Washington, May 13 (RFE/RL) - An international human
rights organization says that there are still abuses of
human rights in Uzbekistan, although the government has "changed
its attitude" on the issue.
In a new report titled, "Uzbekistan: Persistent Human Rights
Violations and Prospects for Improvement," Human Rights
Watch-Helsinki says "the last 18 months of slow diplomatic thaw have
dramatically improved the climate in which the government will
discuss human rights with outsiders and may, with time, lead to
changes in current abusive practices; however, the improved
diplomatic climate has as yet resulted in almost no tangible
improvements in these practices."
The 43-page report outlines many of the alleged human rights abuses, including media censorship, punishment for individuals who criticize the government and illegal surveillance of the homes and telephones of dissidents. The report also says that law enforcement officials are pressured to "carry out the will of the authoritarian regime", citing incidents of corrupt police officials planting narcotics and weapons on suspects and stating that there is "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" of people in detention.
The report expresses particular concern about a crackdown started in 1994 against members of the Islamic community. It cites
arrests, arbitrary detentions firings, harassment, threats and
disappearances. The report names three individuals in particular:
Abdulla Utaev, Abduvali Qori Mirzoev and Ramazanbek Matkarimov, and
demands a full investigation into their disappearance.
In spite of this, the report also notes that Uzbekistan is taking
steps in the right direction even if they are slow.
Holly Cartner, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki
says: "The government's change in public attitude toward the human
rights dialogue was unthinkable only two years ago."
She says that for two and a half years, rights monitors were banned
or expelled from the country, letters of concern went unanswered,
requests for meetings with government officials were ignored and
activists were attacked in the Uzbek press as enemies of the people.
Now, Cartner says, Human Rights Watch has begun a dialogue with
Uzbek officials to help improve the situation. She says there is talk
of a regional Human Rights Watch office in the country.
To give the government guidance, the report lists a series of
recommendations, urging officials to take short-term steps to
demonstrate its good will in striving toward genuine improvements in
its human rights record. In particular, the report recommends that
the Uzbek Ministry of Internal Affairs "cease immediately" the
surveillance and wire-tapping of citizens except in cases which are
in strict accordance with the international standards of civil
The report also urges the international community to condemn human
rights violations in Uzbekistan and monitor the government's efforts
to comply with its obligations. If specific goals are not met, says
the report, international donors who offer human rights-related
assistance programs to Uzbekistan should be prepared to withdraw
Cartner says: "By releasing our report now, we hope both to shed
light on the abuse that persists despite government rhetoric to the
contrary, and to take advantage of the crack in the door to push the
opening wider into this otherwise relatively closed society."