Human rights defenders in Uzbekistan continue to be systematically persecuted. Torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, fabricated prosecutions, imprisonment and excessive force are used by law enforcement officials to prevent them from carrying out their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights. The severity of the repression has contributed to a number of defenders being forced to go into exile. Human rights defenders and independent journalists continue to face physical attacks, which remain unpunished. Serious obstacles to freedom of peaceful assembly persist.
There are grave concerns for the health of several defenders who remain in long term detention. The situation in Uzbek detention facilities is in general very poor and the conditions for human rights defenders in particular are a cause for concern. According to reports by human rights activists and relatives of prisoners, prisons are overcrowded and tuberculosis and hepatitis are endemic, making even short periods of incarceration potentially life threatening. The use of torture and ill-treatment in pre-trial facilities and prisons is widespread. The government also routinely increases the prison terms of human rights defenders as they approach the end of the sentences they were initially ordered to serve, coming up with trumped-up charges of minor violations of prison discipline.
One of the strategies used to silence human rights defenders is to impose upon many of them excessive prison sentences, although a number of defenders were granted early release in 2017 due, in part, to the political transition following the death of former president Islam Karimov in autumn 2016. Following his installation as President on 14 December 2016, Shavkat Mirziyoyev implemented legal reforms to reduce the power of national security services and increase economic liberalisation. During a rare visit in October 2017 by UN Special Procedures, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Beliefs Ahmad Shahid welcomed these new reforms and emphasised that they should be aimed towards protecting human rights."