The United States is concerned about Uzbek human rights activist Alikul Sarymsakov. Mr. Sarymsakov attended a March 3 meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, or ODIHR, one of the world’s principal regional human rights bodies. The ODIHR event was a planning meeting for Uzbekistan's March 29 elections. At the event, Mr. Sarymsakov criticized the government for allowing President Islam Karimov to run for another term despite the two-term limit set in Uzbekistan's constitution.
Following these comments, Mr. Sarymsakov was detained by government authorities and forcibly committed to a psychiatric institution in Jizzakh. Mr. Sarymsakov had been forcibly committed to that same psychiatric institution in 2014, after he had complained about corruption concerning a building project. According to Mr. Sarymsakov's lawyer Shukhrat Rustamov, forcing a citizen into a psychiatric hospital is a crime under Uzbek law.
Alikul Sarymsakov's abuse by government authorities is not unique, unfortunately. According the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report on Uzbekistan, authorities have subjected human rights activists, journalists, and others who criticized the government, as well as their family members, to harassment, arbitrary arrest, and politically motivated prosecution and detention.
Mr. Sarymsakov's treatment by the authorities is very disturbing, said U.S. OSCE Charge d'Affaires Kate Byrnes, "since it appears in both cases to have been the direct result of his exercise to the right to freely express dissenting political views."
The United States calls on the government of Uzbekistan to release Mr. Sarymsakov and to uphold its international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil Rights and its OSCE commitments related to freedom of expression and treatment of individuals in detention.