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Appeal of the civil society of the Central Asian countries to the international community, governments, international institutions on the situation in Karakalpakstan

July 2022

We, — non-gov­ern­ment­al organ­iz­a­tions, human rights defend­ers and civil act­iv­ists, express­ing our deep con­cern in con­nec­tion with dis­turb­ing events in the Repub­lic of Karakalpak­stan, call on the UN Human Rights Coun­cil, gov­ern­ments of demo­crat­ic coun­tries and inter­na­tion­al organ­iz­a­tions to address promptly the issue of the human rights situ­ation in the Repub­lic of Karakalpakstan.

On 26 June 2022 author­it­ies of Uzbek­istan pro­posed for pub­lic dis­cus­sion draft amend­ments to the Con­sti­tu­tion of Uzbek­istan. Accord­ing to pro­posed draft amend­ments to the sec­tion 17 of the Con­sti­tu­tion related to con­sti­tu­tion­al leg­al status of the Repub­lic of Karakalpak­stan fun­da­ment­al pro­vi­sion about sov­er­eign status of Repub­lic of Karakalpak­stan  (art­icle 70) and clause giv­ing it the right to secede on the basis of a ref­er­en­dum among people of Karakalpak­stan (art­icle 74) would be with­drawn. Thus, the attempt made by the author­it­ies of Uzbek­istan to deprive the Repub­lic of Karakalpak­stan of its sov­er­eignty is a gross viol­a­tion of the basic prin­ciple of inter­na­tion­al law — the right of peoples to self-determ­in­a­tion. This prin­ciple is enshrined in Art­icle 1 of the UN Charter.

Accord­ing to Inter­na­tion­al Cov­en­ant on Eco­nom­ic, Social and Cul­tur­al Rights and Inter­na­tion­al Cov­en­ant on Civil and Polit­ic­al Rights: “All peoples have the right of self-determ­in­a­tion. By vir­tue of that right they freely determ­ine their polit­ic­al status and freely pur­sue their eco­nom­ic, social and cul­tur­al devel­op­ment… The States Parties to the present Covenant…shall pro­mote the real­iz­a­tion of the right of self-determ­in­a­tion, and shall respect that right”. Declar­a­tion on Prin­ciples of Inter­na­tion­al Law con­cern­ing Friendly Rela­tions and Cooper­a­tion among States in accord­ance with the Charter of the United Nations also provides for: “By vir­tue of the prin­ciple of equal rights and self determ­in­a­tion of peoples enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, all peoples have the right freely to determ­ine, without extern­al inter­fer­ence, their polit­ic­al status and to pur­sue their eco­nom­ic, social and cul­tur­al devel­op­ment, and every State has the duty to respect this right in accord­ance with the pro­vi­sions of the Charter». Besides, accord­ing to the Declar­a­tion peoples’ right to self-determ­in­a­tion  can be exer­cised through “estab­lish­ment of a sov­er­eign and inde­pend­ent State, the free asso­ci­ation or integ­ra­tion with an inde­pend­ent State or the emer­gence into any oth­er polit­ic­al status”. Based on this Supreme Coun­cil of Karakalpak ASSR adop­ted a declar­a­tion on state sov­er­eignty declar­ing the inde­pend­ence of the state. 

Inter­gov­ern­ment­al agree­ment “On the entry of the Repub­lic of Karakalpak­stan into the Repub­lic of Uzbek­istan” for the peri­od on 20 years between Repub­lic of Karakalpak­stan and Uzbek­istan was signed on Janu­ary 9, 1993.  Art­icle 75 of the Con­sti­tu­tion of Repub­lic of Uzbek­istan states that mutu­al rela­tion­ship between the Repub­lic of Uzbek­istan and the Repub­lic of Karakalpak­stan, with­in the frame­work of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Repub­lic of Uzbek­istan, shall be reg­u­lated by treat­ies and agree­ments nego­ti­ated by the Repub­lic of Uzbek­istan and the Repub­lic of Karakalpak­stan. How­ever, uzbek author­it­ies attemp­ted to grossly viol­ate pro­vi­sions of their own Con­sti­tu­tion and agree­ment con­di­tions by dic­tat­ing their polit­ic­al will and uni­lat­er­ally deprive people of Karakalpak­stan of their sov­er­eign statehood.

It should also be noted that no con­sulta­tions or pub­lic dis­cus­sions with rep­res­ent­at­ives of Karakalpak­stan about the upcom­ing change in the con­sti­tu­tion­al status of the Repub­lic of Karakalpak­stan were organ­ized on the stage of devel­op­ment of draft amend­ments to the Con­sti­tu­tion. The amend­ments sub­mit­ted for pub­lic dis­cus­sion came as a com­plete sur­prise to the people of Karakalpakstan.

The extremely short peri­od (7 days) set  for the pub­lic dis­cus­sion of the draft amend­ments to the Basic Law con­firms polit­ic­al sub­ject­iv­ism and anti con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of inten­tions dir­ec­ted against interests of the peoples of Karakalpak­stan. The estab­lish­ment of  7‑day dis­cus­sion peri­od viol­ates the pro­vi­sions of Art­icle 24 of the Law of the Repub­lic of Uzbek­istan “On norm­at­ive leg­al acts” dated April 20, 2021, #LRU ‑682. Accord­ing to this law draft norm­at­ive leg­al acts shall be pos­ted by the developer on the portal and the time lim­it of pub­lic dis­cus­sion of draft norm­at­ive leg­al acts shall be determ­ined by the developer based on the spe­cif­ics of reg­u­lated pub­lic rela­tions and can­not be less than fif­teen days from the date of post­ing of draft norm­at­ive leg­al acts on the portal. Moreover, tak­ing into account that draft amend­ments are pro­posed to the Basic Law of the coun­try, such a dis­cus­sion should be car­ried out in the man­ner pre­scribed by the Law of the Repub­lic of Uzbek­istan “On the nation­wide dis­cus­sion of draft laws” with­in a peri­od suf­fi­cient for the form­a­tion of a gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion of the coun­try opin­ion, espe­cially res­id­ents of the Repub­lic of Karakalpak­stan, whose rights and interests are dir­ectly affected. At the present time it not pos­sible due to the intro­duc­tion of a state of emer­gency on the ter­rit­ory of Repub­lic of Karakalpak­stan  for the peri­od from July 3 to August 2, 2022 announced based on the Pres­id­ent of REpub­lic of Uzbek­istan Decree dated July 2. The state of emer­gency restricts not only the right of cit­izens to free­dom of move­ment with­in the repub­lic, entry and exit from it, but also allows legit­im­iz­ing the dis­con­nec­tion of the ter­rit­ory from means of com­mu­nic­a­tions, while pub­lic dis­cus­sion is being con­duc­ted on the Inter­net portal.

Giv­en these cir­cum­stances, the dis­cus­sion pro­ced­ure of the Draft Con­sti­tu­tion should be imme­di­ately sus­pen­ded until the state of emer­gency in the Repub­lic of Karakalpak­stan is lif­ted, the situ­ation is resolved and the pro­posed amend­ments are assessed against the norms and prin­ciples of inter­na­tion­al law and the cur­rent Con­sti­tu­tion of the Repub­lic of Uzbekistan.

The pro­posed con­sti­tu­tion­al reforms res­ul­ted in strong objec­tion lead­ing to massive ral­lies and civil protests, but instead of dia­logue, author­it­ies resor­ted to per­se­cu­tion of civil act­iv­ists and inde­pend­ent journ­al­ists cov­er­ing devel­op­ments on the ground and, moreover, viol­ated the right of all cit­izens of Uzbek­istan to access inform­a­tion, lim­it­ing Inter­net access from June 27, 2022 and on.

Pre­sum­ably on 29 June 2022, Karakalpak journ­al­ist of  Lolagul Kallykhan­ova was detained for speak­ing up against the con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments. On July 1, 2022, Uzbek author­it­ies kid­napped Dauletmur­at Tazhimur­atov — a law­yer and civil protest lead­er along with his wife and chil­dren. The where­abouts of Lolagul Kallykhan­ova, Dauletmur­at Tazhimur­atov and his fam­ily are still unknown, but accord­ing to some sources, Kallykhan­ova died of tor­ture and Tazhimur­atov is in crit­ic­al con­di­tion in the intens­ive care hos­pit­al in Khorezm.

On July 1, 2022, thou­sands of cit­izens came out to join a peace­ful rally. Des­pite the peace­ful nature of protest and dia­logue estab­lished with state rep­res­ent­at­ives (i.e. the goal of the peace­ful assembly was close to being achieved), the pro­test­ers were bru­tally dis­persed by law enforce­ment, using smoke bombs and rub­ber bullets.

By 11 p.m. on July 1, fire­arms were used against the pro­test­ers. Avail­able video foot­age shows large num­ber of injured, includ­ing fatal cas­u­al­ties. In addi­tion to inform­a­tion about 18 killed, con­firmed by the Uzbek author­it­ies, there were reports of dozens of people killed in the storm­ing by Uzbek secur­ity forces of the house of law­yer Dauletmur­at Tazhimuratov.

On July 2 the organ­izers and act­ive rally par­ti­cipants were detained. How­ever, there is no inform­a­tion avail­able about fur­ther fate of most of them.

By July 3, 2022, many act­iv­ists, includ­ing Abatov Bakhyt, Ramet­ov Kur­al, Amantai Sey­it­mur­atov, and Azizov Muham­med­in were detained. Bakirov Sabir, Kho­jan­ov Mukhamet, Kalimbetov Bayram and dozens of oth­ers were killed. There are incom­ing reports of arrests and tor­ture of Karakalpaks in Tashkent and oth­er cit­ies of Uzbekistan.

Since July 4, Karakalpak act­iv­ists in Kaza­kh­stan have been sub­jec­ted to inter­rog­a­tion and intim­id­a­tion by Uzbek law enforce­ment and spe­cial ser­vices. The law enforce­ment agen­cies of Kaza­kh­stan have act­ively con­trib­uted and assisted.

A grue­some alarm­ing situ­ation is fur­ther unfold­ing in the coun­try. It is known that in Uzbek­istan, per­se­cu­tion of dis­sid­ents, repres­sion, tor­ture, dis­ap­pear­ances, and har­ras­ment of inde­pend­ent media and journ­al­ists have long been a com­mon and wide­spread phe­nomen­on.  Evid­ently, little can be done to pro­tect human rights and pre­vent har­ass­ment by law enforce­ment agen­cies while access to reli­able inform­a­tion is lim­ited, Inter­net blocked, and media and non­gov­ern­ment­al organ­iz­a­tions strictly mon­itored and con­trolled. There are reports that since the state of emer­gency was intro­duced on 3 July 2022, Karakalpak act­iv­ists have been arres­ted and taken from their homes to unknown des­tin­a­tions, often dur­ing night time.

As a UN mem­ber and a party to the UN Uni­ver­sal Declar­a­tion of Human Rights, the Inter­na­tion­al Cov­en­ant on Civil and Polit­ic­al Rights, the Repub­lic of Uzbek­istan is obliged to respect and pro­tect human rights. How­ever, it is to our deep regret that we are forced to call upon the UN Human Rights Coun­cil to pro­tect the cit­izens of the Repub­lic of Karakalpak­stan, fear­lessly and justly defend­ing their legit­im­ate rights and interests against the pun­it­ive and aggress­ive policies of the Uzbek state.

We strongly condemn:

All forms of viol­ence against civilians, 

The use of excess­ive force by the author­it­ies to sup­press the con­flict instead of estab­lish­ing an in-depth and mean­ing­ful dia­logue between the parties and tak­ing effect­ive meas­ures to resolve it,

Arbit­rary arrests and tor­ture of pro­test­ers in Nukus,

Restric­tions on the rights of cit­izens to access information.

We con­sider it neces­sary to ensure the real­iz­a­tion of the rights of cit­izens of the Repub­lic of Uzbek­istan to free expres­sion of their opin­ion, peace­ful protest, access to inform­a­tion, pro­tec­tion from tor­ture and ill-treatment.

We demand to stop the per­se­cu­tion of civil­ians and act­iv­ists, restore inter­net con­nec­tion in Karakalpak­stan, allow media work freely, release those who have been detained and pro­sec­ute those whose actions have led to rights viol­a­tions of citizens.

Klara Sooronku­lova, School of Law Pub­lic Asso­ci­ation, Kyrgyzstan

Leila Nazgul Seiit­bek, Free­dom for Euras­ia NGO

Rita Karasartova, Human rights act­iv­ist, Kyrgyzstan

Asel Koilubaeva, Law­yers for Human Rights, Kyrgyzstan

Gul­nara Jura­bayeva, human rights defend­er, Kyrgyzstan

Ainura Usup­bekova, Civic Plat­form Pub­lic Found­a­tion, Kyrgyzstan

Aisu­luu Ait­bayeva NGO Insti­tute of Social Ana­lys­is, Kyrgyzstan

Erkina Uby­sheva, Smart Zhar­an Pub­lic Found­a­tion, Kyrgyzstan

Chin­ara Ait­bayeva, Nash Vek Pub­lic Found­a­tion, Kyrgyzstan

Bak­ty­bek Saty­bekov, Alli­ance on Civic Ini­ti­at­ives Pro­mo­tion, Kyrgyzstan

Tatuu Mam­betalieva, “Civil Ini­ti­at­ive on Inter­net Policy” Pub­lic Found­a­tion, Kyrgyzstan

Gul­gaky Mamas­a­lieva, Inter­bilim Inter­na­tion­al Cen­ter, Kyrgyzstan

Chol­pon Dzhak­upova, Head of Adi­let Leg­al Clin­ic, Kyrgyzstan

Dinara Oshurakhun­ova, Civil Ini­ti­at­ives Pub­lic Foundation

Kalicha Umur­alieva, Head of Nashe Pravo (Our Right) Pub­lic Found­a­tion, Kyrgyzstan

Serik Medet­bekov, For­eign Office of Oppos­i­tion of Kazakhstan

Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Karakalpak­stan in exile

Shirak Info Cen­ter — 2014

Nasyrad­din Nur­atdinov, “Aral-Zhaikhun”, Karakalpak Dia­spora in Kyrgyzstan

Kosshy­bay Kozhakov, Act­iv­ist, Asso­ci­ate mem­ber of the Inter­na­tion­al and Kyrgyz Academy of Engineering

Aman Sagidullayev Lead­er of the Alga Karakalpak­stan Demo­crat­ic Party

Kaza­kh­bay Bek­mur­atov Act­iv­ist, Chair­man of the Karakalpak Dia­spora in Atyrau, Kazakhstan

Niyet­bay Urazbaev, Act­iv­ist, Chair­man of the Karakalpak Dia­spora in Aktau, Kazakhstan

Tileu­biike Yul­dasheva Act­iv­ist, Human Rights Defend­er, Karakalpakstan

Zhangeldi Zhak­sym­betov Lead­er of the Azatlyk Demo­crat­ic Party, Karakalpakstan

Janatullo Komi­lov, Ver­ein­i­gung der Tad­schiken in Deutsch­land, Tajikistan

Jam­shed Yorov, Buzurgmehr Found­a­tion, Tajikistan

Fark­hod Odin­aev, Act­iv­ist, Tajikistan

Mikhail Savva, Board Chair­man of the Owl Expert Group, Ukraine