How the EU can support the civil society struggle for democracy in Uzbekistan.
Proposals made by civil society activists during meetings in the European Parliament and in the European Commission on May 2-4, 2017
During the 25 years of the rule of President Islam Karimov, the government tried to create its own pro-government system of NGOs, which operated under government control. About the total number of NGOs in Uzbekistan, statistics were not published, in the speeches of government officials flashes figure 6500, but it is impossible to specify who is on the list, it is closed. In reality, there can be 300 to 500 NGOs in the country (not counting sports associations).
Currently there is only one officially registered NGO in Uzbekistan, which is truly independent. This is the Human Rights Society «Ezgulik». «Ezgulik» was registered in 2000, under pressure from US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the signing of the Cooperation Agreement between the United States and Uzbekistan. All other really independent NGOs work in the country without registration, since the state under various far-fetched reasons refuses them to register or these NGOs understand the futility of registration attempts not to file documents for registration.
During the dialogue and cooperation with the EU, the government of Uzbekistan nominates registered pro-government NGOs as representatives of civil society, and the real independent ones does not allow for dialogue, stating that since these organizations are not registered, they do not exist and their activists are not representatives of civil society.
Realizing that without the participation of really independent NGOs and their activists, no real democratic changes in the country are possible, we propose the following:
- Representing structures of International organizations, and primarily such as the representation of the EU in Tashkent, embassies and various kinds of funds and institutions working with Civil Activists should begin cooperation with independent activists and with non-registered NGOs
- The European Commission should abolish the requirement in their documents that NGOs with whom the EU structures sign cooperative agreements must have a registration with the Ministry of Justice of Uzbekistan. If this is not possible, then in a contract with a registered NGO, it is necessary to stipulate that in the implementation Cooperation projects should involve at least two unregistered NGOs.
- Currently, cooperation between the EU and civil society activists in Uzbekistan is mainly in the capital of the country, and in regions where the situation is most difficult, the work is almost not carried out.
- It is necessary to stop the practice of cooperation of EU representatives only with those NGOs that are recommended by the official authorities of Uzbekistan. EU representatives must submit their wishes to the government of Uzbekistan about NGOs or activists with whom they would like to cooperate.
- Representatives of the EU missions in Uzbekistan often have a very remote view of the situation in the regions of the country. It is necessary that staff of missions working with the Civil Sector in Uzbekistan be selected based on the level of knowledge of the situation, the specifics of the region, employees in contact with activists should not be limited in the possibilities to invite in to the office regional representatives of the Civil Society.
- The EU needs to develop a practice of cooperation with independent groups of analysts and experts and assist them. The creation of a permanent independent analytical and expert center in Uzbekistan would be a highly sought-after initiative in all respects.
- Taking into account the fact that democratic ideas were suppressed in Uzbekistan for a long time, and also under the influence of Russian media, liberal democratic values in the country are very discredited. In this regard, it is necessary to create centers for disseminating democratic values among young people, holding seminars, competitions and round tables on democracy and its importance in the life of society. This will also counteract the spread of extremist and radical religious movements in the country.
- Support for truly independent media in the country is needed. Important is the organization of trips of Uzbek journalists to the EU countries, for the exchange of experience. Very important for the support of journalists will be the establishment of an EU award for independent Uzbek journalists. This award would also be a security protection for the journalist. The award can be established in several categories: the best journalistic work, the best journalistic investigation, the best journalistic reportage.
- The importance of independent NGOs in the country will grow very dramatically and will affect their security if the EU, when concluding contracts with the government, indicates that it wants to monitor the implementation of the treaty as well as independent NGOs and present a list of those NGOs whose participation in monitoring they wish.
- And finally the last, but this is the most important thing! It is necessary to seek the release of civil society activists and journalists who are still imprisoned. In any case, activists of independent NGOs will be very uneasy to work, knowing that their colleagues are still in prison. The Uzbek authorities have developed the practice of releasing one or two prisoners before the arrival of EU high-ranking officials or before signing any important treaties. This is a very dangerous practice, since it does not solve the problem as a whole. Therefore, representatives of the EU need to raise the issue not about the single release of political prisoners but to submit to the official authorities of Uzbekistan a list of political prisoners who must be released immediately and refuse to discuss this list in person. The list of political prisoners is attached to this letter.
I thank you in advance for your attention and hope that the cooperation of the EU and Uzbekistan will benefit the civil society of Uzbekistan.
Chairman of the Association Central Asia (Sweden)
Vice chairman of the party «People’s Movement of Uzbekistan Birlik»
The following independent journalists, human rights activists, civil society activists, were imprisoned on trumped-up cases:
- Yusubba Ruzimurodov — journalist, in custody since March 15, 1999;
- Gayrat Mikhliboev — journalist, in custody since July 25, 2002;
- Azam Farmonov is a human rights activist, in custody since April 29, 2006;
- Salijon Abdurahmonov — journalist, in custody since June 7, 2008;
- Isroilzhon Kholdorov is a human rights defender, in custody since 4 July 2006;
- Yuldash Rasulov — human rights activist, in custody since April 2007;
- Agzam Turgunov, human rights activist, in custody since 11 July 2008;
- Dilmurod Saidov — journalist, in custody since February 22, 2009;
- Gaybullo Jalilov — human rights activist, in custody since 5 September 2009;
- Ganikhon Mamathonov — human rights activist, in custody since 9 October 2009;
- Mehriniso Khamdamova, human rights activist, in custody since 5 November 2009;
- Zulhumor Khamdamova, human rights activist, in custody since 5 November 2009;
- Chuyan Mamatkulov — human rights activist, in custody since December 2012;
- Kudratbek Rasulov — oppositionist, in custody since September 6, 2013;
- Fakhriddin Tillaev — human rights activist, in custody since 2 January 2014;
- Nuriddin Zhumaniyazov — human rights activist, in custody since 2 January 2014;
- Mirsobir Khamidkoriev — producer, in custody since June 15, 2014 (kidnapped in Russia);
- Barno Khudoyorova is a journalist, in custody since June 30, 2015.
It is urgently necessary to create a State Commission to consider the following prisoners:
- Toshtemir Nurmatov (Muhammadrajab Mahsum-kori) — Imam of the historical mosque «Havokand» in Kokand, in custody since 1994;
- Akram Yuldashev is a religious figure, in custody since February 17, 1999 (officially unconfirmed, he died in 2010);
- Abdullo Madumarov is the son of human rights activist Ahmadjon Madumarov, in custody since April 12, 1999;
- Abdulahat Madumarov — nephew of human rights activist Ahmadjon Madumarov, in custody since 1999;
- Habibullo Madumarov — the son of human rights activist Ahmadjon Madumarov, in custody since 2000;
- Iskandar Khudaiberganov — a religious figure, in custody since the beginning of August 2001 (deported from Tajikistan);
- Rukhiddin Fakhriddinov — religious figure, in custody since November 24, 2005;
- Erkin Musayev — a former military man, in custody since January 31, 2006;
- Saidkamol Abutov — brother of religious figure Muhammadsolikha Abutov, in custody since June 2008;
- Shavkat Ismoilov — journalist, in custody since September 30, 2008;
- Davron Tadjiev — journalist, in conclusion since September 30, 2008;
- Muhammadali Shahobiddinov — businessman, in custody since October 30, 2008;
- Bahrom Ibragimov is a journalist, in custody since February 16, 2009;
- Ravshanbek Vafoev — journalist, in custody since February 16, 2009;
- Botirbek Eshkuziev — journalist, in custody since February 16, 2009;
- Dilorom Abdukadyrova — victim of the Andijan tragedy of 2005, in custody since May 2010;
- Yuri Nikolaev — the son of human rights activist Tatyana Davlatova, in custody since August 22, 2011;
- Shukhrat Musin — a refugee, kidnapped on February 18, 2014 from the Republic of Kyrgyzstan;
- Rakhim Ibodov is an entrepreneur, in custody since August 16, 2015;
- Aramais Avakyan is an entrepreneur, in custody since September 4, 2015.