Uzbekistan: Defender of freedom of expression and LGBTI rights threatened and attacked (joint communication)

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On 4 June 2021, I wrote to the Government of Uzbekistan regarding the alleged physical attack and prosecution of the blogger and human rights defender, Mr. Miraziz Bazarov. The attacks were reportedly related to his human rights activities, including advocating for LGBTI rights. The communication was written jointly with the Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

In the communication we expressed concern that the physical attack appears to have targeted Mr. Bazarov for his work in defence of the right to freedom of expression. We also expressed concern over the lack of investigation into the online threats he had received since supporting the call for the decriminalisation of consensual sexual relations between men in Uzbekistan, and the potentially harmful impact this could have on all those working in the field of LGBTI rights in the country.

Mr. Miraziz Bazarov is a human rights defender and independent blogger. On his social media accounts, he advocates for the decriminalisation of consensual sexual relations between men in Uzbekistan. Mr. Bazarov has also been outspoken about corruption and the lack of transparency over the use of COVID-19- related funds by the authorities.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication

On 22 February 2021, Mr. Bazarov called for a boycott of the upcoming presidential elections, which he perceived as unfair. On 5 March 2021, he expressed support for a joint statement published by human rights organisations calling for decriminalising consensual sexual relations between men in Uzbekistan.

In the weeks after making the two statements, Mr. Bazarov began receiving online threats. Individuals, who are believed to be affiliated with the State security apparatus, posted his home address online and started a wide-scale smear campaign against him on social media. Mr. Bazarov filed complaints with State authorities, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service, however they allegedly refused to accept them.

On 28 March 2021, a group of unknown individuals attacked Japanese anime and Korean pop music fans in Tashkent, reportedly because they perceived them as LGBTI activists. The Ministry of Internal Affairs shortly thereafter published a video blaming the attacks on what he qualified as Mr. Bazarov’s promotion of homosexuality in a traditional society.

The same day, three unknown individuals, who according to the information we received may have been plainclothes security officers, or affiliated with the security service, brutally beat Mr. Bazarov outside his home in Tashkent. As a result of the attack, Mr. Bazarov suffered serious injuries, including a fractured leg and concussion.

His injuries were treated at the Republican Clinical Hospital No. 1, where he stayed until 29 April 2021. During this time, he was under constant police surveillance. He was reportedly not allowed to use his smartphone, receive information, or talk to anyone except his mother and his lawyer (who were also not allowed to visit him for the first several days). Mr. Bazarov was reportedly forced to stay in the hospital longer than needed for treatment.

On 30 March 2021, while Mr. Miraziz Bazarov was still in hospital, law enforcement officers allegedly conducted an unwarranted search of his home and seized his computer. On 31 March 2021, they allegedly searched the home of Mr. Bazarov ’ s mother and seized her laptop as well as Mr. Bazarov’s cameras and mobile phones. The seized electronic devices allegedly contained sensitive information.

On 29 April 2021, upon his release from the hospital, Mr. Bazarov was taken to the Tashkent police department and charged with “defamation with a profit motive or other foul motives” (article 139 (3) (d) of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan) and “ insult ” (article 140 of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan). The charges allegedly relate to critical online statements he made about school teachers and several other persons. The basis for which is purported to be 29 complaints submitted to the police between 1 and 20 April 2021.

In May, he received a further charge of defamation. The referred individuals who ran the smear campaign against him and published his home address online, are the ones who support the accusations against him.

Mr. Bazarov is being kept under house arrest pending trial. If found guilty, he could face up to three years of imprisonment. The police have reportedly begun an investigation into the physical attack of Mr. Bazarov, but the status or results are unclear.


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