Uzbekistan: Journalist Tortured to Obtain Confession, Lawyer Brutally Beaten

ACTION ALERT UPDATE: Journalist Tortured to Obtain Confession, Lawyer Brutally Beaten: Demand Full and Fair Investigations, Release of Imprisoned Journalist

SUMMARY

Ruslan Sharipov, an imprisoned gay journalist and human rights activist, was convicted 13 August on sex charges on the basis of a confession and apology signed under duress, including threats on the life of his mother and lawyer (whom Sharipov was forced also to dismiss from the court room); the restriction of his breathing using a gas mask and chemicals; the injection of unknown substances into his body; and threats to infect him with the AIDS virus and to stage his own suicide, for which he was forced to write a "death note."

Sharipov's defense lawyer, Surat Ikramov of the Independent Group for Human Rights Defenders was abducted and assaulted on the morning of 28 August as he returned from meeting with a judge about an appeal hearing court date for Sharipov.

Sharipov is charged with sodomy: he does not deny his homosexuality, but believes he has been singled out for persecution and charged with fabricated crimes (sex with a minor and coercion of a minor to "antisocial behavior") as a result of his public criticism of the Uzbek police and government. On 16 September, Sharipov's first appeal hearing was adjourned and rescheduled for 23 September. Proceedings will be closed to all observers.

ACTION

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission urges you to immediately send letters to the addresses below asking for full and fair investigations into the attack against Surat Ikramov, as well as of the facts in Ruslan Sharipov's case, his trial's irregularities, and his treatment in prison, and also asking for his immediate release pending this investigation. IGLHRC also asks that your letters demand the immediate dismissal of the charge against Sharipov under Article 120 of the criminal code, the Uzbek sodomy law, which the United Nations considers a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) protections against discrimination and of privacy.

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 Uzbek offices of the European Union (EU Europa House), and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Please send these letters immediately. After 15 October, 2003, please see the IGLHRC (www.iglhrc.org) website for updated appeal action steps before writing letters.

If an e-mail message 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 most urgent concern for the security of imprisoned human rights journalist Ruslan Sharipov and his defense lawyer Surat Ikramov, who survived a brutal attack immediately after taking steps to schedule an appeal for his client on 28 August, 2003. Recent evidence shows that Ruslan Sharipov has endured torture and threats of abuse in prison, including suffocation, injections of an unknown nature, and threats to infect him with the AIDS virus and to stage his "suicide." I request full and fair investigations into the attack against Surat Ikramov, as well as of the facts in Ruslan Sharipov's case including his trial's irregularities and his treatment in prison. I also urge you to immediately release Ruslan Sharipov, pending the completion of these investigations.

I also urge you to dismiss the charge against Ruslan Sharipov under Article 120 of the criminal code, the Uzbek law against sodomy, a law which the United Nations Human Rights Committee considers a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) protections against discrimination (Article 2) and of privacy (Article 17). The UN also protects the rights of human rights defenders (UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms), the right to effective remedy (UDHR Article 8), and the right to freedom from torture and undignified treatment in prison (ICCPR Articles 7 and 10). Uzbekistan ratified the ICCPR in 1996 and is bound by the UDHR as a UN member state.

According to local sources, Ruslan Sharipov is being singled out for abuse and punishment due to his sexual orientation and regular publication of his views which are critical of government practices. His supporters and advocates are reporting harassment, including threatening phone calls and late-night police visits to their homes, and fear for their own safety from the state security service as well.

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 the attack on Surat Ikramov and the in-custody abuse of Ruslan Sharipov at the address below.

Sincerely,

(your name, organization and address)

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Ruslan Sharipov was arrested on 26 May, entered trial proceedings 23 July, dismissed his defense team and confessed to the government's charges on 8 August, and was sentenced to five and a half years' in a penal colony on 13 August. Surat Ikramov defended him in his trial, and is now organizing his appeal.

According to sources at Human Rights Watch in Tashkent, at about 10:30 AM on 28 August, Surat Ikramov was driving his car, returning from a meeting to schedule Sharipov's appeal hearing, when a man flagged him down and asked for a lift. When he pulled over, four men in black masks and camouflage uniforms opened the doors of Ikramov's car, placed a plastic bag on his head, tied his arms and legs, and put him in their car. The men beat Ikramov in the back of the car and repeatedly restricted his air supply by tightening a belt around his neck to close the plastic bag over his head.

The men drove Ikramov to the outskirts of Tashkent, where they demanded money from him, continued the beating, and then left him by the Chirchik River. Ikramov lost consciousness and only in the early evening was able to get help. Medical staff who later examined him confirmed that Ikramov had two broken ribs and had suffered a concussion.

In Sharipov's defense, Ikramov had argued that the sex charges against Sharipov were fabricated and the trial unfair, and was organizing protests in support of Sharipov. On the day Ikramov was attacked he had been helping to organize a peaceful protest outside of parliament, scheduled for 29 August but thwarted by police, who detained would-be demonstrators under house arrest. In addition to defending Sharipov, Ikramov had also defended Muslims persecuted by the authorities for practicing Islam outside of government-controlled institutions.

Sharipov's appeal hearing in Tashkent City Court has been rescheduled from 16 September to 23 September, and as is the prerogative of the judge in sex offense cases, has been declared closed to all observers.

For further background to Sharipov's case see previous IGLHRC Action Alerts at www.iglhrc.org, or the Human Rights Watch site at www.hrw.org.

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).

Rights of prisoners: the ICCPR states that "all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person" (Article 10).

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 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 (Articles 2 and 7) and by the ICCPR (Articles 2 and 26). The right to equality before the courts and tribunals is protected by the ICCPR (Article 14).

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

Right to effective remedy is protected by the UDHR (Article 8).

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. Uzbekistan also ratified the The Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) in 1995.

ABOUT IGLHRC

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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