Human Rights Watch accuses Uzbekistan of using unacceptable force in Karakalpakstan

Human Rights Watch accuses Uzbekistan of using unacceptable force in Karakalpakstan

Uzbekistan used “unjustifiable” force in its autonomous Karakalpakstan region to put down protesters in July, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The response included the inappropriate use of small arms and grenades, according to the New York-based rights group. The Uzbek authorities said the violence left at least 21 people dead, including four law enforcement personnel, and more than 270 people injured. 

HRW reported that isolated acts of violence were carried out by protesters but the demonstrations were “largely peaceful”. The Tashkent authorities labelled the protests as riots backed by “external forces”. 

The autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan covers about a third of Uzbek territory and became part of Uzbekistan in 1993. Both Uzbek and Karakalpak are official languages in the Central Asian autocracy.

Hugh Williamson, HRW’s regional director, said: “Uzbekistan owes it to the victims to properly investigate how this happened and to hold accountable those responsible for serious violations.”

On July 15, the Uzbek parliament created a commission to probe events in Karakalpakstan but no report has been released. 

HRW said it verified 55 videos of the protests and assessed numerous videos and photographs of protesters from Nukus, the regional capital in the sprawling region of around 2 million people.

It said it had identified at least seven cases where deaths were caused by severe tissue damage, probably from explosives.

“In none of the scenes identified by Human Rights Watch where grenades or small arms ammunition were used did it appear that the lives of security force personnel or of others were under threat,” the report said. 

Two videos from near the Tashkent Hotel in Nukus appeared to show skin lacerations and gaping flesh wounds consistent with grenade use. 

Rohini Haar, an emergency physician, described one victim’s wounds to HRW: “There is a bone out, a huge cavity, bleeding, spinal cord damage, and that is just on the face of it. 

“He is alive in the video and the doctor is trying to find all the bleeding vessels and clamp them off. But I can see he is bleeding out; it is not clear if he will survive this. If he does, he will not walk again.”

The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials state that security forces should “apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms” and always use the minimal possible force.


Nukus. Picture credit: Wikimedia 




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