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The Role of the International Community

Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

The OSCE intensified its advocacy through its Central Asian Liaison Office in Tashkent in 1998. The October 1997 Memorandum of Understanding provided a framework for technical assistance projects in democratization, human rights, and electoral democracy, including a human rights education course held in May 1998. In his meetings with Uzbekistan government officials in April, Chairman-in-Office Bronislaw Geremek stressed the absence of civil liberties, and condemned the use of repression against suspected “extremists.” The OSCE also lodged official protests on several specific cases of illegal detention, and pressedfor access to the detainees for the international community. Experts from the Liaison Office journeyed to the Fergana valley to monitor trials and investigate violations. In addition, during a June visit to Tashkent the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities rebutted Uzbek officials’ insistence that they faced the threat of religious and political extremists by stressing the importance of upholding international commitments.

European Union

The European Union continued its suspension of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement signed with Uzbekistan in June 1996, pending an investigation of the human rights situation there to be conducted in mid-1998 by the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, which at this writing is preparing to report its findings. In the absence of this agreement, the E.U. provided technical assistance in the fields of police training and promotion of civil society and sponsored a project of the International Helsinki Federation to increase awareness about human rights.

United States

As in previous years, the United States continued its strong criticism of Uzbekistan’s human rights violations. The Embassy in Tashkent took an active role, sending diplomats to monitor trials against accused “Wahabis” in Namangan, and registering several official protests with the Uzbek government against probable use of torture and blatantly prejudicial legal proceedings. The State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997 used blunt language in describing Uzbekistan as an authoritarian state where civil and political freedoms are severely limited or nonexistent, including the right to worship freely. The report issued by the Congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe in March also decried the new pressure against independent religious groups. This censure stood in contrast the statement made by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton during her November 1997 visit to Samarkand, praising religious freedom in Uzbekistan.

Nevertheless, U.S. aid appropriations for Uzbekistan continue to grow, unhindered by that country’s appalling record of rights violations. The requested assistance to Uzbekistan leapt from an estimated thirty-two million dollars spent in fiscal year 1998 to thirty-six million for fiscal year 1999. Yet Uzbekistan exhibited no progress at all towards the principles cited in the U.S.-Uzbekistan Joint Commission statement issued during its first meeting in February 1998, “reaffirming the commitment of both governments to the principles of a free and democratic society, including respect for human rights, and free speech and assembly.” The chairman of the Export-Import Bank, James A. Harmon, signed an agreement to provide a $215 million long-term guarantee for U.S. companies to export industrial equipment, calling Uzbekistan a “dynamic and stable country.”

Relevant Human Rights Watch report:

Uzbekistan: Crackdown in the Farghona Valley: Arbitrary Arrests and Discrimination, 5/98





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Asylum Policy in Western Europe



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