Prison conditions were in some circumstances harsh and life threatening.
Physical Conditions: The government reported that there were approximately 46,200 prisoners, an increase of an estimated 4,000 prisoners since 2009. The government stated that the prison population dropped by 50 percent between 2000 and 2012, but this figure could not be verified. 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.
Reports of overcrowding were common, as were reports of severe abuse and shortages of medicine. The government stated, however, that its 58 penitentiary facilities on average were 80 percent occupied. Inmates generally had access to potable water; however, inmates and their families reported that although generally available, water and food were of poor quality. Relatives of prisoners in some instances complained that prison diets did not include sufficient amounts of meat. There were reports of political prisoners being held in cells without proper ventilation and subjected to extreme temperatures. Family members also reported that officials frequently withheld or delayed delivery of food and medicine intended for prisoners. Unlike in past years, family members of inmates did not report any incidents of sexual abuse.
Prison administration officials reported that the World Health Organization had an active tuberculosis program in the prisons to treat and stop the spread of tuberculosis and an HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention program. Officials reported that hepatitis was not present in high numbers and that hepatitis patients were treated in existing medical facilities and programs.
Relatives reported the deaths of several prisoners serving sentences. 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. In April the French-based Association for Human Rights in Central Asia reported on the March 30 death in custody of 38-year-old former police officer Umid Akhmedov. According to the report, witnesses stated that Akhmedov’s body showed signs of mistreatment, including hematomas and a deep cut on his neck, when handed over to his family members, who were told to bury the body immediately and prohibited the family from undertaking forensic medical examination of the body. Other reported cases that fit this pattern included the deaths of 43-year-old Dilshod Iskhokov in May, 32-year-old Khusniddin Okkuziev in July, and 35-year-old Samariddin Salokhiddinov in October.
The government asserted that Abdurahmon Sagdiev died in February 2012 as the result of injuries suffered during a fight with another prisoner, Umid Kholmatov, and not as a result of mistreatment at the hands of prison authorities. Nongovernmental organization (NGO) observers contended that Sagdiev died as a result of mistreatment by prison guards.
Administration: 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 the 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. 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.
There was no information available regarding whether recordkeeping on prisoners was adequate or whether authorities took steps to improve recordkeeping. Authorities in limited cases used administrative measures as alternatives to criminal sentences for nonviolent offenders. In addition the criminal code mandates several instances in which courts cannot sentence individuals to prison if full restitution has been made.
Prison officials generally allowed family members to visit prisoners for up to four hours two to four times per year. 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. Although some prison libraries had copies of the Koran and the Bible, there were complaints from family members, as in past years, that prisoners were not allowed access to religious materials.
According to government press reporting, on August 5, updated rules for the internal order of penitentiary facilities entered into force. The guidance defines additional rights afforded to prisoners and circumstances in which restrictions to these rights can be introduced. The new rules outline procedures for prisoners to “participate in religious worship and ‘family relations’ such as marriage.” The rules provide “close relatives” with the right to receive oral and written information from prison officials about the health and disciplinary records of their family members in incarceration. The families of prisoners continued to report a lack of communication and information from family members in prison, however, and stated that the government continued to withhold information about health and prison records.
According to family members and some 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 the prisoners represented a continuing danger to society. On April 8, the Gazalkent District Court in Tashkent Region sentenced Mamadali Makhmudov to an additional three years in prison following a closed hearing during which he was charged with 31 instances of “violating internal prison rules,” although he later was released. 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.
Independent Monitoring: In April the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced that it was terminating its program designed to monitor conditions of detention and the treatment of detainees. The ICRC cited an inability to follow its standard working procedures and the lack of constructive dialogue with the government. The government responded by terming the ICRC’s decision “unilateral” and stated that the ICRC failed to meet all of the terms of its agreement with the government, including violating confidentiality provisions.
As in the past year, independent observers from the international community gained limited access to some parts of the penitentiary system, including pretrial detention facilities, juvenile and women’s prisons, and prison settlements. Authorities granted observers access only to certain prisons and to limited areas within these prisons.
Improvements: On August 26, the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Defenders of Uzbekistan reported that prison authorities in Zarafshan (Navoi Region) improved the detention conditions of Isroil Alimov after his mother, Vazira Alimova, complained in early July that she had not been able to see her son and that her “care packages” either were refused or stolen by penitentiary facility employees. Officials at maximum security prison 64/48 granted Alimova a three-day visit with Isroil and allowed her to pass him clothing and foodstuffs. In October 2000 the government had sentenced Alimov to 15 years in prison for membership in Hizbut-Tahrir as well as attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.