Uzbekistan is a constitutional republic with a political system led by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and his allies. In the October 2021 presidential election, President Mirziyoyev won reelection with 80.2 percent of the total votes. A genuine choice of political alternatives was not available to voters because true opposition candidates were unable to register or run for office. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe stated, “while election day was peaceful, significant irregularities were observed and important safeguards were often disregarded during voting, counting, and tabulation.”
The government authorizes four different entities to investigate criminal activity and provide security. The Ministry of Internal Affairs controls police, who are responsible for law enforcement, maintenance of order, and the investigation of crimes. It also investigates and disciplines police officers if they are accused of human rights violations. The National Guard provides for public order and the security of diplomatic missions, radio and television broadcasting, and other state entities. The State Security Service, whose chairperson reports directly to the president, deals with national security and intelligence matters, including terrorism, corruption, organized crime, border control, and narcotics. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces, but security services also permeated civilian structures. Civilian authority interactions with security services’ personnel were opaque, making it difficult to define the scope and limits of civilian authority. There were reports that members of the security and law enforcement agencies, particularly police and prison officials, committed abuses.
On July 1, protests broke out in Nukus, capital of the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan, in response to draft constitutional changes that would have stripped Karakalpakstan of its autonomous status and removed its right to secede. President Mirziyoyev declared a state of emergency, and the government cut off the internet in the region and called up the National Guard to quell the protests, which ended by July 3. According to the government, 21 persons were killed (18 in the immediate aftermath, with three more dying in the hospital in the weeks after the protests), 243 were injured, and 516 were detained. Although hard evidence was scarce, human rights activists said the number of dead and injured was higher than the official numbers. Human Rights Watch reported “security forces unjustifiably used lethal force and other excessive responses to disperse mainly peaceful demonstrators.” Activists also reported that persons, including journalists, were detained and held incommunicado for weeks following the protests. The government established a commission to investigate the events led by Ombudsperson Feruza Eshmatova. The results of the investigation were pending at year’s end. A trial began on November 28 for 22 persons the government accused of participating in or inciting the violence.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners; transnational repression against individuals in another country; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including censorship and the existence of criminal libel and slander laws; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including restrictions on civil society organizations, human rights activists, and others who criticized the government; restrictions on freedom of movement; refoulement of refugees to a country where they would face torture or persecution; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; substantial barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services; existence and use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; and significant restrictions on workers’ freedom of association.
Impunity of government officials remained pervasive despite some efforts by law enforcement agencies to investigate officials for human rights abuses and corruption.
For Further Reference
Full U.S. Department of State Human Rights Country Report
U.S. Department of State International Religious Freedom Country Report
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Annual Report Chapter on Tajikistan
U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report Country Narrative
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review
Human Rights Watch World Report Country Chapter
Amnesty International Annual Report Country Chapter
Freedom House Freedom in the World Country Report