Uzbekistan: End Prolonged Detention of Human Rights Defender
Uzbek government should unconditionally release Uktam Pardaev
(December 18, 2015): The government of Uzbekistan should immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Uktam Pardaev. The Uzbek authorities arrested him on November 16 on spurious charges and have kept him in arbitrary detention in retaliation for Mr. Pardaev’s detailed reporting of state-led forced labor and corruption.
“The authorities should immediately drop the retaliatory charges against Uktam Pardaev,” said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum. “We call on the Uzbek government to stop forced labor and to permit activists, journalists and independent monitors to investigate and report human rights concerns without fear of reprisals.”
Uktam Pardaev is a renowned human rights monitor and advocate based in Jizzak, Uzbekistan. As a member of the Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan, he has documented human rights violations, including state-orchestrated forced labor in the cotton sector and official corruption since 2005. During the 2015 cotton harvest, Mr. Pardaev was consulted by the World Bank and International Labor Organization, and reported to the Cotton Campaign.
On November 16, police in Jizzakh arrested Pardaev and confiscated his computer, camera and files. The legal grounds for this search remain unknown. The police charged Mr. Pardaev with fraud and bribery based on the specious testimony of a woman who had previously sought Mr. Pardaev’s assistance. The police charged Pardaev despite the fact that the woman previously gave Pardaev a written statement that police had asked her to put illegal drugs in his house to frame him and confirming that she and Pardaev had not exchanged any money.
Then police promised Mr. Pardaev’s family that they would release him in exchange for 3.5 million soums (approximately $700) in “compensation” for his alleged crime, in accordance with a presidential decree promising amnesty to everyone detained on non-violent charges who paid compensation. Despite asserting Pardaev’s innocence, his family paid hoping to secure his release. Police took the money but refused to release Mr. Pardaev.
“The arbitrary detention of Utkam Pardaev exposes the Uzbek government’s lack of commitment to ending forced labor,” said Umida Niyazova, director of the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights. “If the government has nothing to hide it should allow human rights defenders to work unimpeded. The ILO, World Bank, European Union, German and U.S. governments should publicly denounce Pardaev’s arrest and make clear that the safety of human rights defenders is a key condition for all cooperation.”