For Immediate Release
Germany: Uzbek Security Chief Visit a ‘Disgrace’
Visit Coincides With 10-Year Sentence for Dissident
NEW YORK - The German government should
not have permitted the head of Uzbekistan's secret police to visit
Germany immediately after the European Union lifted sanctions stemming
from a 2005 massacre in Uzbekistan, Human Rights Watch said today.
Rustam Inoyatov, head of the
National Security Service of Uzbekistan, flew to Germany on October 23,
the same day that an Uzbek court sentenced a prominent human rights activist to 10 years in prison on politically motivated charges.
visa ban had prevented Inoyatov and seven other current and former
high-ranking Uzbek officials from visiting countries of the European
Union for the last three years (the list originally numbered 12 but was
shortened to eight in the spring of 2007). It was lifted on October 13,
Among the abuse suffered by the sentenced activist, Akzam
Turgunov, during his official interrogation was having boiling water
poured down his back, rendering him unconscious.
"Inoyatov's visit shows precisely why the visa ban should
never have been lifted in the first place," said Rachel Denber, Europe
and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "This man is
implicated in the killings of hundreds of people. It's a disgrace that
the German government allowed him to visit so quickly. And it's
particularly appalling that Inoyatov arrived in Germany just as the
Uzbeks were throwing another brave dissident in prison."
Uzmetronom, an Uzbek nongovernmental news website, reported
on October 23 that Inoyatov and a delegation of Uzbek security
officials had flown to Germany on an official visit. It is not known
how long they will remain in the country.
The European Union imposed the visa ban on Inoyatov and the
other Uzbek officials in October 2005, in response to the Uzbek
government's refusal to allow an independent, international inquiry
into the May 2005 massacre in Andijan, in eastern Uzbekistan, and the
ensuing government crackdown on civil society. The ban, as well as
other EU sanctions, was supposed to be lifted when the government of
Uzbekistan met certain conditions for improving its human rights
record, including releasing all imprisoned activists and ending their
harassment, accrediting Human Rights Watch's Uzbekistan researcher, and
allowing UN monitors, including the special rapporteur on torture, to
visit the country.
The Uzbek government failed to meet any of these
conditions. It released a handful of activists from prison, but
arrested two others in recent months, and continues to hold at least
another nine behind bars for politically motivated reasons (one in a
closed psychiatric ward). It not only persisted in its denial to
accredit Human Rights Watch's Uzbekistan researcher, but outright
banned him from the country. It continues to deny access to UN monitors
despite their longstanding and repeated requests for invitations.
The Uzbek government abolished the death penalty and
announced the introduction of habeas corpus in legal proceedings, but
torture remains rampant and its record is atrocious on basic rights
such as free expression, assembly, and religious belief.
"To say that the Uzbek government has made human rights
progress is patently absurd," said Denber. "The German government led
the efforts within the EU to lift the visa ban, and it should be
ashamed today for having done so."
The Uzbek dissident sentenced on October 23, Akzam
Turgunov, 56, is the chairman of a Tashkent-based human rights
organization called Mazlum ("The Oppressed"). He was convicted on
extortion charges that appear to be the result of a police frame-up. He
is the second activist in Uzbekistan to be convicted on politically
motivated charges in recent weeks. On October 10, 2008, Solijon
Abdurakhmanov, a journalist known for his often critical reporting on
the government's policies, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on dubious charges of selling drugs.
A purely symbolic embargo on arms trade with Uzbekistan, also imposed in October 2005, remains in place.
May 2005, an armed uprising in Andijan, a city in eastern Uzbekistan,
was followed by a massive public demonstration protesting government
policies. After government forces violently dispersed the
demonstration, they fired on a large crowd of fleeing protesters, the
vast majority of them unarmed. Hundreds were killed. The government has
persistently denied any responsibility for the killings.
"German officials should insist that the Uzbeks release
Turgunov and other activists who are now in prison," said Denber.
"Under these bitter circumstances, it's the least they can do."