Uzbekistan’s president had some harsh words for the police during a government meeting last week.
Speaking on August 17, Shavkat Mirziyoyev noted that more than 3,000 crimes remain unsolved and that out of 16,000 wanted persons, only around 5,200 have so far been detained.
Mirziyoyev called on the the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Interior Ministry, the National Security Services and the Supreme Court to undertake a deep analysis of the work of the police and to draw up a detailed report.
As has lately become customary for similarly critical outbursts on the work of government bodies, the remarks were broadcast on state television.
“If we cannot bring some order to the work of our interior ministry agencies, our people will never come to trust us. People need peace, which should be ensured to them by the Interior Ministry. At the root of all these shortcomings is the unsatisfactory quality of work being done during the recruitment, placement and training of personnel,” Mirziyoyev said.
Mirziyoyev also pointed out that over the course of this year to date, 223 criminal cases have been opened against police officers and that 462 police officers have been hauled up on disciplinary charges. The scale of the problem may not be fully evident, however, as there have been cases of police actively covering up their crimes, he said.
This is one of many taboos being broken by Mirziyoyev of late. Back in the days of the late President Islam Karimov, revealing figures about the amount of crimes committed by policemen themselves would simply have been inconceivable.
Criminal lawyer Munozhat Parpiev told EurasiaNet.org that the transformations are even extending into the justice system.
“Before, if we appealed a court decision, it was quite useless. Now the situation has changed and our appeals are considered within 10 days, and it can have a meaningful impact on the judicial process. Lawyer’s enquiries are responded to and you can get information,” Parpiev said.
This new regime of transparency arguably began on December 13, when the Interior Ministry created a form on its official website through members of the public could register complaints and suggestions. That led to a tidal wave of responses. A telephone “trust line” — with the brief and memorable number 1102 — was set up on May 1.
All this does not disguise the fact that reports of distressing police abuses continue to go unaddressed. One such instance is the case of Murodillo Omonov, a 32-year old businessman in the Surkhandarya region, around 700 kilometers from the capital, Tashkent, who was allegedly tortured and later died as a result of mistreatment he suffered after being detained by police on January 20 as he returned home from a wedding.
Omonov’s mother has taken up the cause of trying to get to the bottom of the case, but, according to rights activists, has been actively hindered, not to say harassed, by the authorities every step of the way.