UZBEKISTAN: Police break state and international law
Police have raided a Jehovah's Witness meeting in Samarkand [Samarqand], without any legal documentation, closely questioning participants in the meeting under great psychological pressure, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. The police told participants that they would be fined under Article 241 "breaking the law on giving religious instruction" of Uzbekistan's administrative code, and the internal affairs administration told Forum 18 that "we were acting within the law". Both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Uzbekistan has freely signed, and Uzbekistan's own religion law contradict this claim.
The police told their prisoners that they would shortly be fined under Article 241 "breaking the law on giving religious instruction" of Uzbekistan's administrative code, and took three people, Zieddullo Chakanov, Akmali Ermatov and Irfon Khamidov, to the internal affairs administration for Samarkand region for questioning for a further three hours.
Lieutenant Sherzod Shamsiyev, of the internal affairs administration for Samarkand region, who took part in the raid, claimed to Forum 18 on 19 August that "we were acting within the law. The Jehovah's Witness organisation is not registered in Samarkand region, and so it has no right to hold religious meetings."
Under Uzbekistan's religion law, a religious community may only become active once it has been registered with the legal agencies. However, this provision of Uzbekistan's religion law contradicts the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Uzbekistan is a signatory. Also according to Uzbekistan's religion law, if an international agreement signed by Uzbekistan introduces rules other than those contained in the religion law, then the rules of the international agreement take precedence.
Of all the religious minorities, Jehovah's Witnesses are the most frequently persecuted by the authorities (eg. see F18News 8 July 2004 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=358). According to order No. 17/3-165, which was drawn up by the Uzbek internal affairs ministry, for official use in the "war against terrorism", the Jehovah's Witnesses are the only religious minority singled out as a "radical extremist organisation". In a list of "illegal extremist religious organisations active on Uzbek territory", apart from the Jehovah's Witnesses, a wide range of organisations are listed, for example Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Tablikh and Tavda and other Islamic groups, as well as Satanists.
"We have tried to register the Jehovah's Witness community several times in Samarkand region and in other regions of Uzbekistan. But the authorities constantly refuse us registration on various pretexts. For example, we have made seven unsuccessful attempts to register our community in the city of Tashkent," Andrei Shirobokov, the press officer for Jehovah's Witnesses in Uzbekistan, told Forum 18 in Tashkent on 19 August. However, in spite of the fact that the Jehovah's Witnesses are included in the list of extremist organisations, they have religious communities registered at the justice administrations of two Uzbek towns – Chirchik [Chirchiq], a satellite town of Tashkent, noth-east of the capital, and Fergana [Farghona] in eastern Uzbekistan.
For more background information see Forum 18's Uzbekistan religious freedom survey at http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=105
A printer-friendly map of Uzbekistan is available at
20 August 2004
In a trial of 12 Muslims in the Fergana [Farghona] Valley, apparently on trial for being devout, Judge Gozikhon Yakhyakhojayev has refused to release the names of the accused, telling Forum 18 News Service that "I myself have not yet got to grips with this case, and I feel it is simply too early to give any details to the press." In another trial, of 2 devout Muslims, his colleague Judge Ismailov has been accused by defence lawyers of joining the prosecution in trying to secure convictions, and of not allowing defence lawyers to question witnesses. In both cases, Forum 18 has been told that the ordinary police and NSS secret police have been accused of planting evidence on those accused.
16 August 2004
Abdugafar Karimov is the latest Muslim apparently jailed for being a devout Muslim known to Forum 18 News Service, being sentenced to five years' imprisonment for "undermining the constitutional basis of the Republic of Uzbekistan". His wife, Oklima Karimova, says that evidence of about 10 Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets and a video was planted, and told Forum 18 that one prosecution witness refused to appear in court because of "a troubled conscience". Further similar trials are continuing.
10 August 2004
In the latest series of trials of Muslims, apparently simply because they are devout Muslims, ten men have been sentenced to jail terms of between 10 and 12 years, a local human rights activist has told Forum 18 News Service. All ten have denied the criminal charges made and claim that evidence was planted on them. Forum 18 has been told that the wife of one of those arrested, Mukudas Yusupova, was mistakenly given by police a document showing the results of the search before the search had been conducted. Neither lawyers for the accused, nor human rights activists, nor journalists, were allowed into the court to hear the sentence, and police officers beat up protestors calling for journalists, human rights activists and lawyers to be allowed into the court.