CIVICUS expresses concern over detention of Uzbekistan activist


13 May 2009 – CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation has expressed concern over the detention of well-known civil society activists in Tashkent, Uzbekistan for commemorating the anniversary of the 2005 “Andijan Massacre”.

Civil society activists Oleg Sarapulov and Tatyana Dolblatova from the Committee for the Freedom of the Prisoners of Conscience in Uzbekistan, and Elena Urlaeva, Salomatoy Boymatova, and Anatoly Volkov and Victoria Banjenova from the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan were detained for most of today at the Tashkent Police Department for peacefully paying tribute to the memory of those killed in Andijan on 12-13 May 2005.

Further, Bahadir Namazov from the Committee for the Freedom of the Prisoners of Conscience in Uzbekistan remains under house arrest to prevent them from attending the peaceful memorial services at Tashkent’s Monument to Courage.

“Commemorating the deaths of fellow citizens is not a crime. Their detention even further tarnishes Uzbekistan’s democratic credentials as a member of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE),” said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS.

According to reports, surveillance and pressure on independent human rights defenders began yesterday, on the 12th of May, and has continued throughout today. All the mentioned human rights activists were followed by several law enforcement agents.

On 13 May 2005, gunmen attacked government buildings and broke into the Andijan city prison, taking hostages. In reaction, thousands of demonstrators later gathered, airing grievances about the government. While official estimates state that 173 people were killed, it was widely reported that over 500 lost their lives. Although, no official investigation has been made into these events, it is clear officers from the Ministry of the Interior and National Security Service used violent and disproportionate force against protesting citizens, resulting in these deaths. The government of Uzbekistan has not held any of the forces accountable for the violence.

CIVICUS believes these civil society activists were arbitrary detained, in breach of national constitutional guarantees and Uzbekistan’s commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights assuring the freedom to assemble peacefully.