As if arbitrarily jailing the outspoken Karakalpak blogger and lawyer Dauletmurat Tazhimuratov on a 16-year prison sentence on January 31 for his alleged role in the July 2022 Karakalpakstan protests wasn’t enough for the Uzbek authorities, now they are isolating and punishing him further. On September 19, Tazhimuratov’s lawyer Sergey Mayorov released a video statement describing his client’s prison conditions after meeting with him the day before.
In the video, Mayorov noted how prison officials have been failing to provide Tazhimuratov adequate health care or food and are limiting his right to receive information from the outside world. Tazhimuratov doesn’t have access to a prison library or media, or to a television. He is kept isolated in a single cell and prison officials also apparently won’t assign Tazhimuratov to a work detail, further limiting his contact with other prisoners.
Mayorov intends to file complaints with the prosecutor, prison administration officials, and law enforcement bodies, outlining how his client’s rights “are being violated while he is serving his prison sentence.” Mayorov separately told Human Rights Watch that Tazhimuratov had noticeably lost weight and that the conditions of his imprisonment were taking a serious toll on his client’s physical and psychological health.
Like any detainee, Tazhimuratov has a right to absolute protection against inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as well as his other basic rights including to adequate nutrition and health care. The United Nations Minimum Standard on the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, state that “the prison system … shall not aggravate the suffering inherent in [depriving a person of his liberty].” They also stipulate that “prison administrations and other competent authorities should offer education, vocational training and work.”
Tazhimuratov, whose “crime” was to call for a peaceful protest and speak out against proposed constitutional amendments that would have stripped Karakalpakstan of its sovereign status, should not be languishing in prison.
Until Tazhimuratov is free, Uzbek authorities have the responsibility to ensure he suffers no further harm in prison and that he is not isolated from others without just cause. Prison officials should urgently and thoroughly review the conditions in which Tazhimuratov is being held and ensure he has access to adequate health care and food, and is able to receive news and other information from the outside world.