On 29 March 2015 presidential elections will take place in Uzbekistan
There are 4 nominated candidates:
— Islam Karimov, current leader of Uzbekistan, is put forward by the Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan. Previously, Karimov was nominated for the presidency in 1990, 1995, 2000, and 2007. His term was extended by referendum twice (in 2002 and 2007).
— Khatamjon Ketmonov is a candidate put forward by the National Democratic Party of Uzbekistan and the chairman of the Central Council of the Party.
— Narimon Umarov is a candidate put forward by the Social Democratic Party «Adolat» (Justice), chairman of the Council and Executive Committee of the Party.
— Akmal Saidov is a candidate nominated by the «Milliy Tiklanish» (National Revival) Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, a member of fraction of the party in the Parliament, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Democratic Institutions, Non-government Organisations and Self-government Bodies. In 2007 elections, he was one of the candidates to run for the office of president.
Association for Human Rights in Central Asia about results of observation of the election campaign
All candidates were approved prior, to their nomination, by the presidential administration. Among them there is no representative of the opposition. Citizens learn about candidates only from the government media and posters distributed by the Central Election Commission. Meetings of candidates with voters are held in conditions of limited freedom of speech. Criticism of the authorities and asking "uncomfortable" questions are prohibited. Only laudatory rhetoric is allowed. Uzbek media does not even attempt to evaluate the candidates publicly. Islam Karimov has a privileged position. As president, he uses public events for his campaign. This also applies to the opening of new businesses, and the last amnesty of prisoners.
No signs of the activity of the population. Access to opposition web sites is very limited, among other things, due to blocking and DDoS-attacks. Opinion of citizens living abroad is almost unknown to the population living in the country. All segments of the population are under total control, that is why there are so few independent-minded citizens, and they do not affect the election campaign.
Karimov has once again demonstrated the ability to exploit the conflicting provisions of national legislation, including the Constitution. The second term of Islam Karimov as president illegally lasted from January 2000 to January 2007 - eight years instead of seven, as provided by the then wording of Article 90 of the Constitution of Uzbekistan. (In 2011, the wording in the Constitutionwas amended: the presidential term was reduced to 5 years.) In 2008 Karimov took the office of president for the third term, despite the fact that Article 90 says «A person may not be elected to the office of Presidentof the Republic of Uzbekistan for more than two consecutive terms». Thus, the rule of Islam Karimov after January 2007 to the present time is unconstitutional.
The Constitution of Uzbekistan does not provide for the impeachment of the president, so even in theory, Islam Karimov cannot be removed from power. Most of the population realises that he remained in power illegally. "I am one of those who comes under criticism for a long tenure. They criticise me, but I do not stop. The more they criticise me, the more I want to continue working. What's wrong with that?"- flirts Islam Karimov.
He does not offer any explanation to his voters about his attitude towards the criminal activities of his eldest daughter Gulnara Karimova, against whom criminal cases are pending in France, Switzerland, Sweden and Uzbekistan. Issues related to the corrupt activities of members of Islam Karimov’s family are never discussed.
All other candidates praise their main competitor Karimov. This suggests that they deliberately went to participate in the formalistic elections. Refusing to play this humiliating role would be dangerous for them.
Absolute majority of the eligible population in Uzbekistan do not intend to go to the polls, unless it is made compulsory, because it is clear that the current elections do not mean anything or change anything.
Association for Human Rights in Central Asia draw your attention to violations fundamental human rights in Uzbekistan:
1) Numerous human rights activists and journalists remain in prison, including in particular those who supported in 2005 the EU demands for an independent international inquiry into the Andijan massacre, witnesses of the Andijan events, critics of the regime systematically prohibited from leaving the country, defenders of labour rights, journalists specializing on topics like Islam, and religious groups and communities, persons with disabilities and in need of medical care and persons who remain in prison despite being over 60 years old. It is worth noting that prisoners having previously worked for the government or international organisations are exposed to special discrimination.
All of them were sentenced to imprisonment on trumped-up charges of serious crimes. Formally, they were accused of the infringement on the constitutional order of the state, on the system of bodies of state power and administration. And this accusation arose in response to the open expression of opinions, for their cooperation with international organisations and the media.
2) Situation in detention facilities of Uzbekistan. Many prisoners in Uzbekistan are physically ill; diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, anemia and HIV/AIDS are very common. There is not enough drinking water and food. Heating and ventilation are in need of repair. We receive many reports about limited access to medical care, even for severely disabled people and elderly persons. It is a known fact that even ill people are involved in heavy work. Access to detention facilities for independent observers is nonexistent, including UN Special Rapporteur on torture. In conclusion, Uzbekistan does not comply with Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, detention conditions of prisoners are comparable to torture.
3) Necessity of restoration of the mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Uzbekistan. The program of visitation to detainees and prisoners was terminated in March 2013 due to Uzbek government’s interference in operating standard procedures of the organisation. According to our sources, the mortality rate in prisons dramatically increases due to disease that are caused by deplorable confinement conditions and limited access to medical care.
4) Extended prison sentence. The practice of multi-year extensions of sentences to human rights activists, journalists, members of political opposition and thousands of religious prisoners became a standard practice. Uzbekistan’s Criminal Code provides for the offense of “disobedience to legitimate orders of the administration of institution of execution of penalty” (Article 221), often referred to as “violations of prison rules”, on which authorities base the extensions of prisoners' sentences. This unlawful practice leads to life long prison terms.
5) Forced labour system of cotton production remains fundamentally unchanged. In 2014, as in previous years, the government used coercive means to ensure that farmers met state quotas for cotton production and to systematically mobilise millions of people to pick cotton throughout the country. Where people were unable or did not want to harvest cotton the government forced them to pay to hire replacement workers. In the culmination of changes that began two years ago, the government did not mobilise en masse children to harvest cotton in 2014. It failed, however, to end the use of child labor in cotton production as in some regions local authorities forcibly mobilised children, particularly in the later weeks of the harvest, in order to meet quotas assigned by the central government. The forced labour system violates international labour conventions and national law. It also drives farmers into debt – leading many to emigrate (over 25% of the Uzbek population works as labor migrants in Russia and Kazakhstan), and some to commit suicide (including Habibullo Egamberdiev on October 17, 2014); deprives citizens of full access to health-care and education during the cotton harvest. The forced labour system also led to 15 deaths in 2014. The estimated $1 billion annual income from cotton disappears into the Selkhozfond, a secret fund in the Finance Ministry to which only the highest level government officials have access.
6) Closing the office of the HRW. In 2007 the Tashkent office of Human Rights Watch that had operated in Uzbekistan for 15 years was closed. This organisation has earned a special trust among the people of the country. It was banned for its principled assessment of human rights situation in Uzbekistan and tragic events in Andijan in 2005. One of the conditions for lifting the EU sanctions applied against Uzbekistan was the resumption of the activities of HRW in the country. Uzbekistan has not complied with this condition.
7) The case against the «Traitor of the Motherland». Also, citizens of Uzbekistan who were deported from the countries where they claimed asylum are subjected to repression on their forced return to Uzbekistan. They are labelled as the traitors, tortured and imprisoned for up to 13 years; according to data available to us, the case against the “traitors” has subjected about 70 people to prosecution in Uzbekistan.
8) On the continuing practice of persecution of civil society activists and other objectionable individuals by the government officials. Harassment, including criminal persecution of dissidents and critics of the authorities, civil society activists, members of the opposition, independent journalists, representatives of various religious groups, human rights activists and their family members by the authorities continues. In Uzbekistan, there are about 10 thousand people convicted for belonging to a religious group. 40 civil society activists, journalists and human rights defenders are in prison. Over the past 10 years 487 civil society activists were subjected to repression. In recent years, critics of the regime are systematically prohibited from leaving the country;
The dictatorship of Islam Karimov has created a lack of social justice, the backwardness of the economy, widespread poverty, and, as a consequence, the radicalisation of Islamic organisations and movements. The US and EU countries are paying less and less attention to the violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms in Uzbekistan and continue to cooperate with the Karimov regime. We call upon the democratic community to revise the terms of dialogue on human rights in Uzbekistan and promote:
— Ensuring enforcement of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture;
— Granting of access to the UN Special Rapporteur on 11 mechanisms of the UN, including the Special Rapporteur on torture;
— Creation of conditions for the conduct of functions of the International Committee of the Red Cross mission in prisons;
— Granting accreditation to HRW and its employees and to creation of conditions supporting the monitoring of human rights in Uzbekistan;
— Abolition of the practice of arbitrary extension of terms of imprisonment for minor offences or "violation of internal regulations" under Article 221 of the Criminal Code "disobedience to legitimate orders of administration of institution of execution of penalty";
— Removal of restrictions on leaving the country by the civil society activists who openly express their opinions;
— Compliance with International Labour Organization Convention No. 105 on the Prohibition of Forced Labour and Convention No. 182 on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by enforcing national laws prohibiting forced labor and child labour;
— The ILO’s unfettered access to conduct a survey of the application of ILO Convention No. 105 on the Abolition of Forced Labor and for ILO monitors to monitor Convention No. 105 throughout the 2015 with the participation of the International Organisation of Employers, International Trade Union Confederation, International Union of Foodworkers and local independent civil society activists and groups;
— Ratification and implementation of ILO Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize so farmers and farmworkers can form independent organizations to represent their interests, speak out when abuses such as forced labor occur, and negotiate for better working conditions;