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(New York) -- Human rights should be an essential part of the anti-terrorism strategy being discussed in Beijing on January 7 at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Human Rights Watch said today.

In letters addressed to the foreign ministers from the six member states due to attend the meeting, Human Right Watch stressed that "a commitment to abiding by human rights law in fighting terrorism is important not only as a matter of principle but also as a matter of efficacy."

The SCO, established to promote economic cooperation and regional security in Central Asia, includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

"The fight against terrorism should include steps to promote tolerance between different ethnic and religious groups. Repressive and abusive behavior by security forces only creates the conditions in which terrorists can build support," said Elizabeth Andersen, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division. "Respecting human rights has to be a key element of the Shanghai group's effort."

The letter reminded the SCO of previous statements on human rights and terrorism adopted by the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); five of the six governments in the SCO are OSCE members.

Human Rights Watch also warned that in China, Uzbekistan, and Russia, serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law are being committed in the name of combating terrorism, including:

  • a crackdown on Uighur activists and religious groups in Xinjiang, China;
  • a relentless assault on independent Muslims in Uzbekistan; and
  • the torture and arbitrary arrest of scores of civilians in Chechnya by Russian forces.

Human Rights Watch urged the SCO to develop a regional plan to reaffirm its human rights commitments as an integral part of its anti-terrorism agenda, and to include an international human rights expert on the staff of an anti-terrorism center the SCO plans to set up in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

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