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Right Group Denounces 'Vicious Assault' On Uzbek Activist

Uzbek rights activist Elena Urlaeva
Uzbek rights activist Elena Urlaeva

An international rights group has condemned a "vicious assault" on one of Uzbekistan's "bravest human rights defenders."

Elena Urlaeva, head of the Uzbek Human Rights Defenders' Alliance, says she was detained by police on May 31 and subjected to violence and sexual humiliation after she gathered evidence of forced labor in the Central Asian state's cotton sector.

In a statement on June 4, Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the attack "shows how far the government is willing to go to cover up evidence of forced labor and to retaliate against those who expose it."

The New York-based group says Uzbekistan uses "one of the largest state-sponsored forced-labor systems in the world" to produce cotton.

"It forces millions of its citizens into the fields every year to plant, weed, and harvest the cotton," it adds.

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