A delegation with New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch has, during its first visit to Uzbekistan since the organization was banned there in 2010, called on the government to embark on an overhaul of its human rights agenda.
The trip to Uzbekistan by a HRW delegation marks another sign of the changing political climate since President Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power last year. This represents a unique opportunity, HRW Central Asia researcher Steve Swerdlow said in a statement.
“The key is for the Uzbek government to transform the modest steps it has taken thus far into institutional change and sustainable improvements,” Swerdlow said.
HRW said it wants to see Uzbek authorities release all its political prisoners, cease the maltreatment of all those in detention and put an end to forced labor in the country’s cotton fields.
The past year has produced a steady trickle of stories indicating a radical sea-change in Uzbekistan. HRW noted with approval that the authorities have created mechanisms for citizens to express their discontent with the government’s actions and scrapped the Soviet-era practice of requiring anybody wishing to leave the country to obtain a so-called exit visa.
HRW said its delegation met with, among others, officials from the Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry, Justice Ministry and Labor Ministry. On the non-official front, they spoke with human rights defenders, journalists and recently released political prisoners.
“We’re pleased Human Rights Watch has been able to reenter Uzbekistan. We’re keen to work with all our partners here to help improve human rights,” Swerdlow said in the statement.