Soviets), Jewish cultural events, and the publication
of a community newspaper take place undisturbed.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution provides for free movement within the country and across its borders, and the Government generally
respected these rights. Citizens must have permission from local authorities in order to resettle in a new city. The
Government rarely grants this permission to those who wish to move to Tashkent. The Government requires citizens to
obtain exit visas for foreign travel, or emigration, but grants these permits routinely. All citizens have a right to a passport,
and the Government does not restrict this right. The new passports serve as both internal identity cards and, when properly
certified, as external passports. Every citizen must carry such a document when traveling inside or outside the country.
Police occasionally confiscate these documents, severely restricting a person's right to travel.
Movement within the country of foreigners with valid visas generally is unrestricted. However, visitors require special
permission to travel to certain areas, such as Termez, on the Afghan border.
Several Uzbek human rights activists were able to leave and reenter the country without encountering problems from the
Government. However, in October the Government did not issue promptly an exit visa to human rights activist Tolib
Yakubov, and prevented him from attending an OSCE Review Conference prior to the Istanbul Summit. Yakubov
subsequently received a visa and left and reentered the country without difficulty. The Government also confiscated the
passport of human rights activist Mikhail Ardzinov on June 25, restricting his freedom of movement within the country and
preventing him from attending international conferences.
The law on citizenship stipulates that citizens do not lose their citizenship if they reside overseas. However, since
Uzbekistan does not provide for dual citizenship, those acquiring other citizenships lose Uzbek citizenship. If they return to
the country as foreign citizens, they are subject to foreign visa regulations. In practice the burden is on returning individuals
to prove to authorities that they have not acquired foreign citizenship while abroad. There were reports during the year that
some ethnic Russians attempting to return after residing abroad were denied residence permits and new passports.
There is no law concerning the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, and the Government does not recognize the right of
first asylum. The Government does not adhere to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Protection of Refugees and its 1967
Protocol. The Government considers asylum seekers from Tajikistan and Afghanistan to be economic migrants, and such
individuals are subject to harassment and bribe demands when seeking to regularize their status. They may be deported if
their residency documents are not in order. However, the Government agreed in August that it would not force those who
have received U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) mandate refugee status to leave the country. Prior to that
decision, the Supreme Court denied Afghan mandate refugee Mohammed Tahir permission to remain in the country. The
UNHCR had acted as an advocate for Tahir in order to test refugee policy.
The country hosts populations of ethnic Koreans, Meskhetian Turks, Germans, Greeks, and Crimean Tartars deported to
Central Asia by Stalin during World War II. These groups enjoy the same rights as other citizens. Although they are free to
return to their ancestral homelands, absorption problems in those countries have slowed that return. The UNHCR estimates
that there are 30,000 Tajik and 8,000 Afghan asylum seekers. The UNHCR completed reregistration of refugee cases in
March and reported that there are now 852 mandate refugees and 269 registered cases of asylum requests pending.
According to the UNHCR there were 11 cases of forced repatriation (6 to Kazakhstan and 5 to the Kyrgyz Republic).
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
While the Constitution provides for this right, in reality citizens cannot change their government through peaceful and
democratic means. The Government severely represses opposition groups and individuals and applies strict limits on
freedom of expression. No opposition groups participated in government or were allowed to function legally.
The Government is highly centralized and is ruled by a strong presidency. President Karimov, formerly the first secretary
of the Communist Party in Uzbekistan under Soviet rule, was elected in a limited multicandidate election in 1991. A 1995
Soviet-style referendum and subsequent parliamentary decision extended Karimov's term until 2000. President Karimov
and the executive branch retain control through sweeping decree powers, primary authority for drafting legislation, and
control of virtually all government appointments, most aspects of the economy, and the security forces.
Most government officials are members of the People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (PDP), formerly the Communist
Party and still the country's largest party. However, the party as such does not appear to play a significant role in the
Government, and the President resigned his chairmanship of the party in 1996. There are four other parties; however, these
were created with government assistance and are loyal to President Karimov. All five parties participated in the December
elections to the Oliy Majlis (Parliament), during which 93 percent of the electorate cast their vote. However, parties that
competed in the parliamentary elections, as well as the numerous independent candidates, were congenial to the Government
and did not represent a real choice for voters.
Because the voters lacked a choice, the OSCE and many international observers concluded that the December legislative
elections fell short of adherence to accepted standards of free and fair elections. Local and regional hokims
(governors)--who are appointed by the president--exerted a strong influence on the selection of candidates and the conduct
of campaigns. Nearly half (110 out of 250) of those elected were not from party lists but were either hokims themselves or
were nominated by the hokims' local assemblies. Only 16 of the 250 winning candidates had been nominated by citizens'
initiative groups. These candidates generally were allowed on the ballot only if they were approved by the hokims.
The Oliy Majlis is constitutionally the highest government body. In practice despite assistance efforts by international
donors to upgrade its ability to draft laws independently, its main purpose is to confirm laws and other decisions drafted by
the executive branch rather than to initiate legislation.
New laws governing the conduct of parliamentary and presidential elections, as well as a law creating a Central Election
Commission, came into effect in 1998. These laws, combined with the 1997 law on political parties, make it extremely
difficult for opposition parties to come into being, to nominate candidates, and to campaign. The procedures to register a
candidate are burdensome and the Central Election Commission has authority to deny registration. For example a
presidential candidate is prohibited from campaigning before being registered, but must present a list of 150,000 signatures
in order to be registered. The Central Election Commission must deny registration of presidential candidates who are found
to "harm the health and morality of the people." The consensus among independent observers, including national and local
party leaders, as well as the business, religious, press, and NGO communities, indicates that the race for president was
stacked in favor of incumbent President Karimov. The 1998 statutes deleted a previous provision allowing recourse to the
Supreme Court to candidates whose parties are denied registration. The Ministry of Justice has the right to suspend parties
for up to 6 months without a court order.
Citizens initiative groups of 100 members or more may nominate candidates to the Parliament by submitting signatures of
at least 8 percent of the voters in the electoral district. Other interest groups are forbidden from participating in campaigns
and candidates may meet with voters only in forums organized by precinct election commissions. The 1998 laws repeal the
right of parties to fund their candidates' campaigns directly. Instead, parties must turn over all campaign money to the
Central Election Commission, which then distributes the funds equally among the candidates. Only the Central Election
Commission may prepare and release presidential campaign posters. In August the Parliament enacted minor modifications
to the election laws, but these have little practical effect.
According to the Law on Political Parties, judges, public prosecutors, National Security Service officials, servicemen,
foreign citizens, and stateless persons (among others) cannot join political parties. However, the law is less clear regarding
membership in unregistered organizations. By law the Government prohibits formation of parties based on religion or
nationality; those that oppose the sovereignty, integrity, and security of the country and the constitutional rights and
freedoms of citizens; or those which promote war or social, national, or religious hostility; religious political organizations;
and political organizations that seek to overthrow the Government, or sow national or racial hatred. Moreover, the
Government has refused to register democratic political opposition organizations. Membership in unregistered political
organizations is not forbidden officially, but membership in unregistered organizations with a prohibited goal or premise is
The Government continues to persecute members of unregistered, political opposition groups using methods such as,
arbitrary arrest, conviction on falsified charges, surveillance, and loss of employment. The leaders of the two largest
unregistered opposition groups in the country--Mohammed Solikh of the Erk Democratic Party and Abdurakhim Polat of
the Birlik Democratic Movement--were forced into exile in the early 1990's. After the February bombings, persecution of
members of these groups intensified. The Government repeatedly has accused Erk leader Solikh, who ran against Karimov
for the presidency in 1992, of being a leader of the terrorist plot behind the bombings. On August 18, a Tashkent court
convicted four Erk members and one Birlik member of conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional order, of membership in
illegal organizations, and of insulting the President. The Erk members included noted writer Mamadali Makhmudov, Yusup
Razimuradov, and two brothers of Mohhamed Solikh (Rashid and Muhammed Bekhjanov). The Birlik member, Kobil
Diarov, was arrested in Kiev along with his acquaintance Nigmat Sharifov, who was not affiliated with any political
organization but sentenced to 8 years in prison. Muhammed Bekhjanov was sentenced to 15 years; Rashid Bekhjanov to 12
years; Mamadali Makhmudov to 14 years; Yusup Ruzimuradov to 15 years; and Kobil Diarov to 12 years. The Supreme
Court upheld the Court's decision on appeal in November.
Dozens of Erk and Birlik activists reported that after the bombings they were subjected to various forms of harassment:
frequent surveillance; restrictions on movement; searches of their homes; lengthy police interrogations; and, occasionally,
detentions. In July the son of Erk party secretary Atanazar Aripov was taken by police from in front of a Western embassy
and detained for over 18 hours before being released.
Traditionally, women participate much less than men in government and politics and they are underrepresented in these
fields. Before the December elections, 21 of 250 deputies in the Parliament were women, and there are 17 in the new
Parliament. In the Government prior to the December election, there were 2 women (both with the rank of deputy prime
minister) among 28 members of the Cabinet; 1 was charged specifically with women's issues.
There are 9 ethnic Russians (down from 14), 1 Korean, and 1 Armenian elected to the current Parliament.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of
The Government restricts and harasses local nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) working on human rights and
refuses to register the country's two main human rights organizations.
Security forces continue to persecute human rights activists and the Government still refuses to register the country's two
main human rights organizations. The chairman of the HRSU, Abdumannob Polat, lives in voluntary exile. Neither the
IHROU nor the HRSU resubmitted applications to register during the year; there was no indication that they would be
On May 12, police arrested Ravshan Hamidov, a houseguest of Mahbuba Kasimova, a member of the IHROU and of the
Birlik Democratic Movement. During their search of Hamidov's belongings in Kasimova's house, police allegedly planted
narcotics, a grenade, and literature linking him to the Islom Lashkarlari religious extremist organization. Hamidov has
family ties to leaders of Birlik. Immediately after the arrest, Ministry of the Interior officials interrogated Kasimova for
several days. On one occasion, the investigators organized a citizens' assembly headed by the deputy hokim (mayor) of
Tashkent, Shukrat Jalilov, at which she was accused falsely of supporting religious extremists and advocating the creation
of an Islamic state. In front of relatives of victims of the February bombings, she was accused of moral complicity in the
deaths of those victims. Ignoring the constitutionally mandated presumption of innocence, newspaper, television, and radio
coverage of the event echoed the accusations.
In a 3-hour trial on July 13, a Tashkent court convicted Kasimova of harboring a criminal, although her husband was the
owner of the house and Hamidov had not yet been tried (and therefore technically could not be considered a criminal). The
prosecutor argued that Kasimova should have known that Hamidov was wanted by police, although his arrest was not based
on a previous arrest warrant but on the alleged discovery of contraband (see Section 1.e.). In July Kasimova was sentenced
to 5 years in prison; on August 17, after a 45-minute appeal hearing, the judge confirmed the original sentence.
On June 25, police detained IHROU head Mikhail Ardzinov for questioning. Ardzinov has alleged that the police beat him
twice during the episode. Although the Government denies beating Ardzinov, a reliable medical expert confirmed that he
was beaten severely. Police also ransacked Ardzinov's apartment, confiscating his passport, papers, and office equipment. At
year's end, Ardzinov reported that the Government had not returned his property.
On July 10, police took into custody IHROU member Ismail Adylov and held him incommunicado for 72 hours before
confirming his whereabouts to his family. Police allegedly planted 100 Hezbut Tahrir leaflets among his effects to justify
the arrest, although Adylov is known not to be religious. On September 29, a remote regional court sentenced Adylov, who
has a kidney ailment, to 6 years in prison for allegedly possessing incriminating papers. Reporters and the defendant's
family were not allowed to attend the 2-day trial; his appeal was denied on October 26.
In September 1998, authorities arrested Muidin Kurbanov, a member of HRSU's Jizzak chapter. Police beat him repeatedly
and questioned him about his organization and about Imam Obidhon Nazarov. On the basis of fabricated charges, a judged
sentenced him, without a lawyer or prosecutor present, to 3 years in prison. In January Kurbanov was released from prison
under a presidential decree; however, authorities in Jizzak continued to harass him and threatened to charge him with
membership in the Islamic organization Hezbut Tahrir.
One international human rights group, Human Rights Watch, has permission to operate in the country and has had an
office in Tashkent since 1996. The group operates independently and has no affiliation with the Government.
After years of opposition and delay, the Government registered one human rights NGO in 1996. The registered NGO, the
Committee for Protection of the Rights of Individuals, was formed with the support of the Government, but has ties to
opposition figures as well. Some sources affiliated with other groups have questioned its independence from the
Government; it has had no recent success in investigating or correcting abuses.
Since 1997 there has been a human rights ombudsman's office affiliated with the Parliament. The ombudsman may make
recommendations to modify or uphold decisions of state agencies, but the recommendations are not binding. The
ombudsman is prohibited from investigating disputes within the purview of courts. The ombudsman replaced the
parliamentary human rights commissioner, who had insufficient trained staff to carry out in-depth investigations of human
rights violations and did not vigorously pursue allegations against the police and security forces. The office of the
ombudsman increased its staff and received authorization to open regional offices throughout the country. The ombudsman
issues reports identifying the most serious types of violations of human rights by government officials. The office claims
that it has assisted hundreds of citizens in redressing human rights abuses, the majority of which involve allegedly unjust
court decisions and claims of abuse of power by police and local officials. While most of the successfully resolved cases
appear relatively minor, at least one during the year involved a capital crime. Ulugbek Usunov was convicted erroneously of
murder in 1998--after 20 months of pretrial detention. Since the prosecutor and judge handled the case poorly, an
intervention by the ombudsman succeeded in getting the court decision reversed and Usunov released. During the year, the
ombudsman met twice with a consultative committee of Uzbek officials and foreign observers.
The National Human Rights Center of Uzbekistan, created by presidential decree in October 1996, has as its purpose to
educate the population and government officials about the principles of human rights and democracy. The center's chief
activity is to hold seminars and training, and it is not involved in human rights advocacy. The center has worked closely with
international organizations such as the United Nations Development Program and the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The Government is willing to discuss human rights matters with organizations such as the OSCE, as well as with foreign
embassies. The U.N. has not sent human rights commission members or special rapporteurs to the country. In 1996 the
Government announced its willingness to hold an open dialog with international human rights NGO's, and held several
high-level discussions with representatives of Human Rights Watch during the year.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
Both the Constitution and the 1992 law on citizenship prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, language, or
social status; however, societal discrimination against women persists.
Spousal abuse is common, but both local activists and the police say they have no statistics. At a September seminar on
domestic violence, representatives of NGO's with crisis centers reported that the number of women seeking assistance is
growing rapidly. Wife beating is considered a personal family affair rather than a criminal act, and thus such cases usually
are handled by family members or elders within the community (mahalla) and rarely come to court.
Trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution occurs, particularly to the Persian Gulf and Turkey (see Section 6.f.).
Prostitution within the country is a growing problem stemming from the worsening economic situation.
Due to tradition, women, particularly in rural areas, usually marry before age 20, bear many children, and confine their
activities to within the family. In rural areas, women often find themselves working in the cotton fields during the harvest
season. However, women are not impeded formally from seeking a role in the workplace. The barriers to equality for
women are cultural, not legal, and women who open businesses or seek careers are not hindered legally.
Although the law prohibits discrimination against women, traditional cultural and religious practices limit their role in
everyday society. For these reasons, women are underrepresented severely in high-level positions. In 1995 President
Karimov issued a decree on measures to increase the role of women in society, particularly extending their participation in
state and social administration and coordinating the activities of ministries and social organizations as they relate to
women's issues. In this connection, a deputy prime minister position was created in 1995 charged with furthering the role of
women in society. The edict also created heads of women's affairs in the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan, regions,
cities, and districts. The Ministry of Finance was ordered to allocate the necessary funds to finance these new positions and
working bodies, but the groups complained their budgets were not sufficient. Government-controlled women's committees
were formed in most regions in 1995, but most are underfunded and play only a minor role in improving the condition of
The President declared 1999 to be the year of the woman. In April the Government promulgated a law extending additional
rights to women; it reduced the workweek to 35 hours for female employees of the State and reduced the optional
retirement age for women to 54 years (after 20 years of employment). Government-sponsored activities also included a
series of seminars, newspaper articles, public service announcements, and television programs that increased awareness of
Several dozen NGO's address the needs of women. The Businesswomen's Association in Tashkent, in addition to providing
resources and information about developing small enterprises, operates a store that sells clothing and crafts. A center in
Tashkent conducts seminars on sexual harassment, domestic violence, and the legal rights of women. Another center in
Samarkand operates a crisis hot line and provides educational services on alcoholism, sexually transmitted diseases, and
Depressed because of their low social status, some women and girls resort to suicide by self-immolation. There are no
reliable statistics on the extent of this problem, since most cases go unreported. However, representatives of women's
groups have observed an increase in self-immolation, which remains the most frequent form of suicide for women in
desperate circumstances. After marriage many women or girls move into the husband's home, where they occupy the lowest
rung on the family social ladder. A conflict with the husband or mother-in-law, who by tradition exercises complete control
over the young bride, usually is the stimulus for suicide.
A 1997 research study indicates that the number of women enrolling in higher education is diminishing; for example,
women's enrollment in the finance and banking institute dropped from 65 percent in 1991 to about 25 percent in 1997.
Cutbacks in government funding to universities and the need for families to fund a higher percentage of educational costs
leaves many families in the position of being able to fund the education of only one child, either a son or a daughter. The
report states that university faculty "steer" women into occupations traditionally performed by females and suggests that
administrators may practice a policy of deliberately barring entrance to women in some fields.
The Constitution provides for children's rights, stating that parents are obliged to support and care for their children until
they reach majority at age 18. Traditional Uzbek values reinforce the cohesion of families; in most cases, several
generations of a family live together. In theory the State provides free universal primary education and health care. In
practice shortages and budget difficulties mean that some services must be paid privately. The State grants monetary
allowances to families based on their number of children. The country has a very high birthrate; over one-half of the
population is under the age of 15.
Nine years of formal schooling are compulsory, and the average length of schooling is over 11 years. The U.N.
Development Program reports that 100 percent of children complete secondary school.
There is no societal pattern of abuse of children. Trafficking in girls for the purpose of prostitution occurs (see Section
People with Disabilities
One of the country's first laws, adopted only 2 months after independence in 1991, provided support for the disabled. This
law was aimed at ensuring that the disabled have the same rights as other citizens. However, little effort is made to bring the
disabled into the mainstream. The State cares for the mentally disabled in special homes. The Government has not
mandated access to public places for the disabled.
Government statistics dating from 1992 show that the population of approximately 23 million is about 71 percent Uzbeks, 8
percent Russians, 5 percent Tajiks, 4 percent Tatars, and 3 percent Kazakhs, with many other ethnic groups represented.
The statistics may underestimate the actual number of ethnic Tajiks. The figures also do not include many ethnic Tajiks
whose mother tongue was Uzbek. Moreover, some Tajiks choose for a variety of reasons to declare themselves to be ethnic
Ethnic groups other than Uzbeks, particularly Russians frequently complain that job opportunities are limited for them.
Senior positions in the government bureaucracy and business generally are reserved for ethnic Uzbeks, although there are
numerous exceptions to this rule.
The 1992 citizenship law does not impose language requirements for citizenship. Nonetheless, the language issue remains
very sensitive. Uzbek has been declared the state language, and the Constitution requires that the President speak Uzbek.
However, the language law provides for Russian as "the language of interethnic communication." Russian is widely spoken
in the main cities, and Tajik is widely spoken in Samarkand and Bukhara. The 1989 language law originally required that
Uzbek would be the sole method of official communication by 1998, but subsequently was modified and now stipulates no
specific date. The Government also is in the process of replacing the Cyrillic alphabet with the Latin alphabet. However,
realizing the difficulties for Uzbeks and minorities alike, the Government has delayed the full transition to both the Uzbek
and the Latin alphabet to 2005.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The 1992 law on unions specifically provides that all workers have the right voluntarily to form and join unions of their
choice, and that trade unions themselves may voluntarily associate territorially or sectorally. Membership in trade unions is
optional. The law also declares all unions independent of the State's administrative and economic bodies (except where
provided for by law), and states that trade unions should develop their own charters, structure, and executive bodies and
organize their own work.
However, in practice the overall structure of trade unions has not changed significantly since the Soviet era. Independence
has eliminated subordination to Moscow but has not altered the centralized trade union hierarchy, which remains dependent
on the Government. No "alternative" central union structures exist.
A few new professional associations and interest groups have been organized, such as a union of entrepreneurs, a union of
renters, and an association of private physicians and pharmacists. Registered professional associations for judges and
lawyers formed in 1997; both organizations were quasi-governmental. An association of broadcasters formed in 1998 has
failed to gain government registration (see Section 2.b.). The main activity of all registered associations is professional
development. They do not license members and have no formal role in advocating the interests of members in relation to the
According to the law, the Council of the Federation of Trade Unions (CFTU) has a consultative voice in the preparation of
all legislation affecting workers and is entitled to draft laws on labor and social issues. Trade unions are described legally as
organizations that defend the right to work and to protect jobs. They have lost their previous role in state planning and in the
management of enterprises. The emphasis now is on the unions' responsibility for "social protection" and social
justice--especially unemployment compensation, pensions, and worker retraining.
The trade union law does not mention strikes or cite a right to strike. However, the law does give the unions oversight for
both individual and collective labor disputes, which are defined as those involving alleged violations of labor laws, worker
rights, or collective agreements.
There were few reports of strikes. This circumstance likely reflects the absence of truly representative trade unions, as the
standard of living fell and growing unemployment raised social tensions. The absence of labor activism also reflects the
Communist legacy of docility in the face of authority. However, both union and government officials assert that the lack of
strikes reflects general support for the Government's policies and common interest in social stability.
The 1992 law on unions provides that unions may choose their own international affiliations; however, none have done so.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Trade unions may conclude agreements with enterprises. Privatization is still in its very early phase. As a result, there is no
experience with negotiations that could be described as adversarial between unions and private employers. The State is still
the major employer, and the state-appointed union leaders do not view themselves as having conflicts of interest with the
The Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Finance in consultation with the CFTU, set the wages for various categories of
state employees. In the small private sector, management establishes wages or negotiates them with those who contract for
The law forbids discrimination against union members and their officers.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Constitution specifically prohibits forced labor, except as legal punishment or as may be specified by law. The law
does not specifically prohibit forced and bonded labor by children, but such practices are not known to occur. However,
large-scale compulsory mobilization of youth and students (by closing schools) to help with the cotton harvest continues.
Student labor is paid poorly, and students sometimes must pay for their food. Adults, including teachers and passersby in
automobiles and busses, similarly are forced into the harvest effort.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The minimum working age is 16 years; 15-year-olds can receive state permission to work, but have a shorter workday. In
rural areas, younger children and the elderly often help to harvest cotton and other crops (see Section 6.c.). The Labor
Ministry has an inspection service, which is responsible for enforcing compliance with these and other regulations
governing employment conditions, and enforces them effectively.
The law does not specifically prohibit forced and bonded labor by children, and such practices are not known to occur,
except for compulsory mobilization for the cotton harvest (see Section 6.c.).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The Ministry of Labor, in consultation with the CFTU, sets the minimum wage. As of September 1, it was about $10 (1,750
som) per month. The minimum wage is not sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. The
standard workweek is set at 41 hours and requires a 24-hour rest period. Some factories apparently have reduced work
hours in order to avoid layoffs. Overtime pay exists in theory but is not always paid.
Pay arrearages of 3 to 6 months are not uncommon for workers in state-owned industries. The problem appears to be
The Labor Ministry establishes occupational health and safety standards in consultation with the unions. There is a health
and safety inspectorate in the Ministry. The local press occasionally published complaints about the failure of unions and
government authorities to do enough to promote worker safety. Although written regulations may provide adequate
safeguards, workers in hazardous jobs often lack protective clothing and equipment. Workers can leave jobs that are
hazardous without apparent jeopardy to continued employment; however, in practice, high rates of underemployment make
this step difficult. Trafficking in Persons
There no laws relating specifically to trafficking in persons. Trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of prostitution
occurs, particularly to the Persian Gulf and Turkey. However, there are no reliable statistics on this problem, and it does not
seem to be carried out on a large scale (see Section 5).
Anecdotal reports from NGO's indicate that the number of young women forced into prostitution abroad is growing. The
Government has not acknowledged the problem publicly, but has taken some measures to combat it. According to NGO
representatives, the police force in Samarkand formed a special unit on trafficking in women in 1998, but the unit's
effectiveness is hampered by a lack of resources. Border guards at airports were directed to give more scrutiny to
unaccompanied young women traveling to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and South Korea; they are authorized to deny
such women permission to leave the country. There is no government program to educate or assist potential victims;
however, the State University for World Economy and Diplomacy sponsored a series of lectures on domestic violence and
trafficking in women during the year.
[end of document]
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