Analytics and Interview

On 16 January 2015 late in the evening the website of the Ministry of Justice published a statement that the NGO Committee Against Torture had been added to the register of non-profit organizations designated as ‘foreign agents’.
Tanya Lokshina is the Russia program director at Human Rights Watch and Honorary Participant of International Youth Human Rights Movement: As the crisis in Ukraine escalated this spring, the Kremlin’s vicious crackdown on civil society also escalated. Space for independent civic activity in Russia is shrinking dramatically, but international policymakers and the media have been understandably too distracted to do much about it. Since early spring, it seems as though every week brings a new pernicious law or legislative proposal.
Earlier this year, the correspondent of Youth Human Rights Movement from Germany Jakob Stürmann interviewed Konstantin Baranov, member of the Coordination Council of the International Youth Human Rights Movement. They discussed so called “law against homosexual propaganda” and the overall situation of LGBT in Russia.  

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Oleg Sentsov, Olexander Kolchenko, Hennadiy Afanasiev and Oleksiy Chyrniy have been held in Russian jails for two years already under fabricated charges of ‘terrorism’. We consider it being necessary to express solidarity with those who are persecuted due to their pro-Ukrainian views, civic stand and desire for freedom in Russia-annexed Crimea.
Helsinki Committee of Armenia has published “Human Rights in Armenia 2014” Annual Report. The report reflects on the Right to Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, Political Persecutions, Freedom of Conscience and Religion, The Rights of the Child, Protection of Labor Rights.
«We have a few questions for you,» a border guard told Sinaver Kadyrov, a Crimean Tatar activist, at the Armyansk checkpoint in northern Crimea on Jan. 23. Kadyrov was on his way to Kherson, in southern Ukraine, to fly to Turkey for medical treatment. It was the beginning of an ordeal that ended with a local court expelling him from Crimea, his home of almost 25 years.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority It is time to sit back and reflect.

Mark Twain


Youth Human Rights Movement

"Don't Forget Uzbekistan" by Will Lasky

Every week, I receive graphic accounts of torture and arbitrary detention in Uzbekistan, usually associated with the Andijan events of 2005 when government troops opened fire on those protesting the prosecution of 23 local businessmen on charges of religious extremism. This resulted in a mass exodus of refugees to the Uzbek, Kyrgyz border. Since then, refugees have been routinely extradited back to Uzbekistan where they face a corrupt legal process garnished with torture and other absurd Stalinist trappings. These arrests have only increased even as the Uzbek regime pays lip service to its commitment to upholding basic human freedoms and human rights.

Despite this state of affairs par for the course in other roundly denounced states, Uzbekistan is treated as a project base by the European Union and the United Nations. The well-intentioned representatives of OHCHR have admitted to me on more than one occasion that they have no real contact with genuine civil society in Uzbekistan. The European Commission administers millions of Euros through Tashkent.

As the United Nations Human Rights Council has its eyes on Belarus, North Africa and the Middle East, and as the abuses of dictators in more widely observed countries (Egypt, Libya), become the flagship of western selective solidarity, it is important to recount the facts on Uzbekistan.

Like North Korea diverting its nation's college students to work in the country's factories, so every summer, Uzbekistan transports its children by bus load to work in the cotton fields. This, however, seems a quaint Soviet tradition in light of the gross abuse of power which takes place monthly within the country's judicial system.
Since the early 90's, in Uzbekistan thousands of people have been sentenced to long jail sentences on terrorism charges. Uzbekistan itself has put forward the Orwellian boast of having thwarted hundreds of terrorist plots.

According to personal accounts and court documentation, the vast majority of evidence used to convict on terrorist charges is circumstantial. Possessing proscribed religious material widely available in other countries is enough to convict on the basis of belonging to a banned religious organization. Within the judicial process, there is virtually no distinction made between participating in a terrorist attack, planning an attack, or possessing proscribed Islamic literature. Defendants are often convicted on trumped up charges which bear absolutely no relationship to the state's real motivating factor. This was especially apparent when in 2009 health activist Maxim Popov was accused of embezzlement after publishing an AIDS awareness pamphlet entitled 'healthy lifestyles.'

Instances of brutal torture in Uzbekistan abound. There are literally scores of narratives in which people's homes are invaded, their sons are trucked off to secret trials and sentenced to long prison sentences in which they are beaten within an inch of their lives. Forms of reported torture include, hanging weighted water bottles from male genitalia, snuffing cigarettes on skin, gang beatings with truncheons, male and female rape and sodomy, and psychological forms of torture such as threatening family members with rape. As was apparent last week when the brutalized, stitched-together body of former Andijan protester Abdumannon Ortiqov was relinquished, Uzbek security services have been known to return mutilated bodies for rapid discreete burials.

Perhaps because of its obscurity, the United States continues to treat with Uzbekistan as a strategic allie. NGO's continue to focus on Uzbek human rights abuses as they fussily proceed to circulate information within a closed community.  The European Commission, in conjunction with Tashkent naively administers millions of Euros on projects which are doubtless graft heavy governmental platforms of self-praise. Recently 3.7 million Euro was doled out to a charity run by the president Karimov's daughter Lola whose connections with UNICEF and UNDP continue to constitute a mockery.

Governments and governmental institutions need to seriously weigh the consequences of working with the Karimov family. What they may not realize is every point of contact, whether it be Secretary Clinton's visit, or Karimov's visit to Brussels, is used as propaganda within the country. Indeed, Lola Karimova's personal website reads as a narcissistic journal of such high profile contacts.  Abundant accounts of torture, arbitrary detention, the persecution of civil society, the closure of Human Rights Watch Tashkent and the censorship Uzbek media such as, make the Karimov regime an unsuitable allie and administrator of foreign aid. Real civil society in Uzbekistan, real human rights defenders must be consulted in conjunction with future European Commission and UNDP projects in Uzbekistan. NGO's in turn must stop administering millions to support punchless reports and trainings and to publisize the facts about Uzbekistan in a format regular people will read.   

By Will Lasky 
Eurasia Idea Network Coordinator