Politically motivated imprisonment continues to occur across Central Asia, as individuals are imprisoned because of their opinions, their religious beliefs, their political activity, or their identity. Fortunately, the number of former prisoners of conscience is also growing – particularly in countries expressing a desire to reform, such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Yet despite their release, former prisoners of conscience suffer with broken bodies, without jobs, and with other serious challenges preventing them from living normal and dignified lives.

In a new report, “Duty to Rehabilitate: Assessing Reparations of Former Political Prisoners in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan,” Freedom Now has found that these two countries are currently failing to meet their international obligations to provide rehabilitation to former prisoners of conscience. The report, released today, calls for urgent action to be taken to ensure that the governments of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan adhere to their international obligations and reform their domestic rehabilitation frameworks.

The report highlights the deficiencies in the current rehabilitation frameworks in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan that violate the right to reparations for former prisoners of conscience. The legal framework in both countries excludes most former prisoners of conscience from rehabilitation. The report also finds that both governments do not provide adequate support for former prisoners of conscience in areas such as medical and psychological care, property damage, and employment support.

Through interviews with former prisoners of conscience conducted as part of the report, it became clear that rehabilitative needs continue to be unmet in both countries. Accessing rehabilitation support is fraught with procedural barriers, and the amount of compensation offered by the government, an exceedingly rare occurrence, falls far short of what is needed to restore former prisoners of conscience to their pre-detention situation.

“Addressing politically motivated imprisonment requires not only that Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan release all prisoners of conscience, but that they take steps to rehabilitate victims of wrongful detention and repair the damage caused,” said Freedom Now’s Advocacy Director Matthew Schaaf. “Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan’s leaders have pledged to pursue new approaches to governance by prioritizing human rights and dignity. Both governments will have to repair the harms caused by politically motivated imprisonment in order to do that and come into compliance with their international human rights commitments.”

The report recommends several substantive and procedural reforms that the Kazakhstani and Uzbekistani governments can take to ensure that former prisoners of conscience can access the reparations that they are entitled to under international law. These include adopting a general “right to rehabilitation,” ending the use of discretionary and discriminatory criminal code provisions, improving safeguards against coerced confessions, and ending admissions of guilt for parole, amnesty, or pardons. The report also recommends creating procedures to challenge financial blacklisting and permits for civil rehabilitation claims without prior acquittal. Additionally, the report urges both governments to establish an independent rehabilitation procedure to review the rehabilitation of political prisoners.

By adopting and effectively implementing the recommendations outlined in the report, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan can take a significant step towards fulfilling their international obligations to former prisoners of conscience. Until such measures are taken, there is a risk of human rights violations towards prisoners of conscience continuing well beyond their release from detention.


Summary of the Kazakhstan portion of Duty to Rehabilitate – (English) (қазақ)

Summary of the Uzbekistan portion of Duty to Rehabilitate – (English) (Ўзбек)