Case History: Mutabar Tadjibaeva
Because of her work, Mutabar Tadjibaeva has been threatened, jailed, tortured and raped. Since 2009, she has been living in France as a political refugee.
Mutabar Tadjibaeva is an independent journalist and human rights defender. She is a fearless critic of the Uzbek government and openly spoke out against the massacre of mainly unarmed civilians by government forces in Andijan in May 2005. She is the President of the Fiery Hearts Club and has long helped ordinary people seek justice. In Uzbekistan, Mutabar investigated drug trafficking, corruption and human rights violations.
Front Line is deeply concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of human rights defender Mutabar Tadjibaeva following reports that she is being denied access to adequate medical treatment. Mutabar Tadjibaeva is the Chairperson of the human rights organisation “Plammenoe Serdtse” (Fiery Hearts Club) in the city of Ferghana. On 2 June 2008, she was released from Tashkent Women's Prison, where she was serving an 8-year sentence following a trial in which she was accused of slandering government bodies, holding unauthorized rallies, setting up illegal organisations, fraud, extortion, embezzlement, tax evasion and distributing material that poses a threat to public security and order. She is now serving a 3-year suspended sentence.
Posted 09/07/2008 On 4 July 2008, Mutabar Tadjibaeva released a statement in which she claimed that the government of Uzbekistan had compromised her health through negligent treatment and unnecessary surgical procedures. The human rights defender stated that her health had noticeably deteriorated in the three years she had spent in prison and that she had not felt well since undergoing a surgical procedure whilst under the care of the prison services. She further claims that the authorities did not specify the reasons for the surgery, nor did they provide her with her medical records or results upon her release.
Mutabar Tadjibaeva is furthermore unable to receive adequate post-surgical care due to the authorities' decision to prohibit her from leaving the city of Margilan, where she currently resides. This means that Mutabar Tadjibaeva currently has no access to adequate healthcare.
Front Line believes that the restriction of Mutabar Tadjibaeva's freedom of movement and the de facto denial of adequate medical treatment, is directly linked to her peaceful and legitimate work in defense of human rights. In light of reports of her ill-health, Front Line fears for Mutabar Tadjibaeva's physical and psychological integrity.
On 2 June 2008 Uzbek human rights defender Mutabar Tadjibaeva was released from the Tashkent Women’s Prison where she had been frequently detained in solitary confinement in the psychiatric wing of the prison. Mutabar Tadjibaeva was arrested in 2005, while on her way to attend the Front Line Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders, and subsequently sentenced to eight years in prison.
Tadjibaeva was paroled on June 2, 2008, after serving two years and eight months of her eight-year prison sentence. Although released, Tadjibaeva was not amnestied and will continue to serve a three-year suspended sentence. Tadjibaeva told Human Rights Watch immediately after her release on June 2 that she believes she was paroled because of her medical condition. She was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and underwent surgery on March 18, 2008, at the Tashkent Oncological Hospital. She described her condition as very weak and stated that she is suffering from anemia.
Front Line is gravely concerned following reports of the ongoing detention and further ill-treatment of Mutabar Tadjibaeva, human rights defender and Chairperson of the human rights organisation “Plammenoe Serdtse” (Fiery Hearts Club) in Ferghana city. Mutabar Tadjibaeva was arrested on 7 October 2005 and subsequently sentenced to 8 years in prison on 6 March 2006. She is currently being detained at Tashkent Prison. Front Line has previously expressed concern in relation to the continued detention of Mutabar Tadjibaeva, most recently on 27 July 2007.
On 8 October 2007, Mutabar Tadjibaeva's family received reports that she is being held in solitary confinement for long periods. The punishment cell in which she is being detained is reportedly dark and damp, and has a rope tied from the ceiling. Prison authorities have allegedly told Mutabar Tadjibaeva that she can commit suicide using the rope and she has allegedly been subjected to ill-treatment by female officers at Tashkent Prison. Her health is continuing to deteriorate and she is in urgent need of medical assistance as she suffers from high blood pressure and is suffering from a kidney-related illness caused by the cold conditions in solitary confinement. Relatives who visited her in prison at the end of August claim that she has lost considerable weight and that she has a persistent cough.
Mutabar Tadjibaeva has been in detention since 28 March 2005, and has previously been subjected to long periods of time in solitary confinement. She was also held in a psychiatric unit for mentally ill and drug-addicted persons, located in a women's detention centre in the Mirabad district of Tashkent.
Front Line is extremely concerned that Mutabar Tadjibaeva’s continued detention in solitary confinement is a further attempt to dissuade her from continuing her legitimate and peaceful activities in defence of human rights. Concern is also expressed at reports that she has been subjected to ill-treatment and that, while her health continues to deteriorate, she has been denied access to adequate medical treatment.
In 2007, Mutabar Tadjibaeva wrote the following letter:
In the early spring a swallow will come,
If it greets you, you should know it is me.
In the spring as a crown a flower will bloom, You should know it is me.
To all my relatives, friends and journalists. To all!
Why is this dark castle without a single window?
Beautiful girls are imprisoned in it
Should you ask about their health
You will see sufferings in their eyes through the headscarf.
This poem was written by Uzbek female writer from Margilan Uvaysi.
I was imprisoned in female prison No UYa 64/7 a year ago and it seems that writer Uvaysi wrote this poem about 1,200 women who are languishing in this prison. They are indeed deprived of not only freedom, but also all the other civil rights.
I have spent a whole month in a punishment cell for protesting against continuing moral and physical tortures.
Thanks to your efforts, I was finally called to the special prosecutor for monitoring prisons, K Romanov, on 28 March. I told him in detail about moral and physical tortures female prisoners are subject in this prison, including me.
On 1 April, I gave the prosecutor a detailed description of all the types and method of torture on eight pages and an explanation letter with the details of the prison administration’s gross violations of Articles 10 and 117 of the Punishment Execution Code on 80 pages. However, he has not provided any legal or any other assistance to me. Over the past year, I have spent 112 days in a punishment cell.
The chief doctor of the medical department, Yuliya Kumarina, Police Maj Rimma Kustimoda, Lt Gulya Ahmadjanova from a rapid reaction subunit, who fulfils orders from officials from Fergana, and Muzaffar Karshiyev torture and mistreat me here.
I am sure that I will not be able to see my relatives and see my lawyers again because I have realised they will never release me from here. If you want to help me, I want to you to take copies of my complaint and explanation letter from the prosecutor for monitoring prisons or his assistant called Yahyo and forward them to Prosecutor-General Rashid Kadyrov. I also ask you to send copies of them to an international criminal court for conducting international investigation into facts detailed in them.
The health of Mutabar Tadjibaeva, chairperson of the human rights organization, Fiery Hearts Club, detained for seven months in the psychiatric unit of a women’s detention center is rapidly deteriorating, and harassment against her family has intensified, Front Line has learned.
Mutabar Tadjibaeva was last seen by her family on 9 January 2007, despite their numerous attempts to visit her in detention. According to Mutabar Tadjibaeva’s brother Rasul Tadjibaev and daughter Mahliyo Akramova, she has lost about twenty-five kilograms and is suffering from kidney-related illness caused by the cold conditions in solitary confinement. The chief physician of the women's prison stating has denied her health is deteriorating and is reported to have said ‘she is in good health’.
Rasul Tadjibaev is under constant surveillance by the authorities and was evicted from his apartment on 22 March 2007 and since warned that if he continues to protest against his sister's detention it will be difficult for him to continue to work and he will be expelled from Tashkent.
Mahliyo Akramova has been followed by plainclothes individuals believed to be law enforcement agents and has reportedly been threatened that if she travels to Tashkent again to see her mother then she will be killed.
Mutabar Tadjibaeva is one of the founders of the national movement Civil Society and a 2005 Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Mutabar Tadjibaeva has monitored human rights violations in the Ferghana Valley over many years and has reported on issues such as the violations of women’s rights to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), an international non-governmental organization that trains journalists in human rights reporting. Mutabar Tadjibaeva was due to attend an international conference on human rights defenders in Dublin on 8 October 2005 hosted by Front Line. However, she was detained on 7 October when she was scheduled to fly to Tashkent. On 6 March 2006 she was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment.
Front Line is deeply concerned that Mutabar Tadjibaeva is not receiving adequate medical treatment and believes she has been detained and subjected to ill treatment due to her legitimate and peaceful activities in defence of human rights. Front Line is also concerned for the safety of Mutabar Tadjibaeva's family, in particular her brother Rasul Tadjibaev and her daughter Mahliyo Akramova who have both been vocal in calling for her release.
An Uzbek human rights defender who is serving an eight-year sentence in a woman’s detention centre in Tashkent was forcibly transferred to the psychiatric section with no official explanation.
Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Chairperson of the human rights organisation “Plammenoe Serdtse” (Fiery Hearts Club) was sentenced to eight years in prison on 6 March in a trial that Front Line believes violated international fair trial standards. A Tashkent appeals court upheld her sentence on 30 May 2006.
Ms Tadjibaeva was taken to the psychiatric section of the prison on 7 July. Ms Tadjibaeva's lawyer visited her on 13 July but has been denied access to her client since then. Her lawyer reported that Ms Tadjibaeva has been denied access to adequate medical attention and has allegedly been forced to take unidentified medication.
Front Line believes that this psychiatric treatment is in an attempt to silence Mutabar Tadjibaeva and to prevent her from carrying out her legitimate work defending and protecting human rights. Uzbek authorities have previously used forcibly administered psychiatric treatment as a mechanism to persecute human rights defenders, as in the case of human rights defender Elena Urlaeva in 2005.
Front Line has called on the Uzbek authorities to immediately cease all forcible psychiatric treatment of Mutabar Tadjibaeva and allow her access to adequate medical attention. Front Line also urged the Uzbek authorities release Mutabar Tadjibaeva immediately and unconditionally, as it is clear that her conviction after an unfair trial is an attempt by the Uzbek authorities to silence her due to her peaceful work in promoting and defending human rights.
A district criminal court in the small town of Dustobad, near the Uzbek capital Tashkent, sentenced a well-known human rights defender and critic of the Andijan massacre, to eight years in prison on 6 March, in a trial that Front Line believes violated international fair trial standards.
Mutabar Tadjibaeva, from Margilan, eastern Uzbekistan was found guilty of a long list of charges, including extortion, land use violations and slander. Ms Tadjibaeva, who is a member of the human rights organisation Fiery Hearts, was also found guilty of membership of an illegal organisation, as her NGO, like the majority of NGOs in Uzbekistan, is not legally “registered”.
“This conviction is politically motivated. Mutabar is being persecuted for her human rights work,” said Front Line Director, Mary Lawlor “Since the Andijan massacre, human rights defenders, journalists and any voices of dissent or criticism are deliberately targeted by the Uzbek authorities. The trial was a sham. Mukhtabar must be released immediately.”
According to Human Rights Watch, Ms Tadjibaeva was denied the right to private consultation with her lawyers and neither she nor her lawyers had adequate time to read through the 5000 pages of case materials against her. The court sent home some defence witnesses before they had a chance to testify and some international observers and local human rights defenders were prevented from entering the courtroom. After the judge delivered the verdict, Ms Tadjibaeva called the trial a “puppet theatre”.
On the evening of 7 October 2005, Ms Tadjibaeva was about to leave her home to travel to Ireland to attend Front Line’s 3rd Platform for Human Rights Defenders, where she intended to speak of the human rights violations committed by the Uzbek state and the increased risk of defending human rights in Uzbekistan since the 13 May massacre in Andijan. At approximately 11pm, over a dozen armed and masked policemen stormed into her home, arrested and charged her with extortion based on a minor financial disagreement with an employee at her fish farm.
Front Line and other human rights organisations believe that her arrest was a politically motivated attempt to prevent her from attending Front Line’s platform and to put a stop to her human rights work and vocal criticism of the Karimov regime.
At the time of her arrest, Front Line Deputy Director, Andrew Anderson said: “We believe that these charges have been fabricated to silence her. It is clear that this is part of a government clampdown on opponents and human rights defenders.”
Uzbekistan has always shown itself to be aggressive to those who voice their dissent but the Andijan massacre has prompted an unprecedented crackdown by the Karimov government on human rights defenders and the independent media. The Uzbek authorities have denied any responsibility for the mass killing of unarmed civilians by security forces in Andijan, and instead have systematically targeted human rights defenders who have tried to expose the truth. Over a dozen have been arrested on politically motivated charges and others have been forced to flee the country. On the same day Ms Tojibaeva was sentenced, an opposition leader was sentenced to 11 years in prison and a court ordered the international human rights organisation Freedom House to shut its offices in Uzbekistan.
In a radio interview, two weeks before she was arrested, Ms Tadjibaeva said that the government did not follow its own laws and that she believed that local authorities had been ordered to silence human rights defenders and political opponents of the government.
Front Line urges the government of Uzbekistan to review the decision to imprison Mutabar Tadjibaeva and to release her unconditionally and immediately.