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Uzbekistan 2023

The alleged organizers of mass protests in 2022 were sentenced in unfair trials on politically motivated charges. Authorities tightened their grip on critical voices, especially on social media. Torture and ill-treatment remained widespread in places of detention, and impunity was commonplace for those suspected of criminal responsibility. Amendments to the criminal and administrative codes criminalized domestic violence. The exercise of the right to freedom of religion remained tightly controlled.


Controversial changes to the constitution, which had led to mass protests in Karakalpakstan in 2022, were adopted following a referendum in April.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev was elected uncontested to a new seven-year term in June.

Unfair trials

Dozens of people connected with the violently suppressed mass protests in Karakalpakstan were convicted in unfair trials on politically motivated charges throughout the year.

On 31 January, a court in the city of Bukhara, eastern Uzbekistan, sentenced lawyer and editor Dauletmurat Tazhimuratov to 16 years’ imprisonment over alleged violent crimes in relation to the protests. The judges dismissed his allegations of torture and video footage from the protests that showed him urging the crowd not to resort to violence. Human rights defenders monitoring the trial expressed concern that the 21 co-defendants of Dauletmurat Tazhimuratov were coerced into incriminating him in exchange for lighter sentences. On 6 June, the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan upheld his verdict on appeal. He maintained his innocence.

Excessive use of force

Despite widespread allegations of unlawful use of force against peaceful protesters in Karakalpakstan, only three members of the security forces were held accountable. According to a statement issued by the Supreme Court in August, two unnamed police officers were convicted of torturing detainees and sentenced to seven years in prison, and a third was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for failing to assist a dying person.

Freedom of expression

Defamation and insult, including insulting the president, remained criminal offences. Authorities tightened their grip on critical voices, especially those on social media.

At least 10 bloggers were convicted on allegedly fabricated and politically motivated charges for critical online publications.

In February, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that the detention of Otabek Sattoriy was arbitrary and called for his release. He was serving a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence on defamation and extortion charges for his criticism of corruption among local officials. In April, he was denied a transfer to less harsh prison conditions because of alleged violations of prison rules, but was eventually transferred to an open-type prison in December.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread in places of detention and impunity remained commonplace for those suspected of criminal responsibility.

There was no progress in the implementation of proposals made by the Prosecutor General’s Office in 2021 to address torture by reforming the criminal code, establishing independent mechanisms to monitor torture complaints, improving prison conditions and addressing reparations for torture.

The parliamentary commission set up in July 2022 to investigate the violence in Karakalpakstan, including the torture allegations, had still failed to publish a report on its findings by the end of the year.

In November, two UN Special Rapporteurs expressed concern for the safety and well-being of Daulemurat Tazhimuratov (see above, Unfair trials) after his lawyer reported that his mental and physical health had significantly deteriorated in September. He had been kept in solitary confinement with no access to information and denied adequate healthcare and food.

During his appeal hearing in October, imprisoned blogger Abdukodir Muminov told the court that police had “electrocuted my body, kicked and crushed my genitals, repeatedly hit my leg with a special baton … [and] broke my rib” to force a confession. The court failed to order an investigation into his claims of torture.

Gender-based violence

In April, legislative amendments criminalized domestic violence as a separate offence for the first time and provided women and children who are victims of violence with additional protection mechanisms.1 These new legal protections were, however, officially described as “strengthening the institution of the family” and were undermined by officials prioritizing reconciliation and reunification of families over the protection of women’s and children’s rights.

In September, the Committee on Family and Women’s Affairs reported that the Ministry of Internal Affairs had issued 21,871 protection orders to women who had experienced violence or abuse between January and August. Most cases, and 84.7% of the orders related to domestic violence, ended in reconciliation.

LGBTI people’s rights

The draft criminal code retained an article criminalizing consensual sexual relations between adult men. During his visit in March, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged authorities to exclude this article.

Uzbekistan accepted all the recommendations made by states at the UPR of its human rights record in November, except for those on LGBTI people’s rights. The government cited “generally accepted norms” as the reason for declining to implement these recommendations.

Freedom of religion and belief

Authorities continued to restrict the exercise of religious freedom despite repeated promises to eliminate restrictions and amend the 2021 Law on Religion.

Authorities persisted in prosecuting devout Muslims on overly broad and vaguely worded “extremism-related” charges and failed to investigate their allegations of torture and ill-treatment. Student Sardor Rakhmankulov, sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in January for sharing an Islamic religious song via social media, alleged in court that police had suffocated him with a plastic bag and taken turns kicking him. An appeal court failed to consider his allegations of torture.

Workers’ rights

In August, CEE Bankwatch Network and the Uzbek Forum for Human Rights lodged a complaint against the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The complaint, filed with the bank’s Independent Project Accountability Mechanism, related to its failure to address concerns about illegal land confiscations, exploitative contracts, and mass redundancies at Indorama Agro, one of Uzbekistan’s largest private cotton producers, before releasing funds. Managers had been actively trying to dismantle Indorama’s workers’ union, the only independent trade union in the country.

Right to a healthy environment

Uzbekistan’s energy sector remained heavily dependent on fossil fuels and continued to heavily subsidize the use of fossil fuels. In October, the government signed an agreement with the World Bank to fund national policies to reduce emissions, including through subsidy reform and carbon market transactions.

Air pollution in major population centres, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels for energy and transport, regularly reached levels classified as dangerous. Research by the World Bank and the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction found that mortality attributable to particulate air pollution aggravated by dust from encroaching desertification had resulted in an economic loss equivalent to 6% of GDP.

  1. “Uzbekistan: Parliament passes long-overdue legislation criminalizing domestic violence”, 6 April