A video uploaded to Internet showing a police officer in Uzbekistan stamping on a woman’s face has caused a ripple of indignation.
It is unclear who created or uploaded the footage, which has now been circulated more widely by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Uzbek service, Ozodlik.
What can be seen in the short video is a woman lying face up on the ground as she is aggressively addressed by a policeman standing next to her. At one stage the officer stamps on the woman’s face and then kicks her in the head.
Ozodlik reported that the incident took place on April 10 in the Uchtepa district in the capital, Tashkent. The radio station reported that the victim of the maltreatment was 55 years old and that the police officer was called Izzatulla Hashimov.
When Ozodlik contacted Hashimov for comment on the incident, he denied that it had even taken place.
“The police got a report that this woman was disrupting the public peace. She was shouting, running after small children and threw herself under a car. She then lay on the hood of a car. We called an ambulance and the doctors took her away. We later learned that she attacked the doctors as well,” Hashimov said, relating his version of events.
A local resident told Ozodlik that the woman in the incident was well presented and was indeed shouting in the street, apparently in the grip of psychotic fit. A group of people gathered around and tried to calm her down, but to no avail, which is when the police were called.
“The police officer could not calm her down and tried to gag her with a dirty rag. When the woman put up a fight, he spat in her face and swore at her in Uzbek. This went on for about three hours. Later, another three policemen and an ambulance turned up. When they tried to put her in the ambulance, she again put up resistance, after which the district policeman began beating her,” one witness told Ozodlik.
Ozodlik cited witnesses as saying the police later asked local residents to give inaccurate testimonies to state that the police officer had not used physical violence.
One resident in the neighborhood said that the woman was an ethnic Russian and may be suffering with a psychiatric condition.
Such events are not frequently captured on camera, since anybody caught filming scenes of police abuse fear falling victims themselves. Still, the authorities do appear somewhat sensitive to the fallout from such rare bursts of bad publicity.
In a recent case, two police officers were fired after a video came to light showing them beating a transvestite in the Tashkent district of Chilanzar.
Ozodlik reported that the footage, which was circulated through the Telegram messaging program, shows the two police officers in civilian clothing bursting into a rented apartment and assaulting a young man dressed in women’s clothing and two of his male companions. The raid is said to have taken place following complaints from neighbors.
The incident reportedly occurred in August, but only gained exposure earlier this year.
It later emerged that the police officers involved in that incident faced disciplinary measures.
Police in Uzbekistan are notoriously prone to act with impunity — so much so that even President Islam Karimov has recently renewed calls for more clear legislation on the specific responsibilities of the police.
Uzbekistan’s police still operate under guidelines drawn up in 1991. No rules exist laying down when force by live ammunition or other means can be adopted, which leaves police ostensibly free to operate according to their own judgement.
And as far as a complaints procedure goes, things are similarly unpromising.
There is a national center for human rights, as well as a state ombudsman for human rights, but those entities appear more cosmetic than anything. The ombudsman’s duties include ensuring the parliament properly oversees the activities of government bodies, including the police.
Perhaps the ombudsman’s website is some indication of the level of activity at his office. It is currently almost entirely blank, void of even basic contact details, short of the title and a running script stating (likely inaccurately) that the website is under construction. And the ombudsman has failed so far to state whether he has a position on the incident of police violence that occurred last year.