At least eighteen people were killed, and 243 others were wounded during recent clashes between thousands of protesters and security forces in Uzbekistan's autonomous province of Karakalpakstan, according to Uzbek authorities.
The protests were sparked by constitutional amendments proposed by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev that would have annulled the current right of the Karakalpakstan region to seek independence. President Mirziyoev has since withdrawn the controversial amendments.
The United States is “concern[ed] over the recent events in Karakalpakstan and urges all parties to seek a peaceful resolution to these tensions and refrain from violence,” said State Department Spokesperson Ned Price in a statement. “We express our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives,” he added. “We also extend our sympathies to those who were injured.”
Karakalpaks are a Turkic-speaking people in Central Asia. Their region was once an autonomous area in what is now Uzbekistan. Karakalpakstan declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and rejoined Uzbekistan a year later on the condition that it retain its autonomy.
Spokesperson Price said. “We call on the authorities to protect all fundamental rights, including peaceful assembly and expression, in line with Uzbekistan’s international obligations and commitments.”
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stressed that “[p]eople should not be criminalized for exercising their rights.” In addition, she said that all of those who are detained should have prompt access to legal representation, due process, and a fair trial.
“Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Uzbekistan is a State Party, everyone has the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and the right to participate in public affairs,” noted Ms. Bachelet.
State Department Spokesperson Price urged Uzbek authorities to “pursue a full, credible, and transparent investigation into the violence, consistent with international norms and best practices. The United States maintains its long-standing support for Uzbekistan’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity.”