- Vice Chair
Tamara Chikunova is the founder and head of Mothers Against
the Death Penalty and Torture based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
In 1999 her son, Dmitry, was accused of murder and
sentenced to death. In July of the next year she went to Tashkent Prison for an
authorized visit with her son but was told by prison guards that she could not
visit him and should return the next day. When she did she was told that Dmitry
had been executed two days earlier. He was 28 years old.
There were strong indications that Dmitry had been
tortured to force him to confess to his crimes. While in pre-trial detention he
told Tamara: "[They] handcuffed my hands behind my back. All of them then held
me by the shoulders and legs and started to swing me up and down, finally
throwing me up at the ceiling
I landed on the ground on my back, and dont
remember what happened next because of the pain. I couldnt speak as though I
was paralyzed. They did it four times
Tamara has never been told where her son was buried. She
has visited many former cemeteries in and around Tashkent. It is one of the
worst things for me, that I do not know where Dmitry is buried. If I knew I
would at least have a place where I can go with my grief and where I can talk to
To honor her sons memory and work towards a reality where
no one suffers what she and her son experienced, she and her group have worked on
dozens of death penalty cases and helped to save the lives of many young men
sentenced to death. For the past four years she has also worked with Amnesty
International in campaigning against the death penalty in Uzbekistan.
Tamara was the driving force behind the organization of an
international conference to be held in Tashkent in December 2003 with the goal
of initiating a public debate about the death penalty and creating a platform
for dialogue with authorities. The conference was blocked by the government only
hours before it was due to begin.
Despite regular threats and harassment, Tamara and her
colleagues remain committed to stopping the death penalty in a country where
human rights violations remain widespread.
She has addressed a European Bank of Reconstruction and
Development meeting in Tashkent and in 2004 traveled to Rome to receive a
Colombo dOro, for her work for human
rights and peace.