Uzbekistan: Heightened Danger of Torture in Closed Trial of Human Rights Defender

SUMMARY

On May 26th, 2003, activist Ruslan Sharipov was arrested along with Oleg Sarapulov and Azamat Mamankulov; they were detained by the District Internal Affairs Department, and Ruslan Sharipov alone is now detained, charged with violating articles 120 (homosexual sex), 127 ("attracting minors to antisocial behavior"), and 128 (sex with a child under sixteen) of the Uzbek Criminal Code. On May 26th, police also detained three 15-year-old boys and held them for three days of questioning. The police state that Ruslan Sharipov had homosexual sex with two of them for money. Sarapulov and Mamankulov have since been released and any charges against them have apparently been dropped.

Sharipov's trial began July 23rd and has been ongoing behind closed doors, with only his public defender, a human rights lawyer, and his mother present. On August 8th, Sharipov dismissed his defense team and his mother from the courtroom and agreed to plead guilty to the charges against him, according to his defense team, fearing for his own safety and that of his lawyers and his mother. Sharipov further offered to publicly beg for the forgiveness of President Karimov, the Minister of the Interior, and local police, and retracted all internet news articles critical of the government that he had written from 2001 to 2003.

25-year-old Sharipov does not deny his homosexuality. He believes that the additional charges were fabricated because of his human rights and journalistic work, critical of government policies and police corruption. Until his statement on August 8, Sharipov had denied these charges According to those who have met with him in prison, Sharipov has been subjected to continued and escalating beatings, threats of sexual violence, and verbal abuse by the police. In June and July, with the aid of supporters, Sharipov continued to publish writings on the internet protesting his treatment from within prison.

ACTION

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission urges you to act without delay, and send letters to the addresses below asking for the immediate release of Sharipov pending an investigation of the charges against him, the dismissal of the Article 120 charge against him, and the dismissal of all charges against the two other activists. A sample letter is provided below. Please also send copies to diplomatic representatives of Uzbekistan accredited to your country, as well as to the United Nations representatives of Uzbekistan, and the European Union (EU - Europa House) and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) offices in Uzbekistan.

Please send these letters immediately. After October 1st, 2003, please see the IGLHRC (www.iglhrc.org) website for updated appeal action steps before writing letters.

If an e-mail bounces back, please fax your letter if possible.

President Islam Abduganievich Karimov
Office of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Rezidentsia prezidenta / The Presidential Palace
700000 g. Tashkent
RESPUBLIKA UZBEKISTAN
Fax: +998-71-139-53-25
E-mail: presidents_office@press-service.uz
Salutation: Your Excellency
Siradzhuddin Mirsafayev
Minister of Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Respubliki Uzbekistan Ministru
ul.Sayilgokh, 5 Ministerstvo yustitsii
700047 g. Tashkent
RESPUBLIKA UZBEKISTAN
Tel: if fax is not working: +998-71-133-1305, or mail/ telegram letters.
Fax: +998-71-133-4844 (ask for the fax)
E-mail: no e-mail available at this time: please fax or telegram letters.
Salutation: Dear Mr. Mirsafayev
Sayora Rashidova
Oliy Majlis Commissioner for Human Rights
Upolnomochennoy po pravam cheloveka pri Oliy Majlis
pl. Mustakillik, 2 Oliy Majlis Respubliki Uzbekistan
700008 g. Tashkent
RESPUBLIKA UZBEKISTAN
Fax: +998-71-139-85-55
E-mail: office@ombudsman.gov.uz
Salutation: Dear Ms. Rashidova
Sodiq Safaev
Minister of Foreign Affairs
ul. Gogolya #87
700047 g. Tashkent
RESPUBLIKA UZBEKISTAN
Fax: +998-71-139-15-17
E-mail: root@mfa.uz
Salutation: Dear Mr. Safaev
Rashidjon Hamidovich Kodirov
Prosecutor General's Office of the Republic of Uzbekistan
ul. Yahyo Gulomov 66
70000 g. Tashkent
RESPUBLIKA UZBEKISTAN
Fax: +998 71 1333917; 133 73 68
E-mail: prokuratura@lawyer.com
Salutation: Dear Mr. Kodirov:

To write to the Uzbek Ambassador to the US:

Hon. Shavkat Khamrakulov, Ambassador
Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan
1746 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington DC, 20036
Fax: +1-202-293-6804
E-mail: uzbconsul_dc@yahoo.com
Salutation: Your Excellency

To write to the Uzbek UN Permanent Mission:

Hon. Alisher Vohidov, Ambassador
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the United Nations
866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 326
New York, NY 10017
Fax: +1-212-486-7998
E-mail: uzbekistan@un.int
Salutation: Your Excellency

To send a copy to the Uzbek office of the European Union (EU Europa House) and OSCE:

Peter Reddish, Co-ordinator
Europa House of The European Commission - Tashkent
11th floor - International Business Centre
107A Amir Temur Street
700084 g. Tashkent
RESPUBLIKA UZBEKISTAN
Fax: +998-71-139-18-68
E-mail: office@europahouse.uz
Salutation: Dear Mr. Reddish
Hon. Ahmet Kamil Erozan, Ambassador
OSCE Centre in Tashkent
Western Side, 2nd Floor, Khamid Alimdjain Sq.
70000 g. Tashkent
RESPUBLIKA UZBEKISTAN
Fax: +998-71-120-61-25
E-mail: MCGumppenberg@osce.sand.uz, cmusinschi@osce.sand.uz
Salutation: Your Excellency

To send a copy to the office of the US Ambassador to Uzbekistan:

David E. Appleton, Charge d'Affair ad Interim
Embassy of the United States
ul. Chilanzarskaya 82
700115 g. Tashkent
RESPUBLIKA UZBEKISTAN
fax: +998-71-120-6335; or +998-71-120-5448
E-mail: consular@usembassy.uz, goldmanmb@state.gov
Salutation: Your Excellency

MODEL LETTER

Your Excellency,

I am writing to express my deep concern about the detention and abuse of Ruslan Sharipov, and to request his release pending the investigation of charges against him, and the immediate dismissal of the charges under Article 120 of the criminal code.

According to local sources, Ruslan Sharipov is being singled out for punishment due to his sexual orientation and regular publication of his views expressing outspoken opposition to government practices. He has been subjected to abuse in detention due to his political views and sexual orientation.

Uzbekistan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1996, which, according to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, protects the signatory countries' citizens from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The United Nations Human Rights Committee also holds that laws such as Uzbekistan's law outlawing homosexual sex (Article 120), allegedly violated by the accused, violate ICCPR protections against discrimination (Article 2), as well as the right to privacy (Article 17).

I anticipate your swift action to end the harassment of journalists and human rights defenders and to guarantee respect for human rights in accordance with international human rights standards in Uzbekistan. Please contact me with news of your response to this incident at the address below.

Sincerely,

(your name, organization and address)

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

According to Eurasianet.org, members of National Security Service of Uzbekistan attacked Ruslan Sharipov near the court building in Tashkent on the morning of July 12, 2001. According to the same source, he had reported being followed by the NSS for several months prior, when he began working as a journalist at the PRIMA news agency and as the press-secretary for the NGO "Society for Human Rights of Uzbekistan."

According to Reporters Sans Frontieres, on August 1, 2001, Ruslan Sharipov was arrested by NSS agents and accused of being involved in a terrorist group. Secret service agents also applied pressure on his relatives. His mother, brother and a cousin were questioned and threatened. In an open letter to the Uzbekistani President, Ruslan Sharipov asked that an order be issued to end his being followed by the security services, that the pressures on his family stop and that he be allowed to exercise his profession as an independent journalist.

Human Rights Watch has documented other prior harassment of Ruslan Sharipov, Oleg Sarapulov, and Azamat Mamankulov. On October 21, 2002, National Security Service officers forcibly escorted Mamankulov out of an Internet cafe, hit him several times in the stomach and head, and warned him to stop working with Sharipov. On February 22, police detained Sarapulov and questioned him about Internet articles in his possession that were critical of the Uzbek government. He was released after two days. He told Human Rights Watch that the police planted leaflets on him belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic group banned in Uzbekistan.

In March 2002, Human Rights Watch wrote to President Karimov, expressing alarm at three attacks on Sharipov in January and February 2002, including being dragged into a car by police officers and questioned about his journalistic activities, and being beaten twice by unidentified attackers who took his mobile telephone, journalist accreditation card, passport and money.

Since 1994, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), has called on countries that are party to the convention to repeal sodomy laws, or laws that punish adult, consensual homosexual acts. The Committee held that such laws violate article 2, which offers protections against discrimination in the ICCPR, as well as article 17, which protects the right to privacy. Specifically, the Committee held that "sexual orientation" was a status protected under the ICCPR from discrimination. Uzbekistan ratified the ICCPR in 1996.

INTERNATIONAL LAW

The right to freedom from torture and cruel or inhuman treatment is protected by the UDHR (Article 5), and by the ICCPR (Article 7).

The right to liberty and security of person is protected by the UDHR (Article 3), and by the ICCPR (Articles 6 and 9).

The United Nations Human Rights Committee affirmed in its decision in Toonen v Australia (1994) that existing protections against discrimination in Articles 2 and 26 of the ICCPR should be understood to include sexual orientation as a protected status. Numerous other human rights mechanisms of the United Nations have subsequently condemned discrimination based on sexual orientation. The UN Committee on Economic and Social Rights has made a similar observation, in its General Comment 14 on the right to health, to be applied to all economic, social and cultural rights.

Rights of human rights defenders: the UN Declaration Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (G.A. res.53/144, UN Doc. A/RES/53/144 - 1999) affirms: "Everyone is entitled, individually and in association with others, to be effectively protected under national law in reacting against or opposing, through peaceful means, activities and acts, including those by omission, attributable to States which result in violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as acts of violence perpetrated by groups or individuals that affect the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms" (Article 12.2). And it adds that, "In this connection, everyone is entitled, individually and in association with others, to be protected effectively under national law in reacting against or opposing, through peaceful means, activities and acts … attributable to States that result in violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as acts of violence perpetrated by groups or individuals that affect the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms" (Article 12.3).

The right to equality before the law and to be free from discrimination are protected by the UDHR in its Articles 2 and 7, by the ICCPR in its Articles 2 and 26, and by the IACHR in its Articles 1 and 24. The right to equality before the courts and tribunals is protected by ICCPR in its Article 14.

The right to privacy is protected by the UDHR in its Article 12, and the ICCPR in its Article 17.

In 1996 Uzbekistan became a signatory to the ICCPR and is bound by its provisions. The UDHR is considered customary law for all Member States of the United Nations, including Uzbekistan.

ABOUT IGLHRC

Please contact IGLHRC for further background information.

IGLHRC's mission is to secure the full enjoyment of the human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation or expression, gender identity or expression, and/or HIV status. A US-based non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO), IGLHRC effects this mission through advocacy, documentation, coalition building, public education, and technical assistance.

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