UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet and the United States both called on Tuesday for a swift investigation into deadly clashes during mass protests in Uzbekistan.
Uzbek authorities said Monday that 18 people died in clashes in the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan on Friday after protests erupted against planned constitutional changes affecting the status of the territory.
The unrest, pitting protesters against security forces, has been President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s biggest challenge to date since he came to power as prime minister in 2016, when longtime mentor Islam Karimov is dead.
“The reports we have received of serious violence, including killings, during the protests are very concerning. I call on the authorities to exercise the utmost restraint,” Bachelet said in a statement.
“I urge the authorities to immediately open a transparent and independent investigation into any allegations of criminal acts committed in this context, including violations committed by state agents.”
The United States separately expressed concern and urged all parties to seek a “peaceful resolution” to the tensions.
“We urge authorities to conduct a full, credible, and transparent investigation into the abuse in accordance with international standards and best practices,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
– Support from Russia –
Uzbekistan is a former Soviet republic and a traditional ally of Russia, which faces international pressure following its invasion of Ukraine.
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone with Mirziyoyev on Tuesday and “expressed support for the Uzbek leadership’s efforts to stabilize the situation in Karakalpakstan.”
The scale of the protest was unusually large for Central Asia and prompted Uzbek authorities to declare a month-long state of emergency in the impoverished western region.
Bachelet said more than 500 people were being held and expressed concern that one person had already been charged and could face up to 20 years in prison.
“People should not be criminalized for exercising their rights,” the former Chilean president said.
“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.”
All detainees must have prompt access to a lawyer, and due process and fair trial guarantees must be guaranteed, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said.
Bachelet urged the government to immediately lift the internet shutdown, saying the measure was indiscriminate and had a general impact on fundamental rights to freedom of expression and access to information.
She also said that the restrictions imposed by the emergency law must be proportionate and limited in time.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)