Activists celebrate abolition in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan abolished the death penalty on 1 January 2008 when the Supreme Court confirmed a presidential decree signed on 1 August 2005.
The Community of Sant’Egidio and the Association of Uzbekistan Mothers Against the Death Penalty greet this historic step with joy and appreciation. They have been working for years to end capital punishment in Uzbekistan and throughout Central Asia.
They note that the move follows a similar decision taken last year by Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan also has begun moving toward a moratorium and complete abolition.
Uzbekistan has become the first country to eliminate the death penalty after the approval of the moratorium on the part of the U.N. General Assembly on 18 December.
Extraordinary work of Uzbek abolitionists
The move is tied to the extraordinary work of Uzbek abolitionists, and particularly the movement Mothers Against the Death Penalty, founded by Tamara Chikunova (photo). The group was closely involved in the entire process leading to the moratorium and adoption of the death penalty ban in Uzbekistan and was a strong supporter of the UN resolution for a universal moratorium.
Tamara Chikunova awakened the conscience of the world by recounting her tragic experience as a mother who lost her only son. He was unjustly condemned to death and secretly executed without her being allowed to visit him one last time.
The Community of Sant’Egidio supported the foundation of the association of Mothers Against the Death Penalty, made up of parents of executed prisoners, and has assisted its work. The organisation then joined the World Coalition Against the Death penalty, which turned international attention towards Uzbekistan.
Successful legal action
Twenty-one people condemned to death have been saved from execution thanks to the creation of a pool of qualified legal assistants and local actions to defend human rights despite the many difficulties and the personal risks run by Tamara Chikunova. She was often threatened as the association sought legal recognition from the government.
International attention and the interventions of Italian and European representatives in Tashkent, at the urging of the Sant’Egidio Community, helped Mothers Against the Death Penalty secure government recognition and ensured the safety of Tamara Chikunova.