The United States is concerned about the case of Gulnaza Yuldasheva in Uzbekistan, after a court in the Tashkent region sentenced her to two years in prison on questionable charges. According to reports received by the U.S. embassy in Tashkent, Ms. Yuldasheva turned to police to investigate claims of official involvement in trafficking in human beings and subsequently became the target of what appears to be an effort to silence her for her efforts to expose corruption involving public officials.
Ms. Yuldasheva has alleged the involvement of high-level police and local government officials from the city of Chinoz in a trafficking ring that sold people into human slavery in neighboring countries.
According to Ms. Yuldasheva, in early 2011, two of her brothers, along with two other men, were sent to Kazakhstan with promises of good work and high salaries. Upon reaching their destination, however, it is alleged that their passports were taken away, and the men were forced to work 15-hour days with only a single loaf of bread for sustenance. After several months, the men managed to return to Uzbekistan.
Ms. Yuldasheva first raised the issue with government officials in May 2011 and began to conduct her own investigation to gather evidence against those involved. When she persisted in that case she apparently became the target of police, ultimately leading to her arrest in April 2012.
From accounts received by U.S. officials, the court proceedings were conducted behind closed doors and human rights activists were not allowed into the courtroom to observe or testify on behalf of Ms. Yuldasheva’s behalf. According to her lawyer, the charges were fabricated and unsubstantiated.
The United States calls on the government of Uzbekistan to fully investigate the questionable circumstances surrounding these charges against Gulnaza Yuldasheva, as well as the fairness of the proceedings and conformity to Uzbekistan’s international obligations. The U.S. also calls on the government of Uzbekistan to identify and investigate potential cases of human trafficking as well as the possible involvement of public officials, and bring trafficking offenders to justice.
A basic tenet of democracy is that victims of crime must feel secure in seeking assistance from law enforcement at all levels and under all circumstances and should not be prosecuted or further victimized simply for seeking justice.