29 january 2020

Central Asia news

Tortures in Uzbekistan: The position of former prisoner Sanjar Umarov produced sharp criticism from his "colleagues"

07.10.2010 16:44 msk

H. Sayid Akhun

Human Rights Uzbekistan

Uzbek dissidents and human rights advocates, representatives of civil sector sharply criticized the statements of Sanjar Umarov, the prominent businessman and former head of Sunny Coalition opposition movement, he shared in the interview with The New York Times. Specifically, the Uzbek dissidents were at least surprised to hear from Umarov that the tortures, he witnessed, "were not the result of state policy, but the private initiative of criminals, working for this government". In the opinion of many Uzbek civil activists, Umarov intentionally "distorts the reality": the real situation is different from what was described by former opposition leader. First-hand comments are provided in the special article of Ferghana.Ru

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Tashpulat Yuldashev – the famous political scientist, former USSR Foreign Ministry worker, currently residing in USA – says that he has been studying the problem of tortures in the investigative institutions and prisons during 2005-2007.

"I had the opportunity to check all information, provided by my sources – says Tashpulat Yuldashev. – For example, the relatives of one prisoner provided $100-1000 through my source (the officer) whose commission charge was 40 percent. Everyone was happy. One day I learned that this officer started torturing the prisoners, to whom he supplied money. It turned out that it was the fault of the prisoners who carelessly said that this officer was too kind and fair. The top management immediately warned this officer "he did not fit the position". In response, the officer started torturing everyone who could say he was kind warden".

According to Yuldashev, the prisoners are exposed to tortures systematically, which are approved by the top management; this is important part of state policy, "targeted at terrorizing its own nation in order to keep it in fear and obedience".

"I think such good-natured man as Sanjar Umarov is not able to believe that physical tortures are the product of repressive state policy. However, the systematic tortures have been openly practiced since 1999. Perhaps, one of the reasons of Sanjar’s release mentioned that he must have provided the foreign media with refutation of systematic tortures at the state level in Uzbekistan", Yuldashev concluded.

Bakhadyr Namazov, the former teammate of Solnechnaya koaliciya (Sunny coalition) leader, the prominent opposition member and human rights activist, the leader of unofficial Committee for Protection of Prisoners of Conscience, also disagreed with the statement of Sanjar Umarov.

Bakhadyr Namazov
"If the top officials wanted to eliminate tortures they would do it long ago. They are perfectly aware who is doing what; they provide patronage and stimulate these people. If they cut 10% of the employees in law enforcement structures they could buy and install video cameras everywhere", Namazov noted.

The prominent sociologist Bakhadyr Musaev said Umarov’s statement was "absurd". "It turns out that the solution of vital problems and ensuring personal security is forced not in our country, not our people’s minds believe that the problems may be solved only through force, not our people have fear, not our political system failed miserably in controlling the observance of human rights", ironically said Musaev.

Bakhadyr Musaev
"I would like to underline that Sanjar Umarov contradicts himself, saying that Islam Karimov is personally not involved in the tortures. The entire point is in this statement; in other words, this was the main message of this statement. This is explainable, considering the new wave of relations between USA and Uzbekistan", the expert concluded.

The anonymous representative of Ezgulik, the unregistered human rights organization in Uzbekistan, gave the following comment: "In my opinion, this is the subjective conclusion of Sanjar Umarov. However, one cannot deny the fact of mass tortures. Not surprisingly, his interview in The New York Times coincided with the visit of President Karimov to USA. Even if these are "private initiatives" such crimes must be punished by the state". It has to be mentioned that Ezgulik representatives, reporting in the international conferences and seminars, affirm that tortures became common things in Uzbekistan.

Nadezhda Ataeva, the head of France-based Association "For human rights in Central Asia" also expressed her disappointment with Umarov’s thoughts.

Nadezhda Ataeva
"Undoubtedly, Sanjar Umarov is the victim of tortures. But his ideas are disappointing; from the very beginning his story looks like a deal, where he is trying to gain benefits. After publication of this interview, he distanced away from everyone", Nadezhda Atayeva underlined.

Mutabar Tajibaeva, the prominent human rights advocate and the winner of three prestigious international awards in this area, told Ferghana.Ru that after every amnesty act there was "terror" in the prisons and colonies of Uzbekistan. "Did not Sanjar Umarov witnessed this terror?" she asked.

Mutabar Tajibaeva
"I am absolutely shocked by his statement. Justifying the government of Uzbekistan, which organized this terror, Sanjar Umarov is spitting on all the victims of this total disorder!".

The opinion about the involvement of official authorities in the tortures is also shared by Ulugbek Khaidarov, the journalist and former prisoner.

"I personally had to deal with their horrible attitude, I witnessed tortures…Perhaps, I could agree with Umarov to a certain extent, but I would like to highlight that every torture was put on video camera in my colony. I believe, this was shown to someone. I do not think this was the case of personal video collection of the jailer. This was documented evidence of the order; therefore, the tortures remain the element of state policy", said Ulugbek Khaidarov in his comments to Ferghana.Ru.

Ulugbek Khaidarov
Concluding the opinions of civil sector representatives, it needs to be underlined that in the last 1.5 years at least 10-15 bodies of the prisoners were released from the colonies in Uzbekistan; later on, the relatives of the victims reported the signs of tortures at their bodies. For instance, Agzam Turgunov, the head of Mazlum human rights organization, once showed the sign of burns at his body, put by the investigator. In this and other cases the parties in fault were not punished.

Ferghana.Ru invites honored Sanjar Umarov to continue the discussion of this topic. We are also ready to accept for publication the stories from other former prisoners of jails in Uzbekistan in order to finally reveal the truth in this area. The stories must be addressed to ferghana@fergananews.com or in the comments to this article here.

H. Sayid Akhun