Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hello, Uzbekistan! How are you?

Hello, Uzbekistan! How are you?
Let us wish you the best ...

Jamshid Karimov. Photo by Ferghana.Ru

Dzamshid (Jamshid ) Karimov (born in 1967) is a freelance journalist, He is the nephew of Uzbek President Islam Karimov. His mother, Margarita, His father’s name is Arsalan, who died in a car crash 17 years ago in 1991(1989?).
He has worked in the city of Jizzakh for the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting, and for various independent journals and websites, including the Almaty-based online newspaper Liter and the Moscow-based Central Asia news website centrasia.ru and Ferghana.ru, under the pseudonym Andrei Nazarov. He is known for being an outspoken critic of the government, and for his reporting on socio-political issues and human rights abuses. He reported, for example, on the demonstrations and subsequent massacre in Andijan in May 2005, in which troops killed antigovernment protesters in the northeastern city of Andijan.

After going missing for two weeks in September 2006, according to Reporters Without Borders, Karimov's friends discovered he had been committed to a psychiatric hospital in Samarkand, and his wife was not allowed to visit him. Loubet del Bayle of RWB said, "It is unacceptable that the authorities do not tell the families why they were arrested and their current condition."
Reporters Without Borders reported that he smuggled a message out of hospital that his health was deteriorating due to the use of pschotropic drugs. He complained of memory loss, difficulty concentrating and partial loss of vision.
In November 2007, Djamshid's health was reported to be deteriorating –
He has been held in psychiatric detention for over a yearby the authority. Following his coverage of the demonstrations and reporting on the killing of civilians in the city of Andijan, local authorities began monitoring Karimov’s activities.

Relatives of the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov from the city of Djizak already kicked up a scandal upon discovering secret services' interest in their family in early August. Margarita Karimova, the mother of independent journalist Jamshid Karimov, had specialists of the Djizak Municipal Directorate of Internal Affairs remove all bugs installed at her place a year ago. Colonel Marat Holturdiyev of the Djizak Regional Directorate of the National Security Service denied his subordinates' involvement and said in a rude manner that it would be real nice to have everyone minding his or her own business.
In early August 2006, his mother petitioned authorities to remove all listening devices from her house; they refused. In fact, law enforcement agents set up more surveillance equipment in a neighboring building, the Moscow-based Central Asia news Web site Ferghana reported.
The family’s long-distance telephone connections had been cut. Also in August, Karimov’s passport was seized by the authorities in Jizzakh after he applied for an exit visa to attend a journalism seminar in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.
The journalist was arrested on a visit to the Tashkent Department of Passports and Visas he appealed for a foreign visa to. All formal examinations should have been over long ago, but Karimov is not given his passport back.Officials of the Tashkent Department of Passports and Visas attribute the delay to the fact that they need a permit from the National Security Service first and this latter is certainly taking its time. The same officials admit, however, that the delay is something unprecedented indeed because Karimov has never had any troubles with the law. Margarita Karimova appealed to the National Security Service and the president, but her son remains without the passport all the same.

On August 31, the head of the regional administration, Ubaidulla Yamankulov, visited the family home. Yamankulov certainly believes in carving a straight path to his objective. He began with offering Jamshid Karimov the post of correspondent of the Tashkent newspapers Mulkdor and Tasvir in the Djizak region. The journalist turned the offer down. They received threats. They were told to stop writing. When it became clear that the obstinate journalist wouldn't be bought, regional administration sicked secret services on him.
The police installed a contraption looking like a radar in the house across the street from the Karimovs' place and aimed at it. The general opinion is that this is a listening device.
Jamshid Karimov is under constant surveillance. Two cars with four policemen in each are always parked not far from the Karimovs'. They follow the journalist everywhere.

Thirty-nine-year old Jamshid Karimov left his home in Jizzakh on September 12 to visit his elderly mother at the hospital. That was the last time his relatives saw him.Since then he was missing.

As his brother Alisher explained, Jamshid "never returned home." Two days later, Jamshid Karimov's friend and colleague, Ulugbek Khaidarov, was arrested in broad daylight in Jizzakh.

Jamshid and Ulugbek were almost the last remaining free journalists working in Uzbekistan. They have been writing openly about things they witnessed following the Andijon events. They both critically reported on what the governor of Jizzakh said to (justify) the Andijon (crackdown).
Relatives say the journalist was waiting for a bus when a woman approached him and put an envelope in his pocket before running away.
When Khaidarov realized the envelope contained $400, he threw it away. But he was then surrounded by plainclothes security officers who retrieved the envelope and took him away.
For Nortoji Khaidarova, there is no doubt her brother was framed. She spoke to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service two days after Khaidarov's arrest was first reported.

"I talked with the [Interior Ministry] officer who is investigating my brother's case," she said. "'If only he had kept silent!' he told me. 'Why is he publishing such slanderous articles on the Internet? Since he published those articles, we will send him [to jail].'"

On September 26, Khaidarova said extortion charges were brought against her brother. "The chief investigator told me that under Article 165 of the Uzbek Criminal Code, [Ulugbek] faces between five and 10 years in prison," she said.
Khaidarov was initially kept in a pretrial detention facility of the Interior Ministry's regional branch. He was then transferred to a cell in the ministry's municipal branch. This is where Nortoji says Khaidarov's wife, Munira, visited her husband.

"Munira Mustafaevna [Khaidarova] was the only one who was allowed to see Ulugbek on Saturday, September 23," she said. "They hardly gave her five minutes. They kept rushing her. She told us she found Ulugbek in bad shape. She says he didn't seem to be in his right mind. His eyes were unfocused. His mouth was twisted. He'd lost a great deal of weight. He didn't seem to know what he was saying. He kept repeating: 'I know nothing, I know nothing,' and 'everything's alright, everything's alright.'"

If authorities have been readily commenting on Khaidarov's arrest, they remain tightlipped about the other journalist's fate. In remarks reported by the independent uznews.net on September 20, the head of the National Security Service's regional branch, Marat Khalturdiev, curtly described Jamshid Karimov's disappearance as "a private affair" and refused to elaborate. On September 25, uznews.net quoted "sources close to Jamshid Karimov's family" as saying the journalist had reportedly been sent to a psychiatric hospital in Samarkand, some 100 kilometers southwest of Jizzakh.

Karimov went missing for two weeks in mid September 2006, after a visit to his elderly mother in the hospital. He was eventually found in a psychiatric hospital in the capital Samarkand, where he remains under successive psychiatric detention orders. The Uzbek authorities have apparently refused to give the reasons for holding him, calling it a “private matter”.

Jamshid Karimov, Elin Jonsson, and Ulugbek Khaidarov (left to right) in Uzbekistan (Courtesy Photo)

Elin Jonsson, a freelance Swedish journalist who specializes in Central Asian affairs, is a longtime acquaintance of the two journalists. She told RFE/RL that earlier this year both men told her they were increasingly concerned about their safety and had informed her of their intention to get a visa for Sweden.

"The last time I received a letter from them was in late July; I think it was July 28," she said. "They were telling me they had received information that Ulugbek would be arrested and that Jamshid would be sent to a psychiatric hospital, or a similar kind of closed institution."
Although Jamshid Karimov is notoriously critical of his uncle and his government, his blood ties to the Uzbek leader have safeguarded him and his family from trouble.
But Jonsson says things changed in the wake of last year's military crackdown in Andijon.
70-year-old mother, Margarita, confirmed that her son feared something bad would happen to him.
"One day he visited me at the hospital and the director made a scene," she said. "Jamshid was worrying more and more of late. He was telling me: 'Things will blow up, they will put handcuffs on me.' 'You did nothing wrong.' I was telling him. 'You criticized the authorities a little bit, so what? Don't worry, things will settle down.' But things didn't settle down, quite the contrary. They took everything from us, even the money. Now I live in poverty."

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Uzbek authorities to immediately release the two men and stop harassing their families.

"We're shocked at the brutal methods used against these two journalists, including psychiatric detention, a hallmark of Soviet repression," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said in a statement on September 26. "If President Karimov is treating his own nephew in this manner, it's hard to imagine how others might fare."

International PEN October 2007 Newsletter carried a brief news and International PEN is deeply concerned that psychiatric detention is being used to punish the independent journalist Dzhamshid Karimov for daring to criticise the government and reporting on human rights abuses. It is calling for his release. (Thanks to Anna Kushner of PEN America Center for compiling this information.)What you can do:Send appeals protesting the psychiatric detention of Dzhamshid Karimov without explanation, and apparently because of his criticism of the government and reporting on human rights.

President Islam KARIMOV,

Rezidentsia prezidentaul.
Uzbekistanskaia 43700163
Fax: + 998 71 139 53 25;
email: presidents_office@press-service.uz
This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it Copies of your appeals should also be sent to the diplomatic representative for Uzbekistan in your country.

Please send copies of any replies you may receive from the authorities to Sara Whyatt at the International PEN head office in London – address below. For further details contact Sara Whyatt at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office:

Brownlow House,
50/51 High Holborn,
London WC1V 6ER UK
Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0339
e-mail: sara.whyatt@internationalpen.org.uk

Norsk P.E.N. - Wergelandsveien 29, 0167 Oslo, NORWAYTel.: + 47 22 60 74 50 - Fax: +47 22 60 74 51 - Cell: +47 926 88 023

Take action to secure release of journalist and human rights defender Jamshid Karimov from ongoing detention in psychiatric hospital. He is detained there even though doctors agree there is nothing wrong with him.
Please copy this letter and send it to the address(es)listed.
Thank you for taking action on behalf of Jamshid Karimov
Target adresses:

President Karimov 700163 g. Tashkent,ul. Uzbekistanskaia, 43,Prezidentu Respubliki Uzbekistan Karimovu I.A.,Uzbekistan

General Procurator of the Republic of UzbekistanRespublika Uzbekistan; 700047 g. Tashkent; ul. Gulyamova, 66;Prokuratura Respubliki Uzbekistan;

Your Excellency
I am concerned by the extension of the period of detention of human rights defender and journalist Jamshid Karimov who is currently detained in the Samarkand psychiatric hospital.
According to information received, Jamshid Karimov has been ordered to remain in Samarkand psychiatric hospital for a further six months where he is undergoing “treatment” despite doctors and medical commissioners failing to give an official diagnosis and allegedly admitting that there is nothing wrong with his mental health. In mid-September 2006 a Jizak town court ordered that he spend six months in a psychiatric hospital. His case was due to be reviewed in mid-March and a medical commission was instructed to examine his mental health and decide whether to release him or extend his detention for a further six month period. The medical commission's decision was confidential until last week when they announced the extension of Jamshid Karimov's detention.
Front Line is concerned that Jamshid Karimov has been detained on the basis of his legitimate and peaceful work in defense of human rights, in particular his independent reporting on the situation in Uzbekistan.

Front Line urges the authorities in Uzbekistan to:
1)Immediately and unconditionally release Jamshid Karimov, as it is believed that he is being detained solely on account of his legitimate human rights activities;

2)Grant permission for an independent doctor to medically examine and assess Jamshid Karimov;
3)Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Jamshid Karimov whilst in detention and ensure that he is not tortured or ill-treated, as is his right under Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
4)Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Uzbekistan are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

Front Line respectfully reminds you that the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders and their right to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw attention to Article 11:

“Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to the lawful exercise of his or her profession.” and Article 12:
(1): ‘Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
(2). The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration’. Yours sincerely,

Petition to EU on Uzbek sanctions
Posted: 26 september, 2007

GAERC Council, Representatives of EU Member States
European Commission
Members of European Parliament

25 September, 2007

Human Rights Platform of Uzbekistan:
Representatives of civil society call on the European Union to extend sanctions against the government of Uzbekistan

On the eve of the forthcoming decision of the European Union on the fate of sanctions against the Karimov regime representatives of the civil society of Uzbekistan, supported by colleagues and friends across the world, urge EU to extend these sanctions and, at the same time, reinforce efforts to establish a dialogue on human rights with the government of Uzbekistan.

Below we summarise the situation in Uzbekistan and outline the most urgent steps to be taken by the EU, from the point of view of civil society of Uzbekistan.
Lack of cooperation with international structures on Andijan
In May 2007 EU decided to extend for another term the sanctions introduced in 2005 in response to the events in Andijan, which led to the numerous deaths of civilians. All attempts of EU to establish a constructive dialogue on human rights with the regime of Islam Karimov have not met a positive response. The Uzbek Government has ignored all calls for conducting an independent international investigation of these events and for an improvement of the human rights situation in the country.

Crackdown on independent voices since Andijan
In the period following the Andijan events, as well as over the last few months, the regime of Islam Karimov has not demonstrated any readiness for real concessions in the sphere of human rights. The investigation by the Uzbek authorities into these events resulted in a series of biased Stalinist trials, the majority of which were closed to the public, leaving defendants without access to legal defence and justice.

Since the Andijan events the ruling regime in Uzbekistan has also subjected many civic and human rights activists to intimidation, harassment and persecution. Beginning in 2005, hundreds of NGOs were forcibly closed down, a number of international organisations and mass media have lost their accreditation in the country. The most recent example is the decision of the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs in June 2007 to deprive the staff of Human Rights Watch of their accreditation and entry visa. Since May 2005 state censorship has been hardening on an unprecedented scale.

Dozens of human rights defenders and journalists have been imprisoned or were forced to flee the country in the observable period. For the moment, thirty two civil society activists are being in prison (their list can be sent upon request).

The machine of fabricating cases against devout Muslims and people with independent religious beliefs shows no sign of abating. The authorities do not make any distinction between moderate Muslim activists and Islamist radicals; between leaders and ordinary members of Islamic organizations; between pious believers and political Islamists, equally applying cruel repressions, long terms sentences and torture, to all of them. Thousands of innocent Muslims still languish in prison. By these inflammatory methods the regime antagonises a significant part of society provoking it to radical actions.

In recent months the regime has also enforced its repressive restrictions on the representatives of Christian parishes such as the Grace Presbyterian Church, Baptist congregation, the Jehovah's Witnesses, God's Love Pentecostal Church and Full Gospel Church. Their leaders and members have suffered harassment and punishment for their religious activity.

Systemic torture in prisons; violation of rights of movement; child labour
Even after the report produced by the UN Special Rapporteur Theo Van Boven in 2003 the use of torture in Uzbekistan remains systemic. Recent cases include those of imprisoned dissidents Djamshid Karimov, Dilmurod Muhiddinov, Muhammad Bekjan. Mamadali Mahmudov, Isroil Holdarov, who are relentlessly being tortured.

Their health and the conditions of other prisoners of conscience has substantially deteriorated due to torture and inhuman treatment in prisons (the list of those prisoners who need urgent medical assistance is attached). They are denied the right to meet with their lawyers and close relatives. Meanwhile, the authorities have prevented the International Red Cross from accessing prisons in order to carry out its humanitarian mission.

Keeping with the practices of the former Soviet regime, the Uzbek authorities use psychiatry as a means of punishment and persecution. Human rights activist and journalist Djamshid Karimov is still forcibly kept in a psychiatric clinic in Samarqand city.

Freedom of movement of citizens also remains restricted and permit is required to exit the country . Uzbekistan is one of only two countries (along with Turkmenistan) to retain the Soviet-style mechanism of permission for exit from the country, the so-called exit visas issued only for two years. A growing number of civic activists and journalists are being denied even this exit visa, for instance, Alo Hodjayev, Yadgar Turlibekov, Kamil Ashurov, Yelena Urlayeva, Ahtam Shaimardanov, Jahongir Shosalimov, Agzam Turgunov, Shuhrat Ahmedjanov, Saida Kurbanova, a number of Protestant activists, and others.

Another category of the population whose rights are violated systematically is children. As in Soviet times, each autumn school children in provinces and rural areas are being coercively employed in harvesting cotton without their parents’ permission and in violation of national and international law. Each year they are torn away from learning process for more than two months, due to which the quality of their education is declining. Their work on cotton fields is often underpaid. Rural population, despite their contribution to the cotton export revenue, suffer from chronic poverty; rural schools drag out a miserable existence. Cotton fibre and textiles produced as a result of coerced child labour are being sold in world markets, including in Europe. The people of Uzbekistan are deprived of the right to know what is the net cotton export revenue and how it s being used.

Against the background of these mass violations of human rights the Government of Uzbekistan tries to persuade the international community that there is a progress in this sphere. Under the pressure from human rights activists and international community the Parliament of Uzbekistan has recently adopted a law on abolishing the death penalty and delegating the power of issuing arrest warrants from the Prosecutor Office to judges, act per se deserving of encouragement. However, without the guarantees and mechanism of public control over its implementation this law could easily become another propagandist show, little more than an improvement on paper, like the law prohibiting press censorship adopted a few years ago but not making an affect upon the reality in Uzbekistan mass media. Only 2008 will show whether this legislative step will be implemented in reality, or will be another regime’s smoke screen hiding the genuine state of affairs in respect to human rights.

Respected representatives of the European Union,
The political system of Uzbekistan is in crisis. The country is governed by a man whose overtly protracted presidency (since 1990) expired already in January 2007. His power is resting mainly upon the use of coercive force and violence. It is not the rule of law that reigns in the country, but the right of might. The courts are guided not by Constitution, but by direct instructions from Prosecutor offices, and the security and law enforcement agencies. The majority of state institutions, especially their chief staff, are bogged in corruption.

Against the background of deteriorating human rights conditions and continuing systematic abuses we urge you to keep the sanctions against Uzbekistan in place as a matter of principle. Dropping these sanctions this autumn would only serve to advance the regime of Karimov, who would perceive this step as a cart-blanche for further repressions. In doing so the EU would involuntarily vote for the prolongation of Karimov’s presidency. The European Union should first find out whether the forthcoming presidential elections will be free and fair and not another puppet show with appointed pseudo-contestants.

In urging you to extend the term of sanctions, we do not call for a total international isolation of Uzbekistan. The dialogue on human rights, cooperation in the sphere of education and humanitarian programs, discussion of necessary preconditions for economic and business cooperation should be continued.

This dialogue and cooperation must however be oriented towards practical results, not empty declarations, and take into account rights of the population in general as wells as its aforementioned specific categories and groups, such as children, farmers and rural populace, small and medium business, civil society activists. The government of Uzbekistan needs - not only through empty words but in practice - to demonstrate its good will for the improvement of the situation with human rights.

First of all, the government of Uzbekistan should meet the following demands:

1. Reconsider the sentences and release from prison all prisoners of conscience;
2. Allow the International Red Cross to visit all prisons in the country and perform its humanitarian mission;
3. Start the reform of the penitentiary system; stop the practice of torture;
4. Release the judicial system from the dictate of the executive branch of power and law enforcement agencies;
5. Stop the practice of coercive child labour;
6. Abolish restrictions on the freedom of religion;
7. End restrictions on NGOs, independent mass media. Register opposition parties and allow them to take part in elections.
8. Open doors for cooperation with international community.

Besides these measures, the Andijan tragedy should not be forgotten. There is a pressing need for objective assessment, fairness and justice with respect to the events of Andijan. If national law cannot be implemented in an unbiased way, then the mechanism of international law and international collective actions must be used.

The refusal of the Uzbek government to face the law for indiscriminately shooting mass demonstrators indicates that the government is ready further to use violence against the population in a similar way as in Andijan. The likelihood of mass protests, in the meantime, is increasing due to the deterioration of the living conditions of the majority of the population. Failure to demonstrate now its adherence to principles will leave the EU liable to take a part of the responsibility for future massacres committed by the Karimov regime, beyond the lifetime of that regime.

We understand that we are proposing for the EU to continue on a difficult path. Yet we consider that this action is necessary and consistent with the course the EU set upon following the events at Andijan. We hope the EU can remain steadfast and unified in its approach to one of the worst human rights offenders in the world. The EU should maintain these sanctions whilst clearly stipulating the actions required to be taken by the government of Uzbekistan in order to have the sanctions lifted and bring the government back out of its isolation.

In hope for Your understanding,

Nadejda Atayeva, President, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Paris, France asiecentrale@neuf.fr

Kudrat Babadjanov, Group for Freedom of Press in Uzbekistan, Timro, Sweden
Yelena Urlaeva, human rights defender, Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Ahtam Shaimardanov, human rights defender, Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Abdillo Tojibai ugli, human rights defender, Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan,, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Jahongir Shosalimov, human rights defender, Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Bakhodyr Isamuhamedov, Chair, 'Mahalla' Project for supporting neighbourhood communities, Stockholm, Sweden
Surat Ikramov, Chairman, Independent Group of Human Rights Defenders of Uzbekistan
Abdujalil Boymatov, Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, Dublin, Ireland

And a long list follows ( not mentioned here)

We are Positive in thinking that the development and welfare of all human being in Uzbekistan are progressing .

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