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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 06, 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clause giving it the right to secede on the basis of a referendum among people of Karakalpakstan (article 74) would be withdrawn.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

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