Pardoning bypasses political dissidents in Uzbekistan

Salijon Abdurahmanov, 62, was not pardoned, again
An amnesty in honour of the 20th anniversary of the Uzbek constitution has been applied to 840 convicts, the country's Interior Ministry says, but there are no political dissidents among them, human rights activists say.

The ministry's statement says that 840 convicts applied for pardoning between 5 December 2012, when the amnesty was declared, and 10 January.

Out of them 837 have already been relieved of their punishments and released.

Among them one disabled, over 200 women, more than 10 underage and more than 500 who committed crime for the first time, unintentionally or petty crimes that posed no threat to society, the statement said.

The release of only one disabled person but hundreds of other convicts was described as an "act of humanism" by the ministry.

Many other magniloquent words like "freedom", "great value", "justice", "repentance" and "benevolence" that were used in the statement perhaps aimed to attach humanistic persuasion to government actions.

However, they have not explained the main thing - the essence of their selective filtration of dozens of thousands of the country's prisoners as who has to be in prison or released.

The implementation of an amnesty in Uzbekistan is not held without public discussion, the amnesty commission's work is not transparent and the public
does not know where and when it sits.

Political prisoners not considered

This "humanity" is extremely selective, said Vasilya Inoyatova, head of the Ezgulik human rights society.

According to her information, there is a special order not to release even one political prisoner under the amnesty which will last until 5 March.

This category includes about 10,000 convicts of religious extremism under Article 159 of the Criminal Code "attempting at the constitutional court" and dozens of human rights activists, journalists and opposition members.

Inoyatova provided the case of Erk party activist Murod Jurayev who was sentenced in 1994. He was detained in Almaty where he was publishing the Erk party newspaper with other activists.

"He has been in prison for almost 20 years," she said. "He has aged, with no teeth left. He may die in prison tomorrow but he would not be released."

She also mentioned another political prisoner - Ezgulik activist from Angren Abdurasul Hudoynazarov who was sentenced in 2006 to 9.5 years.

"He is ill and so desperate that he has tried to commit suicide four times," Inoyatova said. "But authorities are not releasing him because he is a former police officer who exposed the system."

Trade in political prisoners

Only external pressure can help political prisoners in Uzbekistan, Inoyatova believes.

The Uzbek regime would release its opponents if some of them become a subject of trade when Tashkent's Western partners condition the release of a political prisoner in signing agreements, she said.

Asked what Uzbekistan's civil society could do for political prisoners, she replied: "Nothing."

Our numbers are becoming smaller and smaller," she said. "How can three people under constant pressure help 29 million people who cannot defend themselves?"

Vasilya Inoyatova
"Our numbers are becoming smaller and smaller," she said. "How can three people under constant pressure help 29 million people who cannot defend themselves?"

She said the remaining activists and herself were trying everything possible but their powers were limited.

"It is a horrible picture," Inoyatova concluded. "I am doing what I can but I cannot guarantee the release of political prisoners."

Ezgulik is preparing a report on Uzbekistan's human rights record in 2012 and intends to invite government officials to its presentation.

She said the report would reflect the worst problems of last year - torture, violence against women and the prosecution of human rights activists.