ARTICLE 19: Uzbekistan elections a farce of democracy

ARTICLE 19 has called the Uzbekistan presidential elections, which will be held on Saturday 29th March 2015, an insult to democracy.

Katie Morris, Head of Europe and Central Asia, said:

“The persecution of media and civil society, the lack of any genuine opposition and the very fact of Islam Karimov’s participation in the elections are an insult to democracy. They render the electoral process a farce.

Karimov has ruled Uzbekistan since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, presiding over one of the most repressive regimes in the world. He has modified the presidential term and election rules several times in his favour, has been re-elected three times since the fall of the Soviet Union, and his office has been extended twice through referenda.

“Uzbekistan has a grave history of human rights violations, including the systematic use of torture within the criminal justice system. Karimov has eliminated all political opposition, paralysed civil society and silenced independent media, with the number of people in prison on politically-motivated charges reaching thousands. Ten years after the Andijan massacre, when authorities shot dead hundreds of mostly unarmed protesters, no one has been held accountable and those suspected of participating in the protest continue to be persecuted.”

ARTICLE 19 believes the lack of any genuine opposition negates the very essence of an election, contradicting the principle of competition, and depriving the citizens of Uzbekistan of any choice other than Islam Karimov. Moreover, the lack of independent media and civil society organisations and the threat of violence against anyone wishing to dissent, has resulted in a total lack of space to protest, reinforcing the status quo.

Ms Morris added: “For too long, the dire situation regarding democracy and human rights in Uzbekistan has been overlooked by the international community. ARTICLE 19 calls on the international community to recognise that the absence of political opposition and lack of free media and civil society in Uzbekistan mean that the forthcoming elections there are illegitimate. In particular ARTICLE 19 requests that the Limited Election Observation Mission of the OSCE/ODIHR recognises the utter lack of competition of the current elections, and condemns the electoral process as a farce of democracy.”

ARTICLE 19 further notes that Uzbekistan has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees the right to freedom of expression and enshrines the principle of genuine elections. It therefore urges governments to use all means at their disposal to ensure that the government of Uzbekistan ensures full respect for human rights, including civil and political rights; that political prisoners, journalists and human rights activists jailed for critical reporting are released; and the Uzbek authorities guarantee the safety of political opponents of the regime, human rights defenders and their families, both inside the country and abroad.