The Uzbek-German Forum For Human Rights (UGF) has criticized Uzbek authorities for forcing "more than 1 million" Uzbeks to pick cotton in 2014.
In its report issued on April 13, the Germany-based group said that Uzbek officials continued "to extort individuals and businesses, including multinational companies, at a larger scale as part of the annual Uzbek cotton harvest."
According to the report, at least 17 people died and many were injured during the harvest season last year.
Workers toiled in the fields for 10 hours a day with little rest and no days off, and their living quarters were often unheated, overcrowded, and lacking clean water and washing facilities.
Meanwhile, the Cotton Campaign, a U.S.-based international coalition of human rights, labor, business and investor organizations which aims to end forced labor in Uzbekistan's cotton sector, voiced suport for the UGF report’s recommendations to the Uzbek government: to permit unfettered access to international organizations, journalists, and independent civil society, and to undertake fundamental reforms of the cotton sector that would eliminate forced labor.