human rights defender Ms Elena Urlaeva
human rights defender Ms Elena Urlaeva
human rights defender Ms Elena Urlaeva

President Islam Karimov

Office of the President

43 Uzbekistan Avenue100163

Tashkent

Uzbekistan

Fax: +998 71 133 1395325

Email:[email protected]

Your Excellency,

I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human rights defender and Freelance journalist.

I would like to draw your attention to the following case.

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On 31 May 2015, human rights defender Ms Elena Urlaeva was detained by police and subjected to violence after interviewing and photographing teachers and medical staff forced by Uzbek district authorities to work in cotton fields.

Elena Urlaeva is a member of the Human Rights Defenders Alliance of Uzbekistan. She communicates with victims of violations of human rights on an individual basis, partly due to the lack of human rights organisations in the region. She organises public demonstrations for the right to freedom of association and assembly. Urlaeva has been monitoring cases of the subjection of Uzbek civil servants and students to forced labour. The evidence gathered by her and her colleagues reveals a widespread and systematic state policy of forcing citizens to weed cotton fields in several regions of Uzbekistan.

On 31 May 2015, Elena Urlaeva was detained for approximately 11 hours by local police in the town of Chinaz, 60 kilometers south-west of Tashkent. She was arrested in the early morning of the same day immediately after she had met civil servants waiting to be picked up for work in the cotton fields. She had conducted interviews and taken pictures of teachers working at two schools and a nursery, as well as of 60 staff members from the central hospital, alongside representatives of the local authorities and health department who were present.

During her detention police confiscated Urlaeva’s camera and notes. Police then searched for her flash drive which contained the photographs the human rights defender had taken earlier on the same day as evidence of the forced labour in practice. During the proceedings at the police station, which included vaginal and rectal cavity searches, Urlaeva was forcibly held by male police officers, while paramedics searched for the USB drive. Being unable to locate the drive, the police brought the human rights defender to a hospital where she underwent two X-rays of her chest and stomach, as police assumed that she had swallowed the flash drive.

Further to the humiliating searches, the human rights defender was subjected to interrogation by the first deputy chief of District Department of Internal Affairs and his colleagues. She was insulted, physically mistreated and threatened with violence against her, her family and the network of human rights defenders she works with, as well as with the online posting of nude images that had been taken of her while she was detained.

I express my grave concern at the arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of Elena Urlaeva, which I believe to be directly linked to her peaceful and legitimate human rights work.

I urge the authorities in Uzbekistan to:

1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the arbitrary detention of Elena Urlaeva, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Elena Urlaeva;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Uzbekistan are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

Sincerely,

William Nicholas Gomes

Human Rights Defender & ?Freelance Journalist

Twitter @wnicholasgomes

Email: [email protected]

www.facebook.com/williamnicholasgomes

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