Responding to reports of use of unlawful force in Nukus, which left at least 18 protesters dead following a demonstration against a proposed amendment to the Constitution that would strip away Karakalpakstan’s autonomy within Uzbekistan, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, said:
“The images we saw last weekend on social media, which showed brutally injured protesters and what looks like blood on the streets, were truly shocking. The authorities must urgently disclose exactly what happened in Nukus, order an impartial, independent and thorough investigation into the use of force against protesters, and ensure those responsible face justice in fair trials.
“We are concerned that the Uzbekistani authorities are resorting to their usual tactics of silencing critical voices and blocking information, including through a newly declared state of emergency. Cutting off internet and mobile communications in Nukus is stopping the world from knowing what happened over the weekend.
“We have received reports that human rights defenders critical of the authorities have been detained and are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment, yet the information blockade makes it virtually impossible to independently verify them.”
Mass protests against the proposed amendment to the Constitution of Uzbekistan erupted on 1 July and culminated on Saturday evening with security forces apparently using lethal force to disperse protesters in Nukus.
According to the Uzbekistani authorities, 18 protesters died in the unrest and 243 people were injured, including 38 law enforcement officers, while 516 individuals were detained following the protests.
Witnesses said military units were deployed throughout the city and surrounded the main protest site, with security forces allegedly firing rubber bullets into the crowd. Some reports, which could not be independently verified, said drones dropped smoke bombs and tear gas indiscriminately on the protesters. The authorities admitted using smoke bombs and tear gas.
Multiple videos from Nukus have emerged on social media showing seriously injured people and what looks like blood on the streets. These videos also cannot be independently verified due in part to restrictions on entering the city.
On 2 July, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev agreed to withdraw the amendment to the Constitution.