(Prague) – President Miloš Zeman of the Czech Republic should cancel his invitation for an official visit by Uzbekistan’s authoritarian leader Islam Karimov, 31 organizations said on February 10, 2014, in an open letter to President Zeman. The groups include trade unions, investors, and rights groups from the Czech Republic, Uzbekistan, and several other countries.
“Given Uzbekistan’s atrocious human rights situation and its persistent refusal to address rights criteria set down by the European Union for the improvement of relations, this invitation is both inappropriate and ill-timed,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “President Zeman should draw on the Czech Republic’s long record of promoting human rights and postpone this visit until the Uzbek government demonstrates concrete rights improvements.”
The official visit is to take place from February 20 to 22, 2014.
The joint letter was sent to President Zeman on February 10 and elicited a response from his office within hours, challenging the request that he withdraw the invitation and inaccurately reflecting Human Rights Watch’s work on Uzbekistan. Human Rights Watch sent a second letter to President Zeman on February12, responding to his assertions.