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Uzbekistan: security force violence against protesters must be fully investigated

Mass protests in autonomous Karakalpakstan erupted on 1 July

Multiple social media videos show injured people and what appears to be blood on the streets

‘We have received reports that human rights defenders critical of the authorities have been detained and are at risk of torture’ - Marie Struthers

Amnesty International has called for an independent investigation into security force violence against protesters in Uzbekistan after at least 18 protesters were killed. 

Mass protests in the city of Nukus - capital of the autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan - against a proposed amendment to the constitution, erupted on 1 July and culminated on Saturday evening with security forces apparently using lethal force to disperse protesters.

Witnesses said military units were deployed throughout the city and surrounded the main protest site, with the security forces allegedly firing rubber bullets into the crowd.

Some reports, which could not be independently verified, said drones dropped smoke bombs and tear gas indiscriminately on the protesters. The authorities have admitted using smoke bombs and tear gas. 

Multiple videos from Nukus have emerged on social media showing seriously-injured people and what looks like blood on the streets. These videos cannot be independently verified due in part to restrictions on entering the city. 

Protesters have been voicing their opposition to a proposed amendment to the constitution that would strip away Karakalpakstan’s autonomy within Uzbekistan. On Saturday, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev agreed to withdraw the proposed constitutional amendment. 

Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, said: 

“The images we saw last weekend on social media, which showed brutally-injured protesters and what looks like blood on the streets, were truly shocking. 

“The authorities must urgently disclose exactly what happened in Nukus, order an impartial, independent and thorough investigation into the use of force against protesters, and ensure those responsible face justice in fair trials. 

“We are concerned that the Uzbekistani authorities are resorting to their usual tactics of silencing critical voices and blocking information, including through a newly-declared state of emergency. 

“We have received reports that human rights defenders critical of the authorities have been detained and are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment, yet the information blockade makes it virtually impossible to independently verify them.” 

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