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HRW Letter to President Islam Karimov
May 1, 2003

Dear President Karimov,

The choice of Tashkent as the venue for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s annual meeting has stirred controversy within the international community and the Bank itself. There is concern that because your country’s poor human rights record contradicts the Bank’s founding principles on pluralism and multiparty democracy, holding the meeting in Tashkent, without substantial policy changes on your government’s part, will damage the Bank’s integrity and embarrass those attending the meeting.

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Many therefore expect the annual meeting to prompt your government to bring its human rights practices into line with the EBRD charter. They will expect not only clear commitments to be made at the meeting, but also, more important, they will expect that in the months to come, these commitments will be followed by concrete reforms. This will lead them to scrutinize your country’s record long after the annual meeting is over.

The Bank’s recently adopted country strategy for Uzbekistan establishes three areas for democratic and human rights reform: political and media pluralism, “registration and free functioning of independent local NGOs,” and general improvements in your government’s human rights record, including implementation of recommendations made by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture. Your anticipated statement denouncing torture by Uzbek law enforcement and security forces is welcome in that regard. In the coming months, the introduction of judicial review of detention, as recommended by the Special Rapporteur on Torture, would be a first step toward implementing this commitment.

Other steps in the coming months that would signal your government’s commitment in practice to reform include:

  • Conducting thorough and impartial investigations that conform to international standards and holding accountable those responsible for torture or ill-treatment of detainees, with particular attention to those cases that resulted in death;
  • Adopting measures to ensure in practice absolute respect for the principle of inadmissibility of evidence obtained by torture;
  • Registering independent human rights organizations, including the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, Mazlum, the Committee of Legal Assistance to Prisoners, and Mothers Against the Death Penalty and Torture;
  • Releasing imprisoned human rights defenders Jura Muradov, Musulmankul Khamraev, Norpulat Rajapov, and Tursunbai Utamuratov, pending an impartial review of the charges against them;
  • Issuing an invitation for the U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders to visit the country, as requested by that office, as well as to other relevant U.N. human rights mechanisms;
  • Registering opposition political parties;
  • Decriminalizing legitimate religious activities by repealing article 5 of the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations, and its corresponding Article 216-2 of the criminal code.

These are among the measures many will expect your government to carry out to justify the choice of Tashkent for the EBRD meeting. Satisfying these expectations will also be necessary if the forthcoming meeting is to bring any lasting results on Uzbekistan’s political and economic development. In one year’s time, the Bank will examine your record on reform and look for progress in these areas. We hope it will find that the annual meeting marked the beginning of a new era for genuine reform in Uzbekistan.

Please allow us to wish you a productive meeting.

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director