Uzbekistan: Authorities continue to obstruct justice as General Prosecutor’s Office ignores appeal by the NHC

On June 6 this year, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee submitted an official appeal to the General Prosecutor's Office in Uzbekistan, requesting a thorough investigation into the case of Uzbek citizen Sirozhiddin Ashurov.

Ashurov is a former university professor at the Namangan State Institute of Engineering and Technology in Uzbekistan. He has unsuccessfully fought for justice for more than a decade after he was violently assaulted by some of his former students in early 2012.

Previously to the attack, Ashurov had failed three fourth-year students for continuously missing class and not completing assignments. Although Ashurov when talking to law enforcement identified these three students as the attackers, no one has been brought to justice over the assault on Ashurov. On the contrary, it appears that law enforcement has been shielding the attackers, one of whom is reportedly the son of a local government official. While the investigation has been repeatedly delayed and put on hold, authorities have subjected Ashurov to what appears to be punitive psychiatry, seeming in retaliation for his tireless fight for justice.

After more than a decade of obstructed justice inside Uzbekistan, Ashurov earlier this year contacted the Norwegian Helsinki Committee seeking assistance. Having reviewed his case, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee concluded that Ashurov’s story is a typical and symptomatic case that underlines the shortcomings of the reform efforts taking place in today’s Uzbekistan: authorities have implemented a number of reforms since 2016, including steps to combat forced labour, easing conditions for civil society and releasing dozens of political prisoners. However, the reforms are not systemic and have not fully addressed Uzbekistan’s many challenges and obstacles to human rights and democracy. Ashurov’s case illustrates that justice for the individual remains evasive in Uzbekistan and that the justice sector still needs a thorough overhaul to correspond to international standards.

While national legislation (1) of Uzbekistan provides for a 15-day period for considerations of appeals to state bodies, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has as of September 2023 – more than three months since submission – not received any response to our appeal from the Prosecutor’s Office, which constitutes a violation of the law. Failure to provide any kind of response within the set time limit constitutes a violation of the law of Uzbekistan.

“We appealed to the Prosecutor General to launch a thorough investigation into the attack on Ashurov because we believe restoration of justice for him is not only long overdue, but it would create a powerful and much-needed precedence in current day Uzbekistan where justice still seems to be applied arbitrarily”, said Berit Lindeman, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. “Disappointingly, the failure of the prosecutor’s office to respond to our appeal is but the latest in a string of obstructions to justice in Ashurov’s case, and is so similar to what so many ordinary Uzbeks experience when faced with power abuse. We call on authorities to put an end to this decade-long story of injustice and guarantee a thorough investigation of Ashurov’s case.”

On February 17, 2012, as Ashurov was on his way home from work at the university, three young men attacked him on the street. According to Ashurov, one of the assailants approached him from behind and hit him over the head with a heavy object. The other attackers then joined in on the assault and proceeded to beat for him 10-15 minutes before fleeing the scene, according to Ashurov. After laying on the ground for some time, Ashurov made his way to the police station to report the incident. The medical personnel that examined him at the time concluded that he was hit with a blunt object and had dozens of light and moderate injuries, including a concussion, a body hematoma, and several facial skin tears.

While failure to respond timely to the appeal sent by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee is a violation of the national legislation of Uzbekistan, the lacking response and the continued delay of the investigation also run counter to the proclaimed policies of president Mirziyoyev. In his 2021 book “Strategy for the New Uzbekistan”, Mirziyoyev states that rule of law and justice rule of law and justice are the foundations on which the “new Uzbekistan” will be built. In recent years, authorities in Uzbekistan have also proclaimed thorough reforms of the educational system in the country, with the president especially highlighting the need to  elevate the status of teachers.

(1) Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan, “On appeals of individuals and legal entities”

Article 28. Time limits for consideration of applications

The application or complaint is considered within fifteen days from the date of receipt by the state body, organization or their official, who are obliged to resolve the issue on the merits, and when additional study and (or) verification is required, a request for additional documents – within up to one month.

In cases where the consideration of applications and complaints requires an inspection, the request for additional materials or the adoption of other measures, the terms for their consideration may, as an exception, be extended by the head of the relevant government body or organization, but not more than for one month, with a notification about this to the person applying.

The proposal is considered within one month from the date of receipt by the state body, organization or their official, with the exception of those proposals that require additional study, which is notified in writing to the individual or legal entity that made the proposal within ten days.

Article 29. Leaving appeals without consideration

The following are not subject to consideration:

anonymous requests;
appeals submitted through representatives of individuals and legal entities in the absence of documents confirming their authority;
appeals that do not meet other requirements established by this Law.

If appeals are left without consideration, an appropriate conclusion is drawn up, which is approved by the head of the state body, organization or their authorized official.

The applicant is notified in the appropriate manner about leaving applications without consideration due to the lack of documents confirming the authority of a representative of an individual or legal entity.

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