Uzbekistan: Sentencing of blogger Miraziz Bazarov

26/01/2022
Urgent Appeal

New information
UZB 001 / 0521 / OBS 054.1
Sentencing /
Judicial harassment /
Threats /
Restrictions to freedom of expression
Uzbekistan
January 26, 2022

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your intervention in the following situation in Uzbekistan.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the sentencing and ongoing arbitrary restriction of freedom of independent blogger Miraziz Bazarov, who advocates for the decriminalisation of consensual same-sex conduct between men in Uzbekistan and has denounced cases of corruption and the lack of transparency over the use of Covid-19 related funds by the authorities.

On January 21, 2022, the Mirabad District Criminal Court found Miraziz Bazarov guilty of “defamation” under Article 139 part 3 (d) of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan and sentenced him to three years of restricted freedom: the blogger is forbidden from travelling out of town, as well as leaving his home at a time specified by the police. In addition, he has been banned from using the Internet and working as a psychologist, his profession. During the trial, which began on January 20, 2022, no journalists were able to attend the hearing due to the unannounced requirement to have a negative PCR test presented. The calculation of Mr. Bazarov’s sentence begins with the start of his house arrest on April 29, 2021. Mr. Bazarov will appeal this sentence.

Furthermore, in court, Miraziz Bazarov stated that the perpetrators who brutally attacked him on March 28, 2021, were most likely members of the State Security Service. Miraziz Bazarov named two of them. However, the authorities have not reported whether this has led to any interrogatory procedure or investigation into the people in question. Moreover, during the hearings he received threats by alleged victims of his offence, and Miraziz Bazarov’s mother has been receiving continuous threats since March 2021. None of these acts have been investigated.

The Observatory recalls that Miraziz Bazarov was brutally attacked in March 2021 by three unknown individuals, causing him serious injuries. Earlier that day, the Tashkent police issued a video accusing him of inciting protests while promoting homosexuality. Furthermore, while he was hospitalized, on March 30, 2021, officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) searched both Miraziz Bazarov and his mother’s flat, without a warrant, seizing their laptops, video cameras and old mobile phones.

On April 29, 2021 Miraziz Bazarov was charged with “defamation” and “insult” (Articles 139 part 3 (d), and 140 of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan, respectively) and subsequently placed under house arrest as a preventive measure until his trial. During this initial period of house arrest, he was not able to get access to adequate medical assistance in order to treat his lingering injuries.

The Observatory condemns the sentencing of Miraziz Bazarov and the ongoing threats against him and his mother, which seems to be only aimed at punishing Miraziz Bazarov for legitimately exercising his right to freedom of expression online.

The Observatory urges the authorities in Uzbekistan to quash the sentence and lift the bans against Miraziz Bazarov and put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him.

The Observatory further urges the authorities to carry out and immediate and transparent investigation into the physical attack against Miraziz Bazarov and the threats against him and his mother, and take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all human rights defenders in the country, and particularly LGBTQ+ rights defenders.

The Observatory calls on the Uzbek authorities to refrain from using Article 139 of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan to silence human rights defenders and all dissenting voices, and to comply with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s commitment to decriminalise the offence of “defamation” in the new draft Criminal Code.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Uzbekistan asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Miraziz Bazarov and all human rights defenders in Uzbekistan;

ii. Quash the sentence and lift the bans against Miraziz Bazarov and put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all human rights defenders in the country;

iii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, transparent and independent investigation into the above-mentioned physical attack against Mr. Miraziz Bazarov, as well as the threats against him and his mother in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

iv. Guarantee in all circumstances the right to freedom of expression in the country, as enshrined in international human rights law and particularly in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Addresses:

· Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of Uzbekistan. E-mail: presidents_office@press-service.uz
· Mr. Pulat Razzakovich Bobojonov, Minister of Internal Affairs. Email: mvd@mvd.uz, info@mvd.uz
· Mr. Nigmatilla YuldoshevGeneral Prosecutor of the Republic of Uzbekistan. E-mail: infoprok@prokuratura.uz
· Mr. Abdulaziz Komilov, Minister of Foreign Affairs. E-mail: info@mfa.uz
· Ms. Feruza Eshmatova, Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights. E-mail: office@ombudsman.gov.uz, info@ombudsman.uz
· H.E. Mr. Ulugbek Lapasov, Ambassador,Permanent Mission of Uzbekistan to the United Nations in Geneva. Email: uzbekistan@bluewin.ch
· H.E. Mr. Dilyor Khakimov, Ambassador, Embassy of Uzbekistan to Belgium. Email: embassy@uzbekistan.be, eumission@uzbekistan.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Uzbekistan in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, January 26, 2022

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39
· Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18

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