Harassment against the NGO Internews

09/08/2005
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Uzbekistan.

UZB 003 / 0805 / OBS 066

Harassment / Judicial proceedings

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the Tashkent district court verdict accusing the non-governmental organisation Internews Network of meddling in the politics of Uzbekistan.

According to the information received, on August 4, 2005, Mrs. Khalida Anarbayeva, former Managing Director of the representative office of Internews Network, and currently Senior Advisor, and Mrs. Olga Narmuradova, Accountant of Internews Network, were accused of violating Article 190(2)b of the Uzbek Criminal Code on charges of "publishing information and producing videos without a license". In delivering his verdict to a court in camera, the judge said that Internews had "started meddling in the politics of Uzbekistan and in the politics of the President and that’s why the proceedings were instituted".

Internews is a non-profit organisation which promotes freedom of the press and access to information for people around the world by fostering independent media and promoting open communications policies. Internews also aims at fostering human rights, such as in Belarus, where it aims at promoting the dissemination of information and resources by focusing television production on strategic themes such as NGO advocacy, women’s initiatives and rule of law issues, or in Russia where it collaborates with the Human Rights Commission.

This trial is taking place in the context of the crackdown on foreign NGOs in the last eighteen months, especially those supporting the development of democracy. In May 2005, government forces evidently killed hundreds of unarmed demonstrators in the city of Andijan. Since then, the pressure on NGOs in Uzbekistan escalated (See Observatory Urgent Appeals UZB 001/0505/OBS 036, 036.1, 036.2 and UZB 002/0805/OBS 063).

The Observatory notes that this is not the first time that Internews is subjected to repression from Uzbek authorities. The conviction of Mrs. Khalida Anarbayeva and Mrs. Olga Narmuradova ensues from a year of harassment by various branches of the country’s investigative institutions. In August 2004, Internews’ bank accounts in Uzbekistan were frozen, forcing it to suspend its programmes.

Moreover, the Observatory strongly condemns the writ demanding the organisation be closed down and that was tabled on the first day of the trial by the district Prosecutor’s office, and which probably aims at hindering the freedom of expression of the media in Uzbekistan. This clearly contravenes the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular article 2.1, which states that "each State has a prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms, inter alia, by adopting such steps as may be necessary to create all conditions necessary in the social, economic, political and other fields, as well as the legal guarantees required to ensure that all persons under its jurisdiction, individually and in association with others, are able to enjoy all those rights and freedoms in practice", and article 12.2, which provides that "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration".

Actions requested:

Please write to the Uzbek authorities and ask them to:

Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mrs. Khalida Anarbayeva and Mrs. Olga Narmuradova;

adopt immediate measures to put an end to all judicial proceedings against Internews Network and to all acts of harassment against human rights defenders in Uzbekistan;

conform with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular its article 1 which states that "everybody has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels", and the above-mentioned articles 2.1 and 12.2;

ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Uzbekistan.

Addresses:

. President of Uzbekistan, Islam Abduganiyevich Karimov, ul. Uzbekistanskaya 43, Rezidentsia prezidenta, 700163 Tashkent, Republic of Uzbekistan, Fax: +998 71 133 7258, E-mail: presidents_office@press-service.uz · Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sodiq Solihovich Safoyev, Respublika Uzbekistan; 700029 g. Tashkent; pl. Mustakillik, 5; Ministerstvo inostrannykh del RU, S.S., Uzbekistan, Fax: + 998 71 139 15 17

· Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights, Sayora Rashidova, ul. Xalqlar Dostligi 1, 700035 Tashkent, Republic of Uzbekistan, Fax: +998 71 139 85 55, E-mail: office@ombudsman.gov.uz

· Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Ubaydulla Mingbaev, Respublika Uzbekistan; 700183 g. Tashkent; ul. Abdulla Kodiri, 1; Verkhovny Sud Respubliki Uzbekistan

· General Prosecutor of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Rashidjon Hamidovich Kodirov, ul. Gulyamova 66, 700047 Tashkent, Republic of Uzbekistan, Fax: +998 71 133 39 17, E-mail: prokuratura@lawyer.com

· National Centre for Human Rights, Senator Akmal Saidov Natsionalny tsentr po pravam cheloveka, 5/3, Mustakillik Maidoni, g. Tashkent, Respublika Uzbekistan. 700029, Fax: + 998 71 139 13 56 / 45 16, E-mail: office@nchr.uz

· Ambassador of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the United Nations in Geneva, PO Box 1853, 1215 Geneva 15, Switzerland, Fax: +4122 799 43 02, E-mail: uzbekistan@bluewin.ch

Please also write to the embassies of Uzbekistan in your respective country.

***

Paris - Geneva, August 8, 2005

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

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: observatoire@iprolink.ch

Tel and fax FIDH 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / 01 43 55 18 80
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