"Mayor Bloomberg needs to make clear to the people of New York City and around the world that he does not endorse President Karimov's repressive policies," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch.
In a March 8 letter to the mayor, Human Rights Watch together with New York-based rights groups Freedom House, Amnesty International USA, and the International League for Human Rights, cautioned Mayor Bloomberg that President Karimov might try to exploit the horror of the September 11 attacks on New York to justify his own abusive policies in Uzbekistan. The groups urged Mayor Bloomberg to distance himself from Karimov's abuses by publicly calling on the Central Asian leader to take specific steps to improve the rights situation in his country.
Since taking power near the end of the Soviet era, President Karimov has overseen markedly unfair presidential and parliamentary elections, and the decimation of the political opposition. Uzbek police and security agents routinely torture detainees, beat and detain peaceful protesters, and harass critics of the government, including human rights activists. Independent media is not tolerated.
"President Karimov has used the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism to justify his own abuses," said Andersen, "Mayor Bloomberg should tell him straight that fighting terrorism means upholding the rule of law, not undermining it."
Human Rights Watch asked Mayor Bloomberg to be mindful of being associated with Uzbekistan's vicious campaign of arrest, torture and incarceration of independent Muslims, which has led to the imprisonment of an estimated 7,000 religious dissidents in recent years.
In an earlier letter to President Bush, Human Rights Watch called on the president to link U.S. engagement with Uzbekistan to concrete progress on human rights.