“The reports we have received of serious violence, including killings, during the protests are very alarming,” said High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet called on the authorities to “exercise maximum restraint.”
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, during clashes between protesters and security forces in the regional center of Nukus, 18 people were killed and 243 were injured, including 94 seriously.
But the real number of victims could be much higher, according to the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR).
Although the victims could not be immediately identified, they reportedly received bullet wounds to the head and body.
I call on the authorities to immediately launch a transparent and independent investigation – UN human rights chief
“To ensure accountability, I call on the authorities to immediately launch a transparent and independent investigation into any allegations of criminal acts committed in this context, including violations by state agents,” Ms Bachelet said.
Protest against secession
Thousands of residents of the autonomous region protested against planned constitutional changes that would deprive the Republic of Karakalpakstan of its constitutional right to secession based on a national referendum.
The president said on Saturday that those plans would be cancelled.
Following the violence, the media reported a large military presence in the city as the government imposed a state of emergency, including curfews and internet shutdowns.
The city was reportedly quiet over the weekend and yesterday.
However, more than 500 people were detained during and after the protests.
The UN human rights chief expressed concern that one person has already been charged and faces up to 20 years in prison “for plotting to seize power or overthrow the constitutional order.”
“People should not be prosecuted for exercising their rights,” she said.
Freedom of peaceful assembly
According to Ms Bachelet, all detainees should have prompt access to a lawyer, due process and fair trial guarantees.
“Under International Covenant on Civil and Political Rightsof which Uzbekistan is a State Party, everyone has the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and the right to participate in public affairs.”
She called on the government to immediately restore internet access, stressing that such a ban has indiscriminate effects and broadly affects fundamental rights to freedom of expression and access to information.
The High Commissioner also reminded the authorities that restrictions under the emergency law must be in accordance with international law; be necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory; limited in duration; and include key safeguards against excesses.