Police in Uzbekistan assaulted Elena Urlaeva, head of the Human Rights Allliance of Uzbekistan, for the second time in the last three months. Last week, the police confiscated 200 leaflets explaining national laws that prohibit forced labor from Ms. Urlaeva and left the “bravest person in Uzbekistan” with her leg in a cast.
On August 16, Ms. Urlaeva set off for the central hospital of Tashkent, where she planned to demand fair treatment for the activist Malokhat Eshonkulova. The national security service has apparently denied access to medical facilities to Ms. Eshonkulova, a former state TV journalist fired for exposing corruption and then an activist with the Birdamlik political movement who has suffered from an undiagnosed illness since 2013.
As Ms. Urlaeva exited the Buyuk Ipak Yuli metro stop, police attacked her, kicked her leg, arrested her, and took her to the police station in the Mirzo Ulugbekskogo district of Tashkent. Police officer Ilyas Mustafayev proceeded to confiscate from Ms. Urlaeva 200 pamphlets that explained national laws prohibiting forced labor. Ms. Urlaeva had begun to carry and distribute the pamphlets, published by the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, earlier this summer.
After the police detained Ms. Urlaeva for seven hours, she left with her husband and proceeded to a medical clinic, where doctors treated her for high blood pressure and applied a plaster cast to her injured leg. Not content with their actions thus far, the police then arrived at Ms. Urlaeva’s home and demanded her husband provide a false statement about the cause of her injuries.
This is the second time police have violently assaulted Elena Urlaeva in the last three months. On May 31, police arrested and brutalized her, as she was documenting systematic, government-organized forced labor in the country’s cotton fields.
The latest assault occurred a week after the Uzbek government met with the International Labour Organization, World Bank and several diplomatic missions in Tashkent to discuss the government’s systematic use of forced labor to produce cotton. The Uzbek government must cease retaliation against people who attempt to document abuses and promote human rights. And it is incumbent on the international organizations and governments engaging the Uzbek government to convey that such treatment of human rights activists is completely unacceptable and will threaten the viability of future projects; to take all necessary measures to prevent reprisals against people for monitoring or reporting on human rights violations; to seek an enforceable commitment from the government that it will not interfere with independent reporting; and to end projects if any more violent attacks against human rights monitors occur.