EXTERNAL AI Index: EUR 62/08/97
UA 402/97 Fear of torture/ill-treatment / Possible
prisoners of conscience 19 December 1997
UZBEKISTAN More than 100 people, including:
Mukhammadzhon Yuldashev, Ilkhom Mamadaliyev, Alisher Nashmiddinov, Odilshon
Obidkhonov, Abdufattakh Nazarov, Bakhodir Rakhimzhon ugly,
Rashid Ogalikov, Dilshod, Tokhirzhon, Khasanboy, Olimzhon
Akhmadali, Abdullo, Kodirkhon, Valikhon, Ibrokhimzhon,
Ibrokhim, Khayntboy, Mukhammadzhon
More than 100 people are reported to have been arbitrarily detained since 3
December 1997 in the town of Namangan in the far east of Uzbekistan following
the brutal killing of several police officers and regional officials. All
of those detained are said to have been verbally abused, threatened, beaten
and ill-treated in detention. It is believed that they have not had access
to lawyers or to their families, further heightening concern for their safety.
According to unofficial sources, special Interior Ministry troops were brought
into Namangan following the murder on 2 December of the city traffic police
chief. This was the sixth unexplained murder of police officers and regional
officials in Uzbekistan since November 1997. A further three officers were
killed in Namangan on 16 December. Police reportedly began arbitrarily detaining
young men with beards in the streets of Namangan, calling them "Wahhabists"
(members of a strict islamic sect) and threatening to cut off their beards
and take their money. It has been alleged that weapons and narcotics have
openly been planted on those detained by the police in order to fabricate a
criminal case against them.
There is very little information available on the detainees, mainly because
they were picked up in the streets or the mosques without arrest warrants and
because they were not allowed to contact their relatives.
Islam is the dominant religion in Uzbekistan, and is officially regulated
through the Spiritual Directorate for Muslims, a state-sponsored body, whose
Chairman is also Chief Mufti of Uzbekistan. Since independence in 1991 Islamic
worship has undergone a particularly strong revival in the Fergana Valley,
a densely populated region of eastern Uzbekistan. Assumptions (common
particularly in the Russian and Western media) that this revival is
"fundamentalist" in character, however, are generally misplaced. Many of the
Islamic congregations in the Fergana valley have been organized independently
and prefer not to affiliate to the Spiritual Directorate for Muslims. This
growth of "unregulated" Islam has provoked a backlash from the state
authorities. There have been widespread reports of harassment of "independent"
Muslims, including short-term arbitrary arrest, interference with worship and
Islamic teaching, beatings of people who have tried to demonstrate in opposition
to government policy towards "independent" Muslims, and even harassment for
observing Islamic dress codes.
In some of the most serious cases, individuals have been punished with long
periods of imprisonment on apparently fabricated charges. At least three
Islamic leaders from the Fergana valley have "disappeared" since 1992.