The human rights situation in Uzbekistan was discussed during a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on December 11.
It was expected that Uzbekistan's UN ambassador Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of President Islam Karimov, would lead the Uzbek delegation, but the national report was presented instead by Akmal Saidov, the head of Uzbekistan’s National Center for Human Rights and a former independent presidential candidate.
Deputy Prosecutor-General Alisher Sharafiddinov, Uzbek ombudsman Sayora Rashidova, and Abdukarim Shodiev, the head of the Interior Ministry's penal department told the council that the human rights situation in Uzbekistan has improved dramatically and that everything possible is being done to address problems such as torture, the transparency of the penal system, and child labor.
Countries such as Belarus, Iran, Azerbaijan, China, and Cuba hailed the Uzbek government’s report, whereas other participants at the three-hour meeting -- like Sweden, Canada, and Britain -- said they did not find the Uzbek authorities’ report convincing, citing further deterioration of the human rights situation in Uzbekistan after the bloody government crackdown in Andijon in May 2005.
In an interview with RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Manfred Nowak, the UN's special rapporteur on torture, reacted to statements from the Uzbek delegation that Tashkent has implemented previous recommendations by the special rapporteur.
“I have repeatedly requested them for a follow-up mission," Nowak said. "As long as I can't assess the situation myself on the ground, I have to doubt to what extent this information is correct. As I said, I hear many allegations of torture continuing in Uzbekistan. I recognize certain improvements by the government, but the fact that they are not inviting me is not a good sign.”
Nowak cited Uzbekistan's abolition of the death penalty as one of the improvements.
While many local and international organizations have documented the extensive use of child labor in the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan, Saidov denied the reports, saying all cotton in Uzbekistan is produced by the private sector and that the government has nothing to do with it.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Alisher Ilkhamov of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London called it a bold attempt by Uzbek officials to deny the obvious.
"This shows how seriously the government [of Uzbekistan wants] to solve the problem of child labor," Ilkhamov said. "If the Uzbek representatives would have made any kind of compromise statements, one would hope there is a chance for improvement. But the fact that they try to deny that the problems exist in such a high-profile meeting proves they have no intention to solve these problems.”
(by Farruh Yusupov of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service)