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Uzbekistan: unlawful forcible displacement of residents of Urgench

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In the near future the leader of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov will visit the Khoresm Province. Local authorities want to show him that the reconstruction of the province capital Urgench is in full swing. 
 
In May 2011 Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyaev had a working tour to Khoresm. He came out with a string of four-letter words and blows using his fists while expressing his dissatisfaction with the course of construction.From the beginning of June 2011 more than 300 residents of private and two-storey houses in Al-Khoresmi Street were subject to forced displacement. Their houses were demolished. In exchange for their houses they were offered plots in remote areas of the city and monetary compensation of 25 to 35 m Uzbek Soum (UZS) (equivalent of 10,000 – 14,000 USD). The authorities are not taking into account a difficult economic situation of the majority of them. It is impossible to build or buy a dwelling of the same size in the same area of the city. Residents were forced to accept the terms of move under a threat of court prosecution.
 
Association for Human Rights in Central Asia has reliable information of such court proceedings whereby a city administration sued an ill, elderly and retired woman (we do not mention her name pursuant to the wish). She is being forced to accept a monetary compensation of 12,800 USD. A dwelling of the same size in the same residential district costs 2 – 2.5 times more. A house where an elderly woman lives at the moment has destructions of both sides. Her apartment is disconnected from water supply and electricity, she is in need to hospitalization, but is afraid of leaving her apartment. Her daughter, a citizen of Ukraine, is being threatened with deportation by law enforcement bodies. In such a case the retired woman will lose her home and presence of a close person. 
 
Authorities managed to suppress the moods of dissent among the majority of the displaced persons. The remaining group consists of residents who positively refused to accept humiliating terms of exchange of their dwellings to other apartments, which are not even suitable for living. They are offered to move to dwellings, which are in the emergency state and are planned for demolition in two or three years. 
  
Such actions of the local authorities contradict the annex of the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan of 29.05.2006. 
 
It says that “In the event of demolition of the residential premises (houses, apartments), which constitute the property of citizens, for withdrawal of their land for state or public needs such citizens, members of their families and citizens permanently residing  in these houses (apartments) shall be offered upon their choice and by mutual agreement of the parties a dwelling of equal value and convenience of the size not less than the public norm of dwelling and compensation for plants they had on their plots or compensation is paid for the houses (apartments), other buildings and plants subject to demolition. 
 
“The equal value of the offered dwellings shall be defined as a value equal to the price of the demolished house (apartment). In case the value of the demolished house (apartment) is higher than the value of the offered house (apartment) the difference shall be compensated to the owner”.
    
Officials are not answering the complaints of the displaced citizens. Even a complaint to the Director of the National Human Rights Centre of Uzbekistan Akmal Saidov has not been granted an answer. The evidence of that is a photocopy of one of the complaints, receipt of which by the Centre is confirmed by the signature of his assistant A.Fazylov as of 27 May 2011. 
  
The practice of demolition of dwellings without prior consent of residents is inherited from the former Soviet Union. This is how all Soviet cities were built, and that is how the look-alike cities appeared on the territory of the former Soviet Union. This practice is very much in use in Uzbekistan. Under the pretext of city development projects the government is dealing blow after blow to the whole communities eradicating the appearance of well-off layers of the society as well as dispersing the communities – property owners who have reached a relatively stable economic situation due to generations of savings. First, they are moved to unsuitable dwellings, which are planned for demolition in a couple of years from now. Then after a few years when those dwellings are demolished the compensation is literally next to nothing, because of the inventory price of the dwellings. In this situation the citizens have no choice: either an unsuitable dwelling now and in two or three years from now – next to nothing, or a land plot well outside the current areas of living and a small compensation not enough for building a house at the market price of construction materials. 
  
The quoted government Resolution does not mention that for demolished buildings a refund should be commensurate to the market price. However, the text of the resolution about compensation is based on the values generated through technical inventory bureaus (BTI), which calculate the cost of the building, which has little to do with its market value.
  
Needless to say that such government resolution should undergo public hearings before adoption. This situation is a direct consequence of the puppet parliament in Uzbekistan, which was established through thoroughly undemocratic and false elections, criticized by so many international observers.  Therefore the parliament of Uzbekistan can adopt any and every anti-constitutional legislation, which is also in breach of the international obligations of Uzbekistan.
  
Such displaced residents come under the definition of the internally displaced persons and should under the protection of the UNHCR and High Commissioner for Refugees. Unfortunately, just like Human Rights Watch the UNHCR office in Uzbekistan was closed a few years ago.  The consequences of such closures are out of anybody’s control. 
  
Association for Human Rights in Central Asia notes the violation of civil and social rights of people provided by the following international agreements ratified by Uzbekistan:
 
• Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which provides that the state shall recognize the right of every person to a sufficient living standard for him/her and his/her family, including adequate nutrition, clothing and dwelling and to continuous improvement of the living conditions,
 
• Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides that no one shall be subject to arbitrary and unlawful interference in private and family life, arbitrary or unlawful encroachment of inviolability of the dwelling. Every person shall be eligible to legal protection against such interference or such encroachment, Article says.