The ruthless campaign by the government of Uzbekistan to silence human rights activists and journalists shows no sign of abating. The imprisonment, ill-treatment and harassment of individual human rights defenders has accelerated as protests over the killings of hundreds of unarmed men, women and children in Andizhan on 13 May 2005 refuse to go away.
President Islam Karimov conceded publicly in October 2006 that failures by local authorities might have contributed to unrest in the eastern town of Andizhan. Yet his government is still rejecting any independent international investigation of reports that the security forces fired indiscriminately at largely peaceful demonstrators. Instead, hundreds of protesters were detained and scores of people have reportedly been sentenced to up to 22 years in prison, including several prominent human rights defenders. Most of the trials were closed or secret.
International organizations have been forced to close their operations in Uzbekistan, including the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, in March 2006. The government has continued to renege on its promise to allow access to prisons by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Some of the harshest punishments have been inflicted on Uzbekistan’s own human rights defenders. Amnesty International is calling on the government of Uzbekistan to stop the persecution of human rights activists and journalists, and for effective action by the international community in support of those who courageously stand up for human rights.
Prisoners of conscience
Some human rights defenders have been prosecuted on charges that were reportedly fabricated, and sentenced to long prison terms after grossly unfair trials that denied basic rights of defence and failed to meet international legal standards.