To the Honorable David Cameron, Prime Minister of Great Britain
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
My husband Kayum Saidovich Ortikov worked as a security guard for the British embassy in Tashkent until December 25, 2008, up until he was imprisoned by Uzbek authorities. When the prosecutors charged and the court later sentenced him to six years in an Uzbek prison on false charges of “trafficking in persons” I thought there must have been some misunderstanding and that justice would eventually prevail. After all, how could an innocent man be sentenced to 6 years in jail? How could that possibly happen?
However, to our great misfortune, a false sentence was just the beginning of the lawlessness, humiliations, and inhumane treatment that my husband had to endure. I learned four months after he had been imprisoned that authorities had been torturing him in order to get him to confess to charges of spying for the United Kingdom and aimed to get blackmail and other forms of testimony they could use against other employees of the British embassy and Great Britain as a whole. They also wanted my husband to confess that Great Britain had helped engineer and sponsored the Andijan massacre of May 2005.
Over the course of 9 months he was held in the basement of the Tashkent city jail where he was not allowed to meet with his family members while he was subjected to the worst forms of torture. My husband’s hands were tied so that his body hung from the bars of his jail cell. He was beaten at length, stripped naked, and beaten with a flat wooden stick along the genitals, causing them to swell badly and forming marks of black and blue. Then he was transferred to cell number 429, where guards tied a rope around his neck, placing the other end of the rope around his genitals, and hung him again from the ceiling. In this cell, he later told me, they beat him on the genitals with a rubber shoe. He lost consciousness, at which point they let him drop to the floor, lying motionless on the cold ground of the jail cell.
After he awoke, he saw the lokhamchi – cellmates who do the government’s torturing for it – come up to his body and sit right on top of him. They put out their lit cigarettes on his naked body. One day a senior lieutenant at the jail, ordered my husband to wear handcuffs on both his hands and feet, stuffed a rag in his mouth, and made him get into a seated position. He ordered two lackeys from the jail cell to hold my husband’s legs apart. Then he rolled up a newspaper, placing it into a tube, and handed it over to one of my husband’s cellmates who lit the newspaper on fire and placed the tube on husband’s genitals. My husband passed out from the excruciating pain and was left to lie on the cold floor of his cell for several days.
After several days, my husband later told me from the prison he was eventually sent to, his wounds would begin to fester and stink. When the jail’s doctors were finally allowed to see him, they determined he had suffered second-degree burns on his genitals and anus. Unable to endure the further agony of his torture, my husband eventually tried to slit his wrists using his own teeth. Some time later, at another low point, he used a razor blade to make cuts to his head and neck.
After nine months I was finally able to get a chance to see my husband, after he had been transferred to prison colony 64/29 in the city of Navoii. When I finally saw him I didn’t recognize my own husband. He had turned into a skeleton covered by a layer of skin. Worst of all, I saw a man who had been morally destroyed, hardly even existing. He believed in nothing and hoped for nothing.
On May 14, 2009 I called upon the British ambassador in Tashkent, Ian Kelly, to help in the release of my husband, an innocent man, and a former employee of the government of Great Britain. But there was no reaction whatsoever to my requests. In December 2009, after I had publicized information regarding the torture of my husband by reporting it to a local human rights organization, I was invited in to the embassy for a short meeting with the then Ambassador Rupert Joy, Political Officer of the embassy Richard Pike, and embassy press secretary Leonid Kudryavtsev. The ambassador claimed they had “several options” for how to help Mr. Ortikov, but no meaningful steps were taken to free my husband and not a single member of the embassy or British Foreign Commonwealth Office went to visit my husband during his torture in the jail or time in prison.
I struggled for more than two years against the utter lawlessness of the Uzbek government. Thanks to the efforts of Human Rights Watch and the international media my husband, Kayum Ortikov, was eventually freed from prison on May 4, 2011. In the process his health had been completely destroyed. It is simply impossible to put into words the horrors that our family experienced during these years.
For our own safety and in order to find a peaceful, normal life we were forced to flee Uzbekistan and have been outside of the country since November.
In April 2013 UNHCR granted us with refugee status. Our financial condition as become precarious. We have been living hand to mouth and even our children have shown visible signs of stress. In order to survive we have been forced to seek help from every direction.
We appeal to you for your help. Please expedite the process of our resettlement to Great Britain, where we will be able to live in peace and begin to recover from this nightmare we have endured at the hands of Uzbek authorities.
Thank you for your attention.