Uzbekistan: New report denounces persecution after Andizan killings

The 34-page report, Lifting the siege on the truth about Andizhan, says that the Uzbek authorities have arrested thousands of people since 12-13 May, when security forces reportedly fired indiscriminately into crowds of demonstrators killing possibly hundreds of protestors.

The first trials of some of those detained are set to start today, and Amnesty International is warning that proceedings are likely to be grossly unfair and that some defendants could receive death sentences.

Amnesty International Uzbekistan researcher Maisy Weicherding said:

"The truth is under siege. The government wants to prevent the truth about what really happened in Andizhan from coming out.

"People in detention are at serious risk of being subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. Some have been charged with capital offences. They are at great risk of being sentenced to death following an unfair trial."

According to President Karimov, Uzbekistan sentenced up to 60 people to death last year alone and though Mr Karimov recently said that Uzbekistan intended to abolish the death penalty by 2008 this may not prevent executions of those charged with Andizhan-related offences.

Amnesty International’s report reveals a pattern of intimidation of eyewitnesss to the killings in Andizhan, and of persecution of journalists and human rights activists who have tried to report these events.

Torture

Detainees who have subsequently been released have reported that some prisoners have been subjected to torture, including beatings and sexual assault with rubber truncheons, the insertion of needles into gums and under fingernails, and the threat of rape of female relatives.

Former detainees say that torture was being used to force 'confessions' from prisoners that they had been involved in criminal activities during the Andizhan killings.

Secret detention

One case of particular concern to Amnesty International is that of Saidzhakhon Zainabitdinov, head of the Uzbek human rights organisation ‘Appeal’.

He acted as a representative of one of the 23 entrepreneurs in a trial that preceded the May violence. Mr Zainabitdinov was an eyewitness to events in Andizhan and spoke to numerous international journalists in the days after 13 May.

He was detained on 21 May and has since been held in secret detention. His lawyer last saw him in mid-July.

Intimidation

The report shows that others in Uzbekistan have been targeted in a concerted crackdown on Andizhan eyewitnesses, journalists, human rights activists and members of opposition groups.

Some have been forcibly confined to their homes, have had their telephone lines disconnected and have been kept under constant surveillance.

Attacks

A wider post-Andizhan crackdown is also ongoing, with independent journalists and human rights activists in particular being subjected to threats, harassment and physical attack by often armed groups who appear to be backed by the authorities.

For example Bakhtior Kamroev, head of a human rights organisation, had his home invaded in late May by about 70 people who accused him of being a traitor for passing information to western organisations.

He was beaten and his life was threatened. In another case, a pregnant journalist was severely beaten and left unconscious in July by three people who attacked her near her home in Gulistan, Syrdarya region.

Amnesty International’s report calls on the Uzbek authorities to allow a thorough, independent and impartial international investigation into the killings in Andizhan in May, and to ensure that witnesses and others are not intimidated or subject to reprisal attacks.

It also calls for the identity of all people killed and injured in Andizhan to be made public, for forthcoming trials to be conducted openly and fairly, and for the International Committee for the Red Cross to be allowed access to all those currently in detention.

Read the full report online...

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