Saturday, August 30, 2014

Qishloq Ovozi

Rare Victory For Uzbek Rights Activist

Uzbek human rights activists Adelaida Kim (left) and Yelena Urlaeva.
Uzbek human rights activists Adelaida Kim (left) and Yelena Urlaeva.
In what is being described as a "first," one of Uzbekistan's highest courts has agreed to consider a complaint from a rights activist against Uzbek police. After several attempts to file her case in other courts, Adelaida Kim's complaint will now be reviewed by Uzbekistan's Constitutional Court.

Kim's legal case stems from an incident that occurred on May 13 last year, the eighth anniversary of the tragedy in Andijon, in which, officially, nearly 200 people were killed and, unofficially, as many as five times that number lost their lives.

On the morning of the eighth anniversary of Andijon, Kim and the leader of the Rights Defenders Alliance of Uzbekistan, veteran activist Yelena Urlaeva (who is, in my opinion, probably the bravest woman in Uzbekistan), went to lay flowers at a monument to the Andijon victims in Tashkent. For several years now, it's been traditional for rights activists (the few that still remain in Uzbekistan) to mark the date.

When Kim and Urlaeva finally left the monument, they were stopped a few meters down the road by policemen in civilian clothes who forcibly put the two rights activists in a car and took them to Tashkent's Mirzo-Ulughbek police station. The policemen never explained why they were detaining the two women and kept them at the police station until evening before letting them go.

Kim filed a lawsuit with the Mirzo-Ulughbek court, alleging arbitrary detention by the police. She cited Article 44 of the Uzbek Constitution, which says, "Everyone shall be entitled to legally defend his rights and freedoms, and shall have the right to appeal any unlawful action of state bodies, officials and public associations."

After several months, the Mirzo-Ulughbek court declined to hear the case. Kim continued filing the case with other courts, going all the way to the country's Supreme Court and always with no success.
On the last day of January, the Constitutional Court, Kim's last chance really, surprisingly agreed to review the lawsuit. Judge Fotima Husanova reportedly looked at Kim's documents for a mere 20 minutes before ruling that the case merited the court's review.

In the end, Kim might not receive any satisfaction from the Constitutional Court either, but Urlaeva said the court's agreement to review the case was a "unique event."

RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Radio Ozodlik, investigated how unique it actually was and, at the very least, it can say that this is the first reported case where a lawsuit continually rejected by lower and higher courts was suddenly accepted at such a high level as the Constitutional Court.

For six years, I wrote the section on Uzbekistan for Freedom House's annual "Nations In Transition" report (all NIT reports have chapters on "Civil Society" as well as "Judicial Framework and Independence") and I don't remember anything like this ever happening in Uzbekistan.

We'll follow Kim's progress in a future report.

-- Bruce Pannier with contributions from Oktambek Karimov of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: B.Murphy-Bridge from: Mexico
February 05, 2014 23:25
Refreshing to read an article like this on 2 very brave women - gives one hope . So thank you Bruce for posting it.

by: Aftab Kazi from: Washington DC
February 06, 2014 06:24
The House of Representatives of Uzbekistan has been constantly adapting laws to protect the rights of individual citizens. Nevertheless, the judicial reform in Uzbekistan remains largely ignored by the Western world. Moreover, all new laws mature gradually in order to be norms at cross-generational levels. The Republic of Uzbekistan is undergoing these processes, which are normal and natural, hence be appreciated as a great step towards progress. The article states, the women were arrested, yet were not harassed or tortured., which is a consequence of the newly introduced judicial reform. Obviously the police officer arrested then on personal whim not by official orders or policy. Even in West, many such cases happen when some police officers misbehave/violate their official responsibilities individually and only a few such cases get reported. Of course anti-terror laws take priority at the national security level like in every where in the civilized world. In this case, we are making a mountain of a small matter, which will be resolved constitutionally, I am sure that the intervention by the Supreme Court judge will speed up the implementation of judicial reform not only in this and likewise matters, but also in several other areas of humane concerns No one has the right to stereotype against Uzbekistan than what has already been done over the last 22 years, that includes the terrorist attacks in Andijon.
In Response

by: Frank from: London
February 10, 2014 10:45
Dr. Kazi, hi

“The House of Representatives of Uzbekistan has been constantly adapting laws to protect the rights of individual citizens.”

So why was Khasan Choriev, the father of the exiled Birdamlik leader, arrested on ‘rape’ charges (just after receiving treatment for a prostate condition)? Why was he tried in secret and given a jail sentence?

Why are so many Uzbek journalists in prison, e.g. Salijon Abdurakhmanov?

Why was Natalia Antelava not allowed into the country to report on forced sterilisation of women?

Why were black and white photographs of less well-off Uzbeks removed from a photography exhibition in Tashkent recently?

Why was Oxus Gold’s metallurgist sentenced to 12 years in prison for ‘spying’ when the Uzbek Govt. is trying to avoid paying the owners of Oxus Gold fair market value for the mines it has had expropriated?

Why was Uktam Pardaev harassed when he exposed a regional big wig, Saifiddin Ismailov, for embezzling teachers’ salaries, to pay for luxury accommodation for his cronies?

Given the above, B.Murphy-Bridge is correct that Mrs Urlaeva and Mrs Kim are very brave.

“Even in West, many such cases happen when some police officers misbehave/violate their official responsibilities individually and only a few such cases get reported.”

If they are not reported, how do you know then – you work for the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, not the police?

“In this case, we are making a mountain of a small matter, which will be resolved constitutionally,”

But Mrs Urlaeva has been beaten and knocked unconscious in the recent past. Is that a small matter?

By the way, when you monitor elections in Uzbekistan, do you get the black market rate for your dollars, or do you take the official exchange rate and accept 30% less than you ought to get? Did you know when you take the official rate you subsidise people like Lola Karimova when they buy overseas property like the $58m mansion she recently bought in Beverly Hills; ordinary Uzbeks of course have to buy most of their foreign currency on the black market. You don’t think the press censorship and the locking up of journalists has anything to do with stopping this forex scam being exposed, do you? You think all those people being locked up on false charges are having their rights vigorously protected, do you?

About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect some of the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change. Content will draw on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad. The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.

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