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Uzbekistan: Government Commits Serious Human Rights Abuses

Washington, 26 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department says Uzbekistan's human rights record for 1998 is poor, and the government continues to commit serious abuses in several areas.

In its annual report on human-rights practices around the world, released today, the State Department says citizens of Uzbekistan cannot exercise their right to change their government peacefully. The Uzbek government has not permitted the existence of an opposition party since 1993. The report says election laws were amended further to restrict the possibility of any new opposition parties arising or mounting a campaign.

According to the report, the police and security forces continued to use torture, harassment, illegal searches and wiretaps, and arbitrarily detained or arrested opposition activists and other citizens on false changes. It adds that those responsible for the documented abuses rarely are punished.

The report says that police continue to beat and otherwise mistreat criminal suspects. Detention can be prolonged, and prison conditions are poor. It says the judiciary is largely under the control of the executive branch.

The report says the Uzbek government severely limits freedom of speech and the press. Although the Uzbek constitution expressly prohibits it, the report says press censorship continues, and officials sharply restrict citizens' access to foreign media. The report adds that authorities further consolidated their grip recently on the press with a new law that increases government oversight of the media. Freedom of assembly and association are also severely restricted in Uzbekistan, says the report.

The report concludes that -- while the government continues to voice rhetorical support for human rights -- it does not ensure these rights in practice.