CIVICUS makes a case for the release of Popov at the 14th Session of the Human Rights Council

Item 3
Promotion and Protection of all Human Rights
ID on the Reports of the Special Rapporteurs on Violence against Women, Extreme Poverty and the Right to Health
7 June 2010

Mr. President,

CIVICUS wishes to thank all three Rapporteurs for their reports and wants to highlight a few aspects of their work.

1. On violence against women: CIVICUS welcomes Ms Rashid Manjoo's first report and her focus on reparations. In particular, we want to underscore the importance she gives to structural and multiple forms of discrimination and that reparations cannot be just about returning women to the situation on which they were found before the individual instance of violence, but instead should strive to have a transformative potential. We would like to ask her to elaborate further on how to achieve this transformative potential on the ground, for example the area of dismantling patriarchal understanding that is so often the reason for systemic violence.

2. On extreme poverty: CIVICUS thanks Magdalena Sepulveda for her very clear demand to invest in social protection floors, including through non-contributory pensions, as a human rights obligation for governments as duty bearers, to prevent older persons from falling into extreme poverty and society as a whole from gliding into an appalling inequality. CIVICUS also commends her for her stand during her Zambian visit on the rights of civil society to participate freely and/or in cooperation with governments on all these important decisions regarding social protection issues, and not be curtailed through any unwarranted controls and restrictions on their independence and freedom of association.

3. We also want to comment on Mr. Anand Grover's report and his focus on the criminalization of some health related aspects. CIVICUS is particularly concerned about the continuous attacks on civil society in Uzbekistan, and would like to bring to his attention the urgent case of Maksim Popov. Mr. Popov is a 28 year old psychologist, HIV/AIDS activist, and founder of local NGO Izis, who has been unjustly sentenced to seven years imprisonment for his work in raising public awareness on prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and healthy lifestyles in Uzbekistan. Although the verdict was reached in June 2009, this case was not brought to the public light until February 2010 due to the fact that the trial was not made public.

CIVICUS believes that charges against Maxim Popov, including "promoting homosexuality", "corrupting minors in anti-social behaviour" and "embezzlement" of funds received from international donors" were politically motivated and in contravention of fundamental rights of expression and association contrary to national and international law. To date, none of the charges relating to embezzlement have been verified by the international donors themselves, and no such allegations of misuse of funds have been made against Popov earlier in relation to his work.

Further, his book on HIV/AIDS, which primarily explains STD prevention, was deemed "illegal" by the criminal court of Tashkent, finding it as "disrespectful of the national culture and the Uzbek People." This verdict, denying Popov his fundamental rights to freedom of expression, is in breach of not only national constitutional guarantees, but also Uzbekistan's commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We remain deeply distressed about this specific case and the overall repression and attack on civil society in Uzbekistan, particularly in the light of the Recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review of Uzbekistan which urge Uzbekistan to, inter alia, "Continue to work closely with civil society to fight the propagation of HIV/AIDS", "Strengthen a culture of human rights" and "Continue efforts in promoting and nurturing a vibrant civil society, "Ensure the exercise of the freedom of expression, assembly, association, and the right to participate in public and political life "1

In accordance with the definition of the UN Human Rights Defenders Declaration, Mr. Popov, who has been promoting and protecting human rights in the light of the universal challenge of HIV/AIDS, is clearly a human rights defender, who has been imprisoned for his work in combating HIV/AIDS in Uzbekistan. The right to health is a fundamental human right and one of the key goals of the Millennium Development Goals, which the government of Uzbekistan is expected to safeguard and fulfill.

CIVICUS therefore asks Mr. Grover to also pay particular attention to this aspect of criminalization. And I appeal to you, Mr. President and all Council members, to highlight this case with the Government of Uzbekistan, and request the immediate release of Mr. Popov and reversal of all charges against him.

Thank you for your attention

1.Document A/HRC/10/83, paragraphs 104. 3, 104.5, 104.18, 106.11


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