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Highlights From the U.S. Human Rights Report: Central Asia

  • Paul Goble

Washington, March 7 (RFE/RL) - Respect for human rights varied in the former Soviet Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, the annual U.S. State Department report on human rights says.

The report to the U.S. Congress was made public Wednesday. It surveys human rights practices around the world.

It suggests that Kazakhstan "generally respected the rights of its citizens" in 1995 and that Kyrgyzstan had established the basis for participatory democracy. The report adds that despite serious problems, Tajikistan's human rights record had improved slightly over the past year and that Turkmenistan had made "little progress" in moving toward democracy, while Uzbekistan had made "some progress" in that direction.

Praising Kazakhstan for "generally" respecting human rights and having "in place" important elements of a participatory democracy, the State Department says that "the establishment of democratic institutions suffered a number of setbacks" there in 1995.

It says that the new constitution and existing legal system in Kazakhstan does not fully safeguard human rights and that the judiciary remains under the control of the president. Moreover, the report suggests that corruption remains widespread and the freedoms of speech and the press and of assembly are subject to continuing constraints.

The report says that the basis for participatory democracy has been established in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. It concludes that the government generally respected the human rights of its citizens but suggested that there were problems in some areas, including freedom of the press and of public assembly. The annual report also criticizes Kyrgyzstan for conditions in its prison system and ethnic discrimination.

Although finding that Tajikistan's human rights record did improve slightly last year, the State Department concludes that serious problems remain, including illegal actions by the security forces, poor conditions in prisons, and restrictions on freedom of speech and the media. The report also criticizes the external opposition in Tajikistan for illegal killings and forcibly preventing the repatriation of Tajik refugees from northern Afghanistan.

Turkmenistan, the report says, "made little progress" in moving from a Soviet-era authoritarian style of government to a democratic system. It says that the government continued to operate under Soviet-era institutions which have been renamed but not reformed. The report was especially critical of the Democratic Party that dominates all political life and does not permit basic freedoms for the population. It also criticized the security services, and discrimination against ethnic minorities and women.

The report found that Uzbekistan has "made some progress in the transition from its authoritarian legacy towards democracy," but suggested there is great room for improvement. The government continues to repress opposition groups, abuses the electoral system, and violates a variety of basic human rights. At the same time, the State Department suggests that there was some scope for optimism because the Uzbek president had acknowledged publicly that not enough progress has been made in Uzbekistan with regard to human rights.