Bloody repression in Uzbekistan : The FIDH urges for an international inquiry mission

Press release
en fr

The FIDH strongly condemns the violence which has erupted since 13 May in Andijan in Uzbekistan causing, according to eyewitnesses, the deaths of several hundreds of people (up to 750 according to some estimates) including women and children.

According to the information received, on 13 May, in Andijan - a town of 300,000 inhabitants situated in the valley of the Ferghana - the army opened fire on thousands of demonstrators (between 10,000 and 30,000) who had gathered in the town centre to protest against the trial of 23 people accused of belonging to the radical Islamic group, Akramia, and to demand the observance of human rights and an improvement in living conditions. During the night of 12 to 13 May, weapons were taken from a military building by men who took the regional administration and the high security prison in Andijan by storm, releasing the 23 accused and more than a thousand inmates.

Fearing for their safety, hundreds of civilians have crossed the border into Kyrgyzstan where several refugee camps have been set up. Some people were beaten and wounded by the Uzbek frontier guards.

The town was cordoned off by a huge military and police presence. Since 13 May, hundreds of people have been arrested and shots were heard in Andijan during the night of 16 to 17 May. Some eyewitnesses have mentioned the existence of communal ditches which have been dug in the public parks to hide any trace of the extrajudicial executions.

President Karimov denies giving the order to fire on the crowd and accuses Islamic extremists of using women and children as human shields. The authorities have only acknowledged 169 victims whilst the many eyewitnesses saw hundreds of corpses. Since 13 May there has been a news blackout, with access to foreign media blocked throughout Uzbekistan and several journalists expelled from the town.

The FIDH, which appointed an international investigation mission in Uzbekistan at the beginning of May, notes that, though there are radical Islamic movements in Uzbekistan, it cannot be denied that the regime of Islam Karimov is using the pretext of the war against terror and religious extremism to suppress any form of challenge and to control the civil society. The complete lack of independence of justice, institutionalised corruption and the systematic use of torture to obtain confessions mean that any citizen can be arrested and sentenced, without reliable proof, to long terms of imprisonment, or even to death for terrorism. Thus, several sources have pointed out that the 23 people being tried in Andijan were businessmen who had “embarrassed” the local authorities because of their economic power.

The FIDH mission noted a climate of fear and exasperation amongst the population as well as a tension on the part of the authorities exacerbated by the recent political changes in the Republics of the former Soviet block, and in particular since the “tulip revolution” last March in Kyrgyzstan.

In view of the information received by the FIDH on the events of the last few days in the valley of the Ferghana and the evidence gathered during the mission, the FIDH is extremely concerned for the safety and the physical and psychological integrity of those arrested, given the risk of torture they incur, as well as for those refugees in Kyrgyzstan if they were handed over to the Uzbek authorities.

The FIDH calls upon the intergovernmental organisations, in particular the UN and the OSCE, to appoint an international inquiry mission into the events in Andijan to establish accountability for the acts of violence and to exert the necessary diplomatic pressure on the Uzbek regime to put an end to the current violent repression.

The FIDH asks the Uzbek authorities to allow the press and international organisations, both governmental and non-governmental, unrestricted access to the town of Andijan, to get to the bottom of the events and to punish those responsible for human rights violations.

The FIDH calls upon the Uzbek authorities to guarantee the physical and psychological inttegrity of all citizens and the observance of human rights in accordance with its international and regional undertakings.

The FIDH asks the Kyrgyz authorities to protect the Uzbek refugees on their territory and to observe the Geneva conventions by not expelling them to a country where they risk being tortured.

Read more