UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet and the United States have both called for a swift investigation into the deadly clashes that erupted in Uzbekistan on Tuesday.
Authorities in Uzbekistan said on Monday that 18 people had been killed in clashes in the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan on Friday when the situation in the region was affected by planned constitutional changes.
Instability since the death of longtime adviser Islam Karimov, who took office as prime minister in 2016, and protests against the security forces represent the most important challenge to President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s rule.
“The reports we have received of serious violence, including killings during the protests, are alarming. I urge the authorities to exercise maximum restraint,” Bachelet said in a statement.
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“I urge the authorities to immediately open a transparent and independent investigation into any allegations of criminal activity committed in that context, including violations by state agents.”
The United States has separately expressed concern and called on all parties to seek a “peaceful solution” to the tension.
“We urge the authorities to conduct a full, credible and transparent investigation into the violence in accordance with international law and best practice,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
The size of the protests was unusually large for Central Asia and prompted the Uzbek authorities to impose a month-long state of emergency in the impoverished western region.
Bachelet said more than 500 people had been detained and expressed concern that one had already been charged and could face up to 20 years in prison.
“People should not be made criminals for exercising their rights,” the former Chilean president said.
“Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in which Uzbekistan is a party, everyone has the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and participation in public affairs.”
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said all detainees should have quick access to a lawyer and ensure their due process and fair trial.
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Bachelet called on the government to immediately lift the internet shutdown, saying the system had reached an arbitrary level and had greatly affected the freedom of expression and the fundamental right to access information.
He reminded the authorities that restrictions under emergency law must comply with international law and be necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory. These, too, must be limited in time and basic protections must be put in place.