Uzbekistan: ten years after the Andijan massacre, the human rights situation is worse than ever
In addition to setting a precedent, indifference disregards the hundreds of unarmed men, women, and children buried in unmarked mass graves after being were indiscriminately shot by the army. It denies them justice, which remains elusive after the sham trial organised by the Uzbek authorities.
The biggest tragedy suffered by the Uzbek nation since its independence in 1991, the massacre has led to even poorer human rights conditions in the country, a country that today counts thousands of political prisoners. "The tragedy of the Andijan massacre continues today since everyone, including the victims, prefers to remain silent out of fear of harassment, prosecution, prison and torture," deplores Mutabar Tadjibaeva, head of the Fiery Hearts Club, a FIDH member organisation.
On 13 May 13 2005, the world was appalled by the unprecedented massacre of civilians in the eastern city of Andijan in Uzbekistan. That day, thousands of protesters gathered in the town’s main square. Hours later soldiers began shooting at them, killing hundreds. The number of dead has never been independently verified. The Uzbek authorities put the death toll at 187, but others estimate that there may have been as many as1,000 victims.
Ten years after the bloody repression of a peaceful demonstration demanding reforms and increased freedom, no independent investigation has been approved by the government and those who dare to raise the issue of the government-orchestrated massacre languish in prison or have been forced into exile.
Today, human rights organisations estimate that there are between 10,000 and 12,000 people detained on politically motivated charges in Uzbekistan. The exact number is hard to establish and information about detentions is scarce as State repression makes it impossible for human rights organisations to carry out monitoring activities.
“Allegations of torture and inhuman treatment in detention cannot be investigated independently. Nonetheless our last report shows that torture remains systematic and impunity still prevails, as torturers go unpunished,” states Christine Laroque, head of the Central Asia and Asia desk at ACAT.
“The few independent and foreign media left in the country were banned immediately following the massacre. Media offices were shut down, foreign correspondents were kicked out, and the main independent news websites have been blocked ever since,” recalls Johann Bihr, head of Eastern Europe and Central Asia Desk at RSF. The regime’s fierce grip on society eliminates any critical voices that could expose the country’s violations of human rights: forced labour and continued child slavery in cotton fields, forced sterilization of women, absence of independent media and political participation, arbitrary detention, and torture.
Today, ten years after the massacre, sanctions introduced by the international community have been lifted, yet the human rights situation is more dire than ever. FIDH, ACAT, RSF, and the Fiery Hearts Club denounce the silence that surrounds the issue of the Andijan massacre and urge states to condition their partnership with Uzbekistan on verifiable improvement of the human rights situation.