Prison conditions were in some circumstances life-threatening. Reports of overcrowding were common, as were reports of severe abuse and shortages of medicine. Inmates and their families reported that food and water were of poor quality but generally available. There were reports of political prisoners being held in cells without proper ventilation, and prisoners occasionally were subjected to extreme temperatures. Family members of inmates reported incidents of sexual abuse. Family members also reported that officials frequently withheld or delayed delivery of food and medicine intended for prisoners.
In August a group of domestic human rights organizations met with representatives of the Polish Embassy in their capacity as EU president to express concern about the continued use of torture and a rise in sexual abuse against female prisoners. Representatives of the Tashkent-based human rights organization “Ezgulik” presented the results of eight months of monitoring of the penitentiary system, highlighting women’s prison 64/7 in the Zangiota district of Tashkent region for widespread accounts of sexual abuse.
Relatives reported the deaths of several prisoners serving sentences, most of which were related to religious extremism. In some cases, family members reported that the body of the prisoner showed signs of beating or other abuse, but authorities pressured the family to bury the body before examination by a medical professional. Reported cases that fit this pattern included the deaths of Ulugbek Gaforov and Abdulfattoh Raimokhunov in January, and Abdumannon Ortiqov in June.
On September 28, the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Defenders of Uzbekistan (IGIHRDU) reported information received from family members that 51-year-old Ravshan Atabaev died in Navoi prison 64/36 as a result of tuberculosis and torture. Atabaev was sentenced in 2005 to14 years in prison on a number of charges stemming from participation in the May 2005 events in Andijon. The IGIHRDU also reported that a law enforcement source indicated that between 20 to 30 prisoners sentenced in connection with Andijon die yearly in prison. This information could not be confirmed independently.
There was no further information available concerning the 2010 deaths of Farmon Yiginov and Sunnatillo Zaripov.
According to family members and some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), authorities failed to release prisoners, especially those convicted of religious extremism, at the end of their terms. Prison authorities often extended inmates’ terms by accusing them of additional crimes or claiming that the prisoners represented a continuing danger to society. Trials for such offenses took place within the prisons, and defendants often were not given access to lawyers or relatives. Although it is technically possible for inmates to appeal such decisions, many inmates did not have the expertise to initiate an appeal.
According to 2009 statistics, the government held approximately 42,000 inmates at 58 detention facilities. Men, women, and juvenile offenders were held in separate facilities. There were reports that in some facilities inmates convicted of attempting to overturn the constitutional order were held separately, and prison officials did not allow inmates convicted under religious extremism charges to interact with other inmates. Officials also held former law enforcement officers in a separate facility.
Prison officials generally allowed family members to visit prisoners for up to four hours two to four times per month. There were, however, reports that relatives of prisoners charged with religious or extremism charges were denied visitation rights. Officials also permitted visits of one- to three-days duration, two to four times per year, depending on the type of prison facility. Family members of political prisoners reported that officials frequently delayed or severely shortened visits arbitrarily. The government stated that prisoners have the right to practice any religion or no religion, but prisoners frequently complained to family members that they were not able to observe religious rituals that conflicted with prison scheduling. Such rituals included engaging in traditional Islamic morning prayers. Prisoners also were not allowed access to religious materials.
According to the law, authorities at pretrial detention facilities are required to arrange a meeting between a detainee and a representative from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office upon a detainee’s request. Officials allowed detainees in prison facilities to submit confidential complaints to the Ombudsman’s Office and to the Prosecutor General’s Office, and both offices were authorized to initiate investigations into complaints. In its 2010 report, the Ombudsman’s Office reported it received 16 complaints during the year from prisoners about illegal actions by penitentiary officials. The Ombudsman’s Office considered 15 of the complaints and was able to intervene successfully in two cases. The Ombudsman’s Office is empowered to make recommendations on behalf of prisoners, including requesting changes to sentences to make them more appropriate to nonviolent offenders.
The Ministry of Interior (MOI) performs regular inspections of all prison facilities, and representatives of other state bodies, including the parliament, the National Human Rights Center, and the Cabinet of Ministers also are allowed to access the prison system upon request.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) monitors facilities under the responsibility of the prison administration, assessing the conditions of detention and the treatment of detainees, although financial and personnel constraints mean that its representatives cannot visit all facilities. The ICRC does not have access to pretrial detention facilities under the authority of the National Security Service (NSS). During the year, the ICRC carried out 37 humanitarian visits, visiting 27,974 detainees held in 25 places of detention. During these visits the ICRC representatives monitored the cases of 986 detainees, including 118 women and 53 minors. The ICRC also facilitated the exchange of 636 Red Cross messages between detainees and their relatives. The ICRC kept its findings confidential and shared them only with the government.
Prison administration officials reported that the World Health Organization had an active tuberculosis program in the prisons both to treat and stop the spread of tuberculosis, and an HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention program has been in place since 2008. Officials reported that hepatitis was not present in high numbers, and hepatitis patients were treated in existing medical facilities and programs.
On September 29, the president signed into law provisions concerning detention during criminal proceedings. The law specifies the rights of detainees, including the right to submit complaints about violations or abuses during detention, meet with their relatives and lawyers, and to personal security. The law forbids discrimination against detainees on the basis of gender, race, nationality, language, religion, social origin, beliefs, personal and social status, as well as torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. It also provides the Ombudsman’s Office with unrestricted access to detention facilities and to meet confidentially with detainees.