Despite a scathing review from a team of independent consultants hired to assess the work of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Uzbekistan, that U.N. agency did not change course and refused to implement the consultants' recomendations, including a suggestion that the agency issue a formal apology to the independent human rights community in Uzbekistan for excluding it from projects. The consultants also called on UNDP to publish the report, showing the agency's past errors in order to avoid repetition. Finally, the team called on the UNDP to make good on its earlier pledge to fund the country's first Legal Aid Society. UNDP had contributed approximately U.S. $2 million since 1997 to the Uzbek government's human rights initiatives, including the Authorized Person for Human Rights in the Parliament (ombudsman) and the National Human Rights Center.
Other U.N. agencies, including the special rapporteur on torture and the working group on arbitrary arrests and disappearances, sent communications to Uzbekistan regarding individual cases.
A U.N. representative from Tashkent monitored the appeals trial of Komoliddin Sattarov, but no public comment came from the U.N. regarding the young man, who was beaten and tortured with electric shock and then sentenced to nine years in prison, partly on the grounds that he wrote a complaint to the U.N. Human Rights Committee on behalf of his arrested brother. An Uzbek municipal court had listed the complaint as part of the incriminating evidence against Sattarov. During retrial, a district court made no mention of the complaint but sentenced him to fifteen years.
After having lauded a coveted Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) as a means to push for progress in human rights, the E.U. failed to use the instrument for that purpose in 2000. There were no human rights concessions in return for financial and trade benefits awarded under the agreement. More than a year after the PCA was signed, the E.U. and Uzbekistan had failed to set up a working group on human rights and democracy, succeeding only in organizing a subcommittee on finance and economy. As of October 2000, the E.U. had suspended indefinately the meetings of the Cooperation Council under the PCA. No explanation was given for this move.
Despite its failure to use the PCA for progress in human rights, the E.U. did go on the record with its dismay over Uzbekistan's abysmal rights record. In January 2000 the E.U., in keeping with its opposition to the death penalty, issued a press release condemning the execution of six men accused of terrorism following a grossly unfair trial. During the meeting of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, the E.U. spoke out against ongoing repression in Uzbekistan. The E.U. also used the forum of the OSCE Permanent Council to voice dissatisfaction with the presidential elections in Uzbekistan.
Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
After finding that earlier OSCE recommendations had not been implemented and that conditions for a pluralist and competitive parliamentary race had not been met, the OSCE withheld the assignment of formal election observers but dispatched a limited assessment mission to examine the pre-election environment that condemned the parliamentary elections as falling below OSCE standards. The organization abstained from monitoring presidential elections on the grounds that conditions for a free and fair election were absent.
In apparent reaction to criticism from the Karimov government regarding OSCE activities on human rights issues, the organization emphasized economic and security interests, sometimes to the seeming exclusion of rights advocacy. The new OSCE chair, Austrian ForeignMinister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, visited Uzbekistan in June and was able to meet with representatives of local or international human rights groups or leading local rights defenders. Human rights were reportedly not given high priority in her discussions with government officials, which were concluded with the signing of a bilateral investment agreement between Austria and Uzbekistan. When some seventeen OSCE ambassadors and representatives of delegations visited Uzbekistan in July, the officials spent the majority of their time in the ancient city of Samarkand and did not meet with rights defenders during their half-day stay in the nation's capital. Meetings with the government reportedly focused on security and economic cooperation.
The OSCE/Central Asia Liaison Office (CALO) actively engaged authorities on the subject of prison access for international monitors. Staff members continued their program of trial monitoring in the country and reported their findings internally. On several occasions authorities barred CALO staff from attending nominally open court hearings.
The OSCE/CALO sponsored several training workshops in Uzbekistan. A human rights training seminar was offered for experienced activists from human rights groups, members of other nongovernmental organizations, and employees of the government's human rights bureaucracy. Another training session held by the OSCE/CALO aimed at introducing members of the judiciary, including prosecutors, judges, and lawyers, to international human rights standards.
In April 2000, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Uzbekistan and urged President Karimov to make a distinction between peaceful Muslim believers and terrorists. During her visit, Secretary Albright stated, "It's necessary that the government of Uzbekistan distinguishes very carefully between peaceful devout believers and those who advocate terrorism." Before she left Uzbekistan, however, Secretary Albright awarded the government with some U.S. $3 million in counterterrorism and border security assistance.
Just months later, as respect for religious freedom further deteriorated and hundreds more Muslims were sent to jail for their beliefs and practices, Secretary Albright failed to name Uzbekistan as a country of particular concern in the area of religious freedom under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. The State Department's Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, issued pursuant to the act, emphasized minor improvements in the treatment of Christians, although Christians suffered violent government attacks and continued police harassment, and characterized the crackdown on Muslims as political and not religious repression, leaving the U.S. government free to give Uzbekistan a relatively positive rating in one of the most shockingly poor areas of its rights record.
Some members of Congress took a tough stand against the flagrant abuses by Uzbekistan and sharply criticized its rights record.
Relevant Human Rights Watch
Leaving no Witnesses: Uzbekistan's Campaign Against Rights Defenders, 3/00
Republic of Belarus
Bosnia and Hercegovina
United Kingdom / Northern Ireland
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
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Human RIghts Watch