U.S., EU Should Impose Visa Ban, Asset Freeze on Top Uzbek Officials
May 11, 2006
The Uzbek government has spared no effort to silence anyone who dares to speak the truth about what happened in Andijan.
Kenneth Roth Executive Director Human Rights Watch

One year after Uzbek government troops gunned down hundreds of unarmed protesters in the city of Andijan, no one has been held accountable for this crime, Human Rights Watch said today. The international community must do more to ensure justice for victims of the massacre, which took place on May 13, 2005.

“The need for a coordinated and forceful international response to the Andijan massacre is more urgent than ever,” said Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director. “The Uzbek government has done nothing to hold the perpetrators of this atrocity accountable, and the international community has failed to compel the Uzbek authorities do so. The victims deserve no less than full justice.”

In a 10-page briefing paper released today, Human Rights Watch called on the European Union to expand sanctions adopted last autumn against Uzbekistan to include a visa ban on Uzbek President Islam Karimov and several other top officials for their responsibility for the massacre and their failure to ensure justice for that crime. The U.S. government should impose a visa ban to mirror the EU sanctions. In addition, Human Rights Watch called on both the European Union and the United States to freeze the assets of all officials on the visa ban list.

Since the Andijan massacre, the Uzbek government has engaged in a fierce crackdown on human rights defenders, independent journalists and civil society institutions, which has been extensively documented by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations. At the same time, Uzbek authorities have aggressively pursued the forced return of individuals who, fearing persecution, fled Uzbekistan after the violence.

“The Uzbek government has spared no effort to silence anyone who dares to speak the truth about what happened in Andijan,” said Roth. “Many human rights defenders who endured all manner of repression in the past have now either had to flee the country or stop their work.”

On May 13, 2005, Uzbek government forces killed hundreds of unarmed protesters as they fled a demonstration in Andijan, in eastern Uzbekistan. To date, the Uzbek government has rejected calls for an independent, international commission of inquiry, covered up the truth behind the massacre, and presided over a series of show trials of hundreds of people allegedly involved in the uprising and protest that followed. The Uzbek authorities have not taken any steps to hold accountable the government forces for the use of force that killed hundreds of people.

“The U.S. and the EU must insist that the Uzbek government accept an independent, international inquiry and end its crackdown,” said Roth. “They must increase the pressure until the Uzbek authorities comply.”

Human Rights Watch also called on the international community to urge governments in the region, particularly Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia, not to forcibly return to Uzbekistan people who would risk torture and persecution there. Governments elsewhere should urgently resettle Uzbek refugees who live in the region and face a risk of forced return.